Maureen O’Sullivan: A Life in the Spotlight

Maureen O'Sullivan

Maureen O’Sullivan was an Irish actress, best known for her role as Jane in the Tarzan films. Born in 1911 in County Roscommon, Ireland, O’Sullivan began her career on stage before transitioning to film.

Early Career and Hollywood Stardom

In 1930, O’Sullivan was discovered by Hollywood while performing in a stage production of “The Playboy of the Western World” in Dublin. She was offered a screen test and subsequently signed a contract with MGM. O’Sullivan quickly rose to stardom, appearing in numerous films, including “The Thin Man” and “Anna Karenina.” However, it was her portrayal of Jane in the Tarzan series that made her a household name.

Personal Life and Legacy

O’Sullivan was married to Australian Olympic swimmer John Farrow and had seven children, including actress Mia Farrow. She continued to act in films and on television throughout her career, receiving critical acclaim for her performances in “The Big Clock” and “Peyton Place.” O’Sullivan passed away in 1998 at the age of 87, leaving behind a legacy as a talented and accomplished actress.

Breakthrough Role in “Tarzan”

In 1932, O’Sullivan was cast as Jane in the first Tarzan film, opposite Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan. The film was a commercial and critical success, spawning numerous sequels in which O’Sullivan reprised her role. The Tarzan series cemented O’Sullivan’s status as a Hollywood star and sex symbol, and she remained closely associated with the role throughout her career.

Challenges and Controversy

Despite her success, O’Sullivan faced a number of challenges in her career. In 1934, she was embroiled in a scandal when a series of nude photographs taken before she became famous were published without her consent. The incident caused a temporary setback in her career, but O’Sullivan was able to recover and continue working in Hollywood.

Later Career and Critical Acclaim

In the 1940s and 1950s, O’Sullivan continued to act in films and on television, including a recurring role on “The Guiding Light” and a supporting role in the classic film noir “The Big Clock.” In 1964, she received critical acclaim for her performance in the film “Peyton Place,” earning a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Legacy and Influence

O’Sullivan’s legacy as an actress and Hollywood icon is still felt today. Her role as Jane in the Tarzan films helped to shape the image of the female lead in Hollywood action-adventure movies, and her personal and professional struggles continue to inspire new generations of actresses. O’Sullivan’s contributions to film and television will be remembered for years to come.

Maureen O’Sullivan died in Scottsdale, Arizona, on 23 June 1998, at age 87

Last updated April 13, 2023.

About the Author

Dave Donnelly
Meet Dave Donnelly, a passionate Irishman with an insatiable love for music, TV, fishing, and exploring the stunning countryside of Ireland. A native of the Emerald Isle, Dave has an inherent appreciation for the rich cultural traditions and natural beauty of his homeland.