Friday, January 15, 2010

Happy Birthday to Margaret O'Brien

Today is the 73rd birthday of Margaret O'Brien, who in my opinion is the most interesting and accomplished child actress in film history.


O'Brien would deserve to be long remembered if her only credit were her remarkable performance as Tootie in MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944), but fortunately for us her career includes many other fine films and performances.

My favorite O'Brien roles include the traumatized orphan of the London Blitz in JOURNEY FOR MARGARET (1942)...the isolated genius exposed to childhood pleasures for the first time in LOST ANGEL (1943)...charming Adele, the ward of Mr. Rochester (Orson Welles), in JANE EYRE (1944)...brave little Lady Jessica in THE CANTERVILLE GHOST (1944)...Selma, the daughter of a farmer (Edward G. Robinson), in MGM's brilliant -- and sometimes disturbing -- piece of rural Americana, OUR VINES HAVE TENDER GRAPES (1945)...Beth in LITTLE WOMEN (1949)...and one of her very best performances, Mary Lennox in THE SECRET GARDEN (1949). Mary's gradual evolution from spoiled brat to a kind, helpful, and happy young lady is a joy to behold.

I had the great pleasure of briefly meeting Miss O'Brien at a screening of THE SECRET GARDEN at the Vagabond Theater in Los Angeles in approximately the early '80s. She very graciously autographed a publicity still from THE SECRET GARDEN which I brought from my personal collection. Needless to say, I treasure it.

Don't miss Moira Finnie's tribute to Miss O'Brien at TCM, which focuses the excellent film THE UNFINISHED DANCE (1947). I remember discovering this movie on TV as a child and being entranced by the Technicolor, the ballet setting, and beautiful Cyd Charisse and Karin Booth, as well as by O'Brien's performance as the somewhat disturbed young dancer. Moira's description of O'Brien's performance in this film is right on target.

As Moira writes: "...the intensity of this girl’s work set her apart from most of her peers."

Turner Classic Movies honors O'Brien today by screening seven of her films, one short (YOU, JOHN JONES!), and a 2006 PRIVATE SCREENINGS interview.

Margaret O'Brien was one of a kind as a child actress, and what better day to celebrate her contributions to film history than her birthday?

Happy birthday, Miss O'Brien!

6 Comments:

Blogger Moira Finnie said...

Thanks for the shout out on Margaret O'Brien, Laura.

I'm never quite sure if others respond to her films on as visceral a level as I have, so I truly appreciate your mention of my piece on "The Unfinished Dance" (1948).

I am looking forward to seeing Ms. O'Brien again with the other Child Stars on the Private Screenings being shown later today on TCM.
All the best,
Moira

2:26 PM  
Blogger J. White said...

I woke up late this morning and missed the first 20 minutes of Journey for Margaret. They should have every child actor in training watch this movie. Margaret O'Brien, William Severn, and even the children extras acted the story so beautifully! Of course, Robert Young was wonderful too. I've seen that movie at least 50 times and I cry every time. When I saw TCM was showing her movies, I almost ditched work. Happy birthday, Margaret and thank you Laura for the special blog!

3:57 PM  
Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

After your posts and Moira's I believe I am really going to have to pay more attention to Margaret O'Brien- I just never sought out her films before. But after these posts and thoroughly enjoying The Canterville Ghost- I believe it's time to re-evaluate.
By the way- congrats on your Kreativ Blogger award, "fellow nominee!" If Ivan hadn't have nominated you also- you would've been number 1 on my list!

5:39 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you for the comment, J. White! It's nice to hear from someone else who appreciates JOURNEY FOR MARGARET. I hope you'll visit again.

Best wishes,
Laura

5:53 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

J.C., thank you so much, you and Ivan have made my day! :)

I highly recommend continuing your exploration of O'Brien's films with JOURNEY FOR MARGARET and OUR VINES HAVE TENDER GRAPES. FYI, both have been released on Warner Archive DVD-Rs and both also had releases on VHS, as well as showing up on TCM from time to time. These films represent MGM's '40s moviemaking, and O'Brien, at their best.

Best wishes,
Laura

5:55 PM  
Blogger Susana said...

I am an argentine woman. I'm 73 just like Margaret. I've loved her since I was a child. Unfortunately I can't see nowadays her films in my country because TCM channel here does not include too old films.

Happy birthday dear Margaret!

Sorry for my English.

3:46 PM  

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