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Oberon, Merlelocked

(19 February 1911–23 November 1979)
  • Brenda Scott Royce

Extract

Oberon, Merle (19 February 1911–23 November 1979), actress, was born Estelle Merle O’Brien Thompson in Bombay, India, the daughter of Arthur Terrence O’Brien Thompson, a railway engineer, and Charlotte Constance Selby, a nurse’s assistant. The truth about Oberon’s origins and early life was not revealed until after her death. Throughout her lifetime, she steadfastly claimed to have been born into an aristocratic family in Tasmania. Ashamed of her dark-skinned mother and her poverty-stricken beginnings, she invented her own history when entering show business. She feared that the social prejudices of the day would have prevented her from becoming a star if it was known that she was half-caste. Michael Korda said in 1985, “Although I understand and sympathize with Merle, the childhood she really had must have been infinitely more interesting than the one she invented” ( ...

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