Merle Oberon Ethnicity – Where Was She From? Parens Family And Career Details

Merle Oberon Ethnicity

Merle Oberon Ethnicity – Where Was She From? The actress concealed her mixed heritage out of concern for how it might affect her career and to avoid discrimination. 

Merle Oberon, a British actress, made her film debut in The Private Lives of Henry VIII as Anne Boleyn in 1933. With the success of The Scarlet Pimpernel, she went to the U.S. to work on movies for Samuel Goldwyn. She received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her work in The Dark Angel.

Her other well-known works are Désirée, A Song to Remember, Berlin Express, Wuthering Heights, and These Three

Princess Merle: The Romantic Lives of Merle Oberon, a biography published in 1983, reveals her Anglo-Indian ancestry. Her baptismal certificate, birth record from Bombay, and letters and images that belonged to her Indian ancestors were all discovered.

A stroke took her life in 1979.

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Merle Oberon Ethnicity – Where Was She From?

Estelle Merle O’Brien Thompson was born in Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1911. 

She was brought up as the child of Charlotte Selby, a Eurasian from Ceylon(present-day Sri Lanka), and Arthur Terrence O’Brien Thompson, a British mechanical engineer from Darlington who worked for Indian Railways.

Selby was eventually revealed to be Oberon’s grandmother in the 2014 documentary “The Problem with Merle.” The actress was born to Constance, the daughter of Selby, when she was a teen, although the two were reared as sisters for a while.

Merle hid about her ethnicity for most of her life to protect herself, stating that she was born in Tasmania, Australia and that her birth documents were burned in a fire.

Merle Oberon Parents and Family

Merle’s father was British, and her mother was a mix of Maori and Sinhalese. According to her birth certificate, Merle’s biological mother was Constance, Charlotte’s 12-year-old daughter. Charlotte brought up Merle as Constance’s half-sister to prevent controversy.

Constance, the actress’s biological mother, later had four more children with another man, giving the actress a half-sibling relationship.

In 1939, Oberon wed the filmmaker Alexander Korda. When King VI knighted Oberon’s husband in 1942 for his commitment to the war effort, she took the name Lady Korda. In 1945, she had a divorce and wed the director of photography Lucien Ballard.

Merle Oberon Ethnicity
Merle Oberon with her first husband (Source: BBC)

To cover up the wounds she sustained on her face in the 1937 accident on camera, Ballard created a unique camera light just for her. Later, the light name became “Obie.” In 1949, she and Ballard got divorced.

In 1957, Oberon wed industrialist Bruno Pagliai of Italian descent; they had adopted two children together, and they resided in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico.

While filming Interval, Oberon got to know 36-year-old Dutch actor Robert Wolders. In 1975, after divorcing Pagliai, Oberon wed Wolders, who was 25 years her junior.

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Merle Oberon Career Details

According to one source. Oberon was motivated to pursue acting after seeing The Black Angel in 1925 because of Vilma Bánky, who played the lead role.

After being introduced to filmmaker Rex Ingram by an army colonel who gave her tiny parts in his movies, she went to France in 1928.

Merle Oberon Ethnicity
Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier in Wuthering Heights. ( Source: Wikipedia)

Sir Alexander Korda, a director Oberon later married, gave her her big break by giving her the role of Anne Boleyn in The Private Life of Henry VIII. According to reports, Korda’s publicists had to make up a backstory to justify her ethnicity.

Oberon moved to the U.S. as she landed more Hollywood roles, and in 1935, she received an Oscar nomination for her performance in The Dark Angel.

Yet, it was her performance in Wuthering Heights in 1939 that established her reputation in the industry.

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