Monday, May 13, 2013

Merle Oberon's Secret

One of my favorite movies is the 1939 film version of Wuthering Heights, starring the extraordinarily beautiful Merle Oberon, a talented actress during the 1930s and '40s.

As Mother's Day has just passed, I must say, I find it sad the way Miss Oberon treated her own mother--her dark skinned mother--by passing her off as a servant. Throughout her lifetime, Merle Oberon kept her ethnic origin a secret. says "Merle Oberon earned an Oscar nod for her acting in 1935’s “The Dark Angel” and more recognition for playing Cathy in 1939’s Wuthering Heights. But off screen, Oberon feared that her secrets would be exposed. She wasn’t solely white nor was she born in Tasmania like actor Errol Flynn, as she told people. Actually, she was born in India to an Indian mother and an Anglo father. Rather than disown her mother, though, Oberon passed her off as a servant. When the actress visited Tasmania later in life, the press hounded her for details about her upbringing, forcing her to admit that she wasn't born there. Still, Oberon did not confess to being Indian."

For a more in depth look into Merle Oberon's life and deceit regarding her origins, check out this article about the 2002 documentary "The Trouble with Merle".

Have you seen any of Merle Oberon's movies?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!


Jennette Marie Powell said...

I haven't seen any of Merle Oberon's movies, but I'm looking forward to seeing how you handle an actress "passing" when Masquerade comes out!

Maria McKenzie said...

Writing that character made me think of Merle Oberon. And she was a lot nicer to her mother than my character was to hers!

Unknown said...

Poor Merle. That must have been an awful way to exist but, considering the times, to avoid being sidelined I guess she had no choice other than to be creative with her personal life. At least she found a way to keep her mother near. Her mother's story would be, in many respects, equally fascinating.

shelly said...

I've seen one of her movies. Sad she had to hide her roots.

Hugs and chocolate,

Norma said...

It's terrible to think anyone had to hide any aspect of themselves to have a career.

Looking forward to Masquerade!

Romance Book Haven said...

Hi Maria,

What a shameful way she treated her mother. She can't have been happy.

Racism was very bad in the past. I'd like to think this couldn't happen now.

Maria McKenzie said...

@Elaine: Hi, Elaine, thanks for visiting! It's very sad how she had to deal with things at that time. I agree that her maother's story would be a fascinating account as well.

@Shelly: I've only seen Wuthering Heights, and she really did a great job as Cathy.

@Norma: I know--very sad times:(.

@RBH/Nas: I'm sure she was pretty sad, living in deceit that way. Thank goodness times have changed!

Nas said...

Hi Maria!

The RBH is Maria from MBB.

Insightful post!

Maria McKenzie said...

Hi, Nas! Sorry I mixed you up with Maria:).

Intangible Hearts said...

She was stunning and I loved her as Catherine in Wuthering Heights. I read the book so many times it fell apart.

Intangible Hearts said...

She was stunning and I loved her as Catherine in Wuthering Heights. I read the book so many times it fell apart.

Maria McKenzie said...

She was beautiful up until she died at 68. Wuthering Heights was one of my grandmother's favorite books, too!

William Kendall said...

I did see Wuthering Heights, and I'm sure I've seen her in a few other things. I didn't know that about her.