Tarzan’s Jane Died June 23, 1998

23 Jun

On this date in 1998, The legendary actress who was known over the world as “Jane” and mother of actress Mia Farrow died at the age of 87.

Maureen Paul O’Sullivan was born in Roscommon, Ireland on May 17, 1911. The future mother of Mia Farrow was educated on parochial schools in London, Dublin, and Paris. As a matter of fact, Maureen was a classmate with Vivien Leigh, another woman destined for screen immortality. Even as a school girl Maureen desired an acting career. She studied hard and read widely. When the chance to become an actress the opportunity almost dropped in her lap. Frank Borzage was in Dublin filming Song o’ My Heart (1930) in 1930, when Maureen, then 18, met the director. Borzage suggested a screen test which she took. The results were more than favorable as she won the part of Eileen O’Brien. The part was a substantial one. So much so that Maureen went on to Hollywood to complete the filming. Once in sunny California, Maureen wasted no time in landing roles in other films, such as Just Imagine (1930), Princess and the Plumber (1930), and So This Is London (1930), all in 1930. Maureen was on a roll that her contemporaries wished they had, when they were coming up through the ranks. In 1932, Maureen was teamed up with Olympic medal winner, Johnny Weissmuller, for the first time in Tarzan the Ape Man (1932). Five other Tarzan films followed, the last being Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942) in 1942. The Tarzan epics rank as one of the most memorable serials ever made. Most people agree that those movies would not have been successful had it not been for the fine acting talents, not to mention the beauty of Maureen herself. But she was more than Jane Parker in the Tarzan films. She had great roles and played beautifully in films such as The Flame Within (1935), The Personal History, Adventures, Experience, and Observation of David Copperfield, the Younger (1935), and as Kitty in Anna Karenina (1935). Yet another fine performance was turned in with Pride and Prejudice (1940). After the 1940s, Maureen made far fewer films. Not because she lost popularity, but it was by choice. Sometimes it isn’t easy to walk away from a lucrative career, but she did. She had a busy family, and she wanted to devote more time to her family of seven children with John Farrow, an Australian writer. They would remain married from 1936 until his death in 1963. Not that she remained completely idle. Maureen still found time to make an occasional appearance in film, TV, or the stage. Most recent movie patrons remember her as Elizabeth Alvorg in the 1986 hit Peggy Sue Got Married (1986).

Her final silver screen appearance was in 1988’s Good Old Boy: A Delta Boyhood (1988). Some TV movies followed, but only until 1996. She maintained homes in New Hampshire and Arizona and it was in Scottsdale where Maureen died on June 23, 1998 of a heart attack. She was 87 years old.

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