Star of the Month Guide: Merle Oberon

The TCM March star of the month is the exotic Merle Oberon.

TCM is honoring Merle Oberon with 25 movie airing each Friday evening in March.  Here's what you need to know about one of old Hollywood's great beauties. FYI: TCM sometimes changes the air times and /or movies, so you can go to to check the updated schedule.

Born: Feb. 19, 1911, in Mumbai, India.

Died: Nov. 23, 1979, in Malibu, Calif. She is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif.

AKA: Oberon was born Estelle Merle O'Brien Thompson, but she was known as Queenie Thompson to her family and friends, and she was billed that way in her early films. Producer Alexander Korda changed her name to the much grander sounding Merle Oberon.

Academy Awards: Oberon was nominated for a best actress Oscar for Dark Angel (1935).

Brief bio: Oberon grew up in India as the daughter of a British Army officer and his Indian wife. When Oberon's father died during World War I, Oberon and her mother lived in poverty in Calcutta where Oberon worked a variety of odd jobs and appeared in amateur plays. An acquaintance eventually led Oberon into the path of powerful British director and producer Rex Ingram. He liked her exotic looks and hired her for a few small parts in movies, but Oberon's career didn't really take off until Korda cast her as Anne Boleyn in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). Oberon was noticed by Hollywood for her role as Lady Blakeney in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), and Oberon eventually was put under contract by independent producer Samuel Goldwyn, where she appeared in two of her best films, Dark Angel and Wuthering Heights (1939). Oberon became queen of the costume drama in the 1940's, giving memorable performances in Lydia (1941), The Lodger (1944), and A Song to Remember (1945). Oberon's career slowed down in the 1950's, but she did appear in Desiree (1954) with Marlon Brando and on television. Her final film was the romance Interval (1973), which co-starred her future husband Robert Wolders. Oberon died of a stroke at her home in Malibu.

Rosalind Russell (left), Greer Garson, and Merle Oberon have a dinner date.
Fun Fact: Oberon got her nickname, Queenie, from Britain's Queen Mary, who visited India during the year of her birth.

My Star of the Month Top Four: 
My picks are two war movies, a costume drama, and a classic adaptation of one of the best British novels of all time.
Week 1.  The Dark Angel, airing at 1 a.m.: Oberon received her only Oscar nomination for  this World War I drama that centers around a love triangle involving Fredric March and Herbert Marshall.
Week 2. Wuthering Heights, airing at 9:30 p.m.: Oberon's best known role is in this adaptation of Emily Bronte's classic novel about the death-defying romance between Cathy Earnshaw (Oberon) and Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier).
Week 3. Lydia, airing at 1:15 a.m.: Oberon was the queen of costumes dramas during the 1940's. My personal favorite is Lydia, the story of a spoiled young woman who rejects many promising suitors, including Joseph Cotten and George Reeves, only to regret it later in life.
Week 4. Berlin Express (1948) airing at 2:30 a.m.: This underrated drama about postwar Germany stars Oberon and Robert Ryan as a French woman and American who are thrown together after the mysterious death of a German doctor (Paul Lukas). This film is beautifully directed by Jacques Tourneur on location in Berlin and Frankfurt.

Old Hollywood video: The execution of Anne Boleyn (Oberon) in The Private Life of Henry VIII.

Fan Magazine Flashback: A lovely 1938 portrait of Oberon from Modern Screen. Courtesy of the Media History Digital Library.

Old Hollywood GIF: Heathcliff and Cathy gather heather on the Yorkshire moors in Wuthering Heights. via Giphy.


  1. I first saw merle oberon on the television in the 1950s and have never fogotten how beautiful she was and i was just a nipper of around 8 years old. She certainly made an impression on me which i will never forget.

    1. I believe i left the message concerning merle oberon and first seeing her when i was around eight years old. I stand by what i said because my opinion of her beauty will always be with me and i don`t think that many will disagree with me. I am now in my older years and can still remember that moment in Sidmouth, Devon, u.k.


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