Woman Crush Wednesday: Merle Oberon


I have a thing for Merle Oberon that’s almost as intense as my thing for Helen Mirren. She’s my Silver Screen Girlfriend, the one who I keep coming back to time and again to just sit and stare at because she’s just so damn pretty. She also happened to have starred in quite a few amazingly costumed films in the period between 1930 and 1955, opposite some serious actors such as Leslie Howard, Marlon Brando, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. And yet, I feel like she’s not as well-known today among people of my generation and younger. I happened to discover her by accident and only after the fact did I realize that she had played such famous roles as Cathy in Wuthering Heights, George Sand in A Song to Remember, and Joséphine de Beauharnais in Désirée.

So let’s get re-acquainted with her and all of her fabulous historical costume flicks!


The Private Life Of Henry VIII (1933) – Anne Boleyn

Costumes by John Armstrong.

Merle Oberon - Anne Boleyn - The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) merle-oberon-anne-boleyn-private-life-of-henry-viii


The Private Life of Don Juan (1934) – Antonia

Costumes by Oliver Messel.

Merle-Oberon-The-Private-Life-of-Don-Juan-1934 Merle-Oberon-Private-Life-of-Don-Juan-1934 merle-oberon-douglas-fairbanks_jr

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934) – Lady Blakeney

Costumes by John Armstrong.

merle-oberon-Scarlet-Pimpernel3 merle-oberon-Scarlet-Pimpernel2 merle-oberon-scarlet-pimpernel-1934

I, Claudius (1937) – Messalina

Costumes by John Armstrong.

Merle Oberon - Messalina - I, Claudius (1937)


Wuthering Heights (1939) – Cathy

Costumes by Omar Kiam.

merle-oberon-wuthering-heights-1939-1 merle-oberon-wuthering-heights-1939-2 Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier in a scene from WUTHERING HEIGHTS, 1939.

The Lodger (1944) – Kitty Langley

Costumes by René Hubert.

merle_oberon_the_lodger-1944_2 merle_oberon_the_lodger-1944


A Song to Remember (1945) – George Sand

Costumes by Walter Plunkett.

merle-oberon-george-sand-a-song-to-remember1 Annex - Oberon, Merle (A Song to Remember)_01 A-Song-to-Remember-31788_7 merle-oberon-george-sand-a-song-to-remember2


Temptation (1946) – Ruby

Costumes by Orry-Kelly.

merle-oberon-temptation-1946_1 merle-oberon-temptation merle-oberon-temptation-1946


Désirée (1954) – Joséphine de Beauharnais

Costumes by René Hubert and Charles Le Maire.

merle-oberon-marlon-brando-desiree-1954_1 merle-oberon-desiree Merle-Oberon-Desiree-1954 Merle Oberon “Empress Josephine” Coronation gown with velvet and ermine robe from Desirée

How long have you adored Merle Oberon? Make Sarah feel inadequate for only having just discovered her in the comments below!


About the author

Sarah Lorraine

Sarah has an undergraduate degree in Clothing & Textile Design and a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture, with an emphasis on fashion history. When she’s not caught in paralyzing existential dread, she's drinking craft cocktails and writing about historical costume in film and television. She's been pissing people off on the internet since 1995.

3 Responses

  1. Susan Pola

    My favourite role, Jane Seymour not withstanding, was Lady Blakeney followed by Josephine in Desiree. Have you read the bio/novel (not sure) by Michael Korda? It’s enjoyable.

  2. Abigail Tyrrell

    Check out the novel Queenie and the TV mini series from 1987. They were written by her nephew and is loosely based upon her life story as a mixed raced woman making it in Hollywood.

  3. Terri

    I first remember encountering her after devouring everything I could find on Vivien Leigh, since she was married to Alexander Korda, Leigh’s agent. When I realized she was Marguerite in Scarlet Pimpernel I started researching her. What a life, what an amazing woman. Loved her as Anne Boleyn, Josephine, Cathy, George Sand, and of course Marguerite.