Happy 105th birthday, Maureen O’Sullivan!

Maureen O’Sullivan was born 105 years ago today in County Roscommon, Ireland, of Irish, English and Scottish descent. Here are some fun facts about one of our favorite Irish lasses:

  • As a girl, O’Sullivan was a classmate of Vivien Leigh at Roehampton (now Woldingham School), a convent school just outside of London. O’Sullivan’s father sent her there because he felt her Irish brogue was getting too thick.
  • Maureen O’Sullivan was discovered by director Frank Borzage while he was in Dublin shooting Song o’ My Heart (1930). He gave her a screen test, offered her a role and she returned with him to Hollywood to complete the filming. Once she was settled in Hollywood, she was offered many other parts.
  • In 1932, O’Sullivan starred opposite Johnny Weismuller in Tarzan the Ape Man. The film was such a success that the two were paired in five more Tarzan pictures.
  • Maureen O’Sullivan costarred opposite the Marx Brothers in A Day at the Races (1937). Groucho Marx was quite taken with her, but she did not return his interest, to his lasting regret (he was still speaking longingly of her decades later).
  • O’Sullivan reined in her very successul career so that she might care for her husband, Australian screenwriter and director John Farrow, when he returned from Naval service in World War II with typhus (or typhoid—we were unable to confirm which it was), but she continued to make occasional appearances in movies, on stage and on television until just a few years before she died in 1998.
  • Maureen O’Sullivan and John Farrow had seven children, among them actress Mia Farrow.
  • O’Sullivan hated working with Cheetah in the Tarzan pictures, referring to the chimp in private as “that ape son of a bitch.”
  • When Maureen O’Sullivan met Clark Gable in 1932, he was wearing old-age makeup and she rebuffed his offer of a date to go horseback riding. When she finally saw him san makeup, she regretted the decision, but he never asked her out again.
  • Politically, O’Sullivan was a lifelong liberal and supported many charitable causes, among them UNICEF, The United Nations and Habitat for Humanity.
  • Maureen O’Sullivan made her first stage appearance at the suggestion of actor Pat O’Brien in a 1961 Chicago production of “A Roomful of Roses.”
  • O’Sullivan became a US citizen on October 22, 1947
  • Maureen O’Sullivan died in Scottsdale, Arizona, on June 23, 1998; she was 87. She is buried at Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery, Niskayuna, New York, the hometown of her second husband, James Cushing.

Happy birthday, Ms. O’Sullivan, wherever you may be!

Maureen O'Sullivan

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