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O'Brien, Margaret 1937–

O'BRIEN, Margaret 1937

(Maxine O'Brien)


Original name, Angela Maxine O'Brien; born January 15, 1937, in San Diego, CA; daughter of Lawrence (a circus performer) and Gladys (maiden name, Flores) O'Brien; married Harold R. Allen, Jr. (an artist), August 8, 1959 (divorced, 1968); married Roy T. Thorsen, June 8, 1974; children: (second marriage) Mara Tolene. Avocational Interests: Peruvian and Spanish art.

Addresses: Agent Mark Levin Associates, 1341 Ocean Ave., Suite 261, Santa Monica, CA 904011019.

Career: Actress. Previously worked as a child model and as a civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army for Southern California, 1979.

Awards, Honors: Honorary Academy Award, outstanding child actress, 1944; Juvenile Award, outstanding child actress, Academy Awards, 1945; voted one of the ten best moneymaking stars, Motion Picture HeraldFame Poll, 194546; received star on the Walk of Fame; Special Award, former child starlife achievement award, Young Artist Awards, 1990; Southern California Motion Picture Lifetime Achievement Award, 1993.


Film Appearances:

(Film debut; uncredited; as Maxine O'Brien) Babes on Broadway, MetroGoldwynMayer, 1941.

Margaret White, Journey for Margaret, MetroGoldwynMayer, 1942.

Margaret, Doctor Gillespie's Criminal Case (also known as Crazy to Kill ), MetroGoldwynMayer, 1943.

Guest, Thousands Cheer, MetroGoldwynMayer, 1943.

Alpha, Lost Angel, MetroGoldwynMayer, 1943.

Irene Curie at age 5, Madame Curie, MetroGoldwynMayer, 1943.

(Uncredited) Their daughter, You, John Jones, 1943.

Adele Varens, Jane Eyre, Twentieth CenturyFox, 1944.

Lady Jessica de Canterville, The Canterville Ghost, MetroGoldwynMayer, 1944.

"Tootie" Smith, Meet Me in St. Louis, MetroGoldwynMayer, 1944.

"Mike," Music for Millions, MetroGoldwynMayer, 1944.

Selma Jacobson, Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, MetroGoldwynMayer, 1945.

Emmy, Bad Bascomb, MetroGoldwynMayer, 1946.

Sheila O'Monahan, Three Wise Fools, MetroGoldwynMayer, 1946.

"Meg" Merlin, The Unfinished Dance, MetroGoldwynMayer, 1947.

Flavia Mills, Tenth Avenue Angel, MetroGoldwynMayer, 1947.

Midge, Big City, MetroGoldwynMayer, 1948.

Beth March, Little Women, MetroGoldwynMayer, 1949.

Mary Lennox, The Secret Garden, MetroGoldwynMayer, 1949.

Betty Foster, Her First Romance (also known as Girls Never Try ), Columbia, 1951.

Betty Foster, Glory, RKO Radio Pictures, 1956.

Della Southby, Heller in Pink Tights, Paramount, 1960.

Agente S3S: operazione Uranio, 1965.

Annabelle Lee, General Film, 1968.

Diabolic Wedding (also known as Diabolique Wedding ), General Film, 1971.

(In archive footage) That's Entertainment!, 1974.

Hazel Johnson, Amy (also known as Amy on the Lips ), Buena Vista, 1981.

Sunset after Dark, Wildcat Entertainment, 1996.

Off the Menu: The Last Days of Chasen's (documentary), Northern Arts Entertainment, 1998.

"Hollywood Mortuary," Creaturealm: From the Dead, 1998.

Etta Mann, Mumsie, 2003.

Also appeared in Two Person Eyes.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

"The Canterville Ghost," Robert Montgomery Presents, 1950.

Margaret, "To the Lovely Margaret," Lux Video Theatre, 1951.

"Mystery Guest," What's My Line?, 1951, 1957.

Laura, "The White Gown," Lux Video Theatre, 1953.

"A Breath of Air," Studio One, 1953.

Elaine, "The Way I Feel," Lux Video Theatre, 1954.

Kathy Fathian, "South of the Sun," Climax!, 1955.

Ann, "Innocent Witness," Front Row Center, 1956.

"Night of a Rebel," Climax!, 1957.

"Necessary Evil," Climax!, 1957.

"The Mystery of Thirteen," Playhouse 90, 1957.

Margorie Reardon, "The Story of Marjorie Reardon," Suspicion, 1957.

Nancy, "Roadblock Number Seven," Jane Wyman Presents The Fireside Theatre (also known as The Jane Wyman Show ), 1957.

"Come to Me," Kraft Television Theatre, 1957.

Julie Revere, "The Sacramento Story," Wagon Train, NBC, 1958.

"Kiss Me Again, Stranger," Pursuit, CBS, 1958.

"Trial by Slander," Studio One, 1958.

Jenny Walker, "The Tongues of Angels," Studio One, 1958.

Mary Clayborne, "Big Doc's Girl," The U.S. Steel Hour, CBS, 1959.

Betsy Stauffer, "Incident of the Town in Terror," Rawhide, 1959.

Jean, "Escape," The DuPont Show with June Allyson, 1960.

Angela Kendricks, "The Deadly Shadow," Checkmate, 1960.

"River Gold," The Aquanauts, 1961.

"The Trial of Adam Troy," Adventures in Paradise, 1961.

Nurse Lori Palmer, "The Dragon," Dr. Kildare, 1962.

Elsa Thaelman, "The Betrayal," The DuPont Show of the Week, 1962.

Virginia Trent, "The Case of the Shoplifter's Shoe," Perry Mason, CBS, 1963.

Anne Lipscott, "The Turncoat," Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, NBC, 1964.

Marianne Fraisnet, "Entombed," Combat!, ABC, 1967.

"Love and the Letter," Love, American Style, ABC, 1968.

Mrs. Pendleton, "Log 46: Pilgrimage," Adam12, NBC, 1971.

Neva Phillips, "Dinner of Herbs," Marcus Welby, M.D., ABC, 1972.

Martha Connelly, "The Offer," Hotel, 1983.

Mrs. Webster, "Black Widows," Tales from the Darkside, syndicated, 1984.

"No Pets Allowed," The New Lassie, 1991.

Jane, "Who Killed J. B. Fletcher?," Murder, She Wrote, CBS, 1991.

Larry King Live, CNN, 2001.

Also appeared in Ironside, NBC.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Little Women, 1958.

Louise Prescott, Split Second to an Epitaph, NBC, 1968.

Death in Space, 1974.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

Flora Bumpstead Eaton, Testimony of Two Men, Operation Prime Time, 1976.

Television Appearances; Specials:

The 50th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1978.

(In archive footage; uncredited) Has Anybody Here Seen Canada? A History of Canadian Movies 19391953 (also known as From the Dawn of the Documentary to the Coming of the Box and Has Anyone Here Seen Canada? ), 1979.

When We Were Young ... Growing up on the Silver Screen, PBS, 1989.

America's AllStar Tribute to Elizabeth Taylor (also known as America's Hope Award or 2nd Annual America's Hope Award ), ABC, 1989.

The 65th Annual Academy Awards, 1993.

The Story of Lassie, PBS, 1994.

Homeward Bound, 1994.

Interviewee, The Great Christmas Movies, AMC, 1998.

(Uncredited) The 72nd Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2000.

Child Stars: Their Story, Arts and Entertainment, 2000.

Last Days of Judy Garland: The E! True Hollywood Story, E! Entertainment Television, 2001.

(In archive footage) Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star, TCM, 2002.

Shirley Mania, Fox, 2002.

The 75th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2003.

Elizabeth Taylor: Facets, 2003.

Stage Appearances:

Appeared in Barefoot in the Park, Under the Yum Yum Tree, and A Thousand Clowns, all summer stock or summer tour productions.



My Diary, 1947.



Ellenberger, Allan R., and Robert Young, Margaret O'Brien: A Career Chronicle and Biography, McFarland, 2000.


Margaret O'Brien Official Site,, November 14, 2003.

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"O'Brien, Margaret 1937–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . 18 Dec. 2017 <>.

"O'Brien, Margaret 1937–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . (December 18, 2017).

"O'Brien, Margaret 1937–." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. . Retrieved December 18, 2017 from

O'Brien, Margaret

O'BRIEN, Margaret

Nationality: American. Born: Angela Maxine O'Brien in San Diego, California, 15 January 1937. Education: Attended University High School, Los Angeles. Family: Married 1) Harold R. Allen Jr., 1959 (divorced 1968); 2) Roy T. Thorsen, 1974, daughter: Mary. Career: Child model at age three; 1941—film debut at age four in Babes on Broadway; made some films after 1951, but has worked since mainly on stage and television, including the mini-series Testimony of Two Men, 1977; 1979—civilian aide to Secretary of the Army Clifford Alexander. Awards: Special Academy Award, as "outstanding child actress of 1944," 1944; Women's International Center Living Legacy Award, 1996. Address: 1250 La Preresa Drive, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362, U.S.A.

Films as Actress:


Babes on Broadway (Berkeley)


Journey for Margaret (Van Dyke) (title role)


Dr. Gillespie's Criminal Case (Goldbeck) (as Margaret); Thousands Cheer (Sidney); Madame Curie (LeRoy) (as Irene at age 5)


Lost Angel (Rowland) (as Alpha); Jane Eyre (Stevenson) (as Adele); The Canterville Ghost (Dassin) (as Lady Jessica de Canterville); Meet Me in St. Louis (Minnelli) (as Tootie Smith); Music for Millions (Koster) (as Mike)


Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (Rowland) (as Selma Jacobson)


Bad Bascomb (Simon) (as Emmy); Three Wise Fools (Buzzell) (as Sheila O'Monohan)


The Unfinished Dance (Koster)


Tenth Avenue Angel (Rowland) (as Flavia Mills); Big City (Taurog) (as Midge)


Little Women (LeRoy) (as Beth March); The Secret Garden (Wilcox) (as Mary Lennox)


Her First Romance (Friedman) (as Betty Foster)


Glory (David Butler) (as Clarabel Tilbee)


Heller in Pink Tights (Cukor) (as Della Southby)


Split Second to an Epitaph (Horn—for TV)


Diabolical Wedding


Annabelle Lee


Amy (McEveety) (as Hazel Johnson)


Tales from the Darkside (Balaban, Blackburn—series for TV); Murder, She Wrote (Abroms, Allen—for TV) (as Jane)


Sunset After Dark


Hollywood Mortuary (Ford) (as herself)


By O'BRIEN: articles—

"The Journeys of Margaret," interview with Eve Golden, in Classic Images (Muscatine), August 1993.

On O'BRIEN: articles—

Ciné Revue (Paris), 21 August 1980.

Baker, B., "Margaret O'Brien," in Film Dope (London), July 1992.

Ellenberger, Allan R., "Journey for Margaret's Oscar," in Classic Images (Chicago), March 1995.

* * *

Margaret O'Brien received a special Oscar in 1944 for being an "outstanding child actress," a distinction she shared with Shirley Temple, Jackie Cooper, and others. Unlike most of her contemporaries and subsequent child actors, however, O'Brien was not particularly "cute." Her success lay in her ability to stir the emotions of her audience in dramatic scenes rather than with childish charm or musical talent. Beginning with her first hit, and only her second film, Journey for Margaret, which was made at her home studio, MGM, O'Brien relied on scowls and cynicism as much as her dimples. She invariably wore a pointed cap and usually was deadly serious as she seemed to carry the weight of the world on her little shoulders.

Her two best films, both made in 1944, were The Canterville Ghost and Meet Me in St. Louis. In the former, O'Brien captured the audience, playing the pivotal role of a young duchess whose courage inspires both a 400-years-dead ghost played by Charles Laughton and a brash American G.I. played by Robert Young. In Meet Me in St. Louis O'Brien had a relatively minor role in comparison with star Judy Garland and many well-known members of the MGM stock company, but her big scene in which she hysterically destroys the snowmen on the front lawn on Christmas Eve has become famous, and led to her Oscar.

O'Brien appeared in a number of productions after the war, including Little Women, but her career declined dramatically, like so many other child stars, as she reached puberty. While she was in her prime, O'Brien was considered one of the best child actors on the screen, although in retrospect most of her films show her in a whiny, unattractive light. She has continued to act sporadically over the years, but has never risen above minor featured parts. Her most widely seen role as a adult was that of an overweight housewife in Robert Young's television series, Marcus Welby, M.D.

—Patricia King Hanson

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

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"O'Brien, Margaret." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . 18 Dec. 2017 <>.

"O'Brien, Margaret." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . (December 18, 2017).

"O'Brien, Margaret." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Retrieved December 18, 2017 from