Thursday, July 28, 2011


Indian born Merle Oberon is arguably Hollywood’s first Indian Actress. Born in India, she obscured both her birth lineage which was probably part Eurasian by claiming she was born in the Australian state and Island of Tasmania, a story, which in the last years of her life came to be confirmed as untrue.

The story of her life is itself a plot for a movie and indeed was the basis of the 1987 miniseries “Queenie”. Oberon tried so hard to live the lie of her birthplace that she even visited Tasmania on two occasions throughout her life. The guilt of the untruth finally got to her and she revealed it is understood that it was a falsehood.

That aside, Merle Oberon was a brilliant, vivacious and very appealing screen actress. She has graced the screen in some very memorable roles including that of "Cathy" in Wuthering Heights (1939). Before that she enjoyed a wonderful career in British film in classics such as The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933), and The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934).

Here is a beautiful fur coat worn by Merle Oberon in the film “Lydia” released in 1941 by Alexander Korda Films and distributed through United Artists.

The costume is a full length white fur evening coat with fitted full length sleeves, attached shoulder cape and line hood. Ornamented at the hood, yoke and waistband with silver bullion embroidery in a foliate pattern. The garment is fully lined in white satin.

The film tells the story of Lydia MacMillan, a wealthy old woman who has never married, is invited by an old love to a reunion with the men who have been a part of her life. The film is told in a series of flashbacks as they remember when they were young and chasing Lydia.

The production design by Alexander Korda. Costumes by Walter Plunkett and Rene Hubert.

The costume appears in a scene where Oberon is riding is a sleigh through the snow and in a scene with her costars Joseph Cotton and George Reeves. Below you can see the scene where the coat appears:

Here also are some close ups showing the intricate silver bullion design to the coat.

The costume came from the famous Western Costume Company and was auctioned as part of the great Western costume sales which took place in 1993.

Oberon’s has director Alexander Korda to thank for her career and indeed when went to herself become Lady Korda in 1942.

Her career continued until the end of the 1940s when it declined to only a few appearances in film. A great shame, as she really is a wonderful actress.


  1. Many years ago I read Michael Korda's "fiction", QUEENIE (1985), about his uncle Alexander's one-time wife, Merle Oberon. Later Korda's book became a TV mini-series starring Mia Sara (who was not the beauty Oberon was). Oberon's tale is fascinating, but what I remember about her is how gorgeously she aged. Now I assume she must've had very expensive cosmetic surgery - perhaps less common then than now...

    Today it seems sad that Oberon felt she had to cloak her ancestry. The world is more accepting of multicultural heritage now than it was in her day. I can only imagine the personal pain she must've endured.

  2. Yes it is very sad that she had to go out her way to create a false past. You are right that today it would have been nothing. It is sad as the lie pained her right to the end.

    She was a great beauty yes. And I liked her in films, a cute voice and she performed very well!

  3. I am dying to find a picture of Merle in the Black & White Laced Floor length dress, Its absolutely gorgeous.

    If anyone comes across with it my email is
    Thank you Morgan Warren ;*