Maureen O'Sullivan

Maureen Paula O'Sullivan (17 May 1911 – 23 June 1998) was an Irish-American actress. She was best known for playing Jane Parker in the Tarzan series of films during the era of Johnny Weissmuller. In 2020, she was listed at number 8 on The Irish Times list of Ireland's greatest film actors.[1] She was also the mother of actress Mia Farrow. When told Frank Sinatra wanted to marry Mia, she famously remarked "At his age, he should marry me."

Maureen O'Sullivan
Maureen.jpg
O'Sullivan in 1930s
Born
Maureen Paula O'Sullivan

(1911-05-17)17 May 1911
Died23 June 1998(1998-06-23) (aged 87)
Resting placeMost Holy Redeemer Cemetery, Niskayuna, New York
OccupationActress, singer
Years active1930–1994
Known forJane Parker in Tarzan films
Spouse(s)
(m. 1936; died 1963)

James Cushing
(m. 1983)
Children7, including Patrick, Mia, Prudence, and Tisa Farrow

Early lifeEdit

O'Sullivan was born in Boyle, County Roscommon, Ireland, in 1911, the daughter of Mary Eva Lovatt (née Frazer)[2] and Charles Joseph O'Sullivan, an officer in the Connaught Rangers who served in World War I.[3][4] Maureen returned to Boyle in 1988 to be honoured by the town. She attended a convent school in Dublin, then the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Roehampton (now Woldingham School), England. One of her classmates there was Vivian Mary Hartley, future Academy Award-winning actress Vivien Leigh. After attending finishing school in France, O'Sullivan returned to Dublin to work with the poor. In October 1929, she sailed to New York with her mother on the British steamer RMS Baltic, on the way to Hollywood to work for the Fox Film Corporation.

Film careerEdit

O'Sullivan's film career began when she met motion picture director Frank Borzage, who was doing location filming on Song o' My Heart (released in 1930) for 20th Century Fox. He suggested she take a screen test. She did and won a part in the movie, which starred Irish tenor John McCormack. She traveled to the United States to complete the movie in Hollywood. O'Sullivan appeared in six movies at Fox, then made three more at other movie studios.

In 1932, she signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. After several roles there and at other movie studios, she was chosen by Irving Thalberg to appear as Jane Parker in Tarzan the Ape Man, opposite co-star Johnny Weissmuller. She was one of the more popular ingenues at MGM throughout the 1930s and appeared in a number of other productions with various stars. In all, O'Sullivan played Jane in six features between 1932 and 1942.[5]

 
In Pride and Prejudice, 1940

She was featured with William Powell and Myrna Loy in The Thin Man (1934) and played Kitty in Anna Karenina (1935) with Greta Garbo, Fredric March, and Basil Rathbone. After co-starring with the Marx Bros in A Day at the Races (1937), she appeared as Molly Beaumont in A Yank at Oxford (1938), which was written partly by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

She appeared in Pride and Prejudice (1940) with Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson, and supported Ann Sothern in Maisie Was a Lady (1941). After appearing in Tarzan's New York Adventure (1942), O'Sullivan asked MGM to release her from her contract so she could care for her husband, John Farrow, who had just left the Navy with typhoid. She retreated from show business, devoting her time to her family. In 1948, she re-appeared on the screen in The Big Clock, directed by her husband for Paramount Pictures. She continued to appear occasionally in her husband's movies and on television. By 1960 she believed she had permanently retired. In 1958, Farrow and O'Sullivan's eldest son, Michael, died in a plane crash in California.

Actor Pat O'Brien encouraged her to take a part in summer stock, and the play A Roomful of Roses opened in 1961. That led to another play, Never Too Late, in which she co-starred with Paul Ford in what was her Broadway debut. Shortly after it opened on Broadway, Farrow died of a heart attack. O'Sullivan stuck with acting after Farrow's death; she was the Today Girl for NBC for a while, then made the movie version of Never Too Late (1965) for Warner Bros. She was also an executive director of a bridal consulting service, Wediquette International. In June and July 1972, O'Sullivan was in Denver, Colorado, to star in the Elitch Theatre production of Butterflies are Free with Karen Grassle and Brandon deWilde. The show ended on 1 July 1972.[6][7]

When her daughter, actress Mia Farrow, became involved with Woody Allen both professionally and romantically, she appeared in Hannah and Her Sisters, playing Farrow's mother. She had roles in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) and the science fiction oddity Stranded (1987). Mia Farrow named one of her own sons Ronan O'Sullivan Farrow for her mother. In 1994, she appeared with Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers in Hart to Hart: Home Is Where the Hart Is, a feature-length made-for-TV movie with the wealthy husband-and-wife team from the popular weekly detective series Hart to Hart.

Personal lifeEdit

 
Wedding of Maureen O'Sullivan and John Farrow (1936)

O'Sullivan's first husband was the Australian-American writer, award-winning director and Catholic convert John Villiers Farrow, from 12 September 1936 until his death on 28 January 1963. She and Farrow were the parents of seven children: Michael Damien (1939–1958), Patrick Joseph (Patrick Villiers Farrow, 1942–2009), Maria de Lourdes Villiers (Mia Farrow, b. 1945), John Charles (b. 1946),[8] Prudence Farrow (b. 1948), Stephanie Farrow (b. 1949) and Theresa Magdalena "Tisa" Farrow (b. 1951).

O'Sullivan married James Cushing, a wealthy businessman, on 22 August 1983; they remained wed until her death in 1998. Maureen O'Sullivan became a U.S. citizen on 22 October 1947 (Petition for Naturalization #133033), Los Angeles, California.[9]

She was a Roman Catholic.[10]

A Democrat, she supported Adlai Stevenson during the 1952 presidential election.[11]

DeathEdit

Maureen O'Sullivan died in Scottsdale, Arizona, of complications from heart surgery on 23 June 1998, at age 87. O'Sullivan is buried at Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery, Niskayuna, New York, Cushing's hometown. Michael, her oldest son, was killed at age 19 in a 1958 plane crash.[12] Her son Patrick Villiers Farrow, a sculptor and peace and environmental activist, committed suicide in 2009.[13] Her grandson, Ronan Farrow, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

LegacyEdit

O'Sullivan has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6541 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, facing the star of Johnny Weissmuller. A black plaque marks her home on Main Street in Boyle, County Roscommon, Ireland. Just around the corner from there, opposite King House, is a tree, ceremonially planted by O'Sullivan to mark her return to her birthplace.

In 1982, O'Sullivan was awarded The George Eastman Award, given by George Eastman House for distinguished contribution to the art of film.

FilmographyEdit

Feature films

Short subjects

  • Hollywood Extra: The First Step (1936) as Herself
  • Hollywood – The Second Step (1936)
  • Unusual Occupations: Film Tot Holiday (1947)
  • Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Shower of Stars (1955)
  • Mandy's Grandmother (1978) as Grandmother

Television workEdit

 
The handprints of Maureen O'Sullivan in front of The Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park.
  • Jukebox Jury (1953)
  • Crossroads as Mrs. Day in "The Man Who Walked on Water" (1957) as Mrs. Day
  • The Today Show (Today Girl, 1963–1964)
  • What's My Line? (Contestant, 14 November 1965)
  • The Crooked Hearts (1972) as Lillian Stanton
  • The Great Houdini (1976) as Lady Conan Doyle
  • All My Children (cast member in 1981)
  • Morning's at Seven (1982) as Esther Crampton
  • Guiding Light (Miss Emma Witherspoon in 1984) as Miss Emma Witherspoon
  • Search for Tomorrow (cast member in 1985) as Elaine Descot
  • 1986 Miss USA Pageant – Cameo – reading before evening gown competition
  • With Murder in Mind (1992) as Aunt Mildred
  • The Habitation of Dragons (1992) as Helen Taylor
  • Hart to Hart: Home Is Where the Hart Is (1994) as Eleanor Biddlecomb (final film role)

Radio appearancesEdit

Year Program Episode/source
1941 Philip Morris Playhouse Night Must Fall[14]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Clarke, Donald; Brady, Tara (13 June 2020). "The 50 greatest Irish film actors of all time – in order". The Irish Times. Retrieved 18 June 2020.
  2. ^ "Maureen O'Sullivan genealogy, showing mother's true maiden name". Familysearch.org.
  3. ^ Profile, filmreference.com. Retrieved 22 September 2015.
  4. ^ "Mia Farrow's Interactive Family Tree". Finding Your Roots. PBS. 9 March 2016. Archived from the original on 23 January 2017. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  5. ^ Child, Ben (28 December 2011). "Chimp claimed as Cheetah from the Tarzan films dies". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 8 January 2012.
  6. ^ "Remembering Brandon.net/A Word on the Elitch Theatre". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 16 January 2013.
  7. ^ McLean, Patrisha, All Fall Down, The Brandon deWilde Story c. 2012, Faces, Incorporated, pp. 170, 173; ISBN 978-1936447121
  8. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage". Familytreelegends.com.
  9. ^ O'Sullivan Petition for Naturalization #133033, ancestry.com. Retrieved 22 September 2015.
  10. ^ Myrna Oliver. "From the Archives: Maureen O'Sullivan; Film and TV Actress Played Jane in 'Tarzan' Films of 1930s, '40s". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 December 2018.
  11. ^ Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 33, Ideal Publishers
  12. ^ "Maureen O'Sullivan, Movie Tarzan's 'Jane,' Dies at 87". The New York Times. 24 June 1998.
  13. ^ Curtis, Brent (17 June 2009). "Farrow's death ruled suicide; family releases statement". The Rutland Herald. Archived from the original on 4 June 2016. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
  14. ^ ""Playhouse" Star". Harrisburg Telegraph. 18 October 1941. p. 27. Retrieved 21 July 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  

External linksEdit