Jan 082018
  January 8, 2018

MaureenOSullivanMaureen O’Sullivan was the great ingénue. She appeared to be sensual and exciting while simultaneously being innocent and cute. It was a balancing act few have managed to pull off. Unfortunately it put her in mainly supporting roles where she was the goal—of the eight films below, only two have her as the lead. The exception was the part that brought her fame: Jane in the Tarzan franchise. For the first films, Tarzan is not the star, but Jane, and it is a Jane who is at ease scantily clad and sexy, that is until the production code caught up with the 3rd movie.

O’Sullivan’s film persona rarely varied and I’ve wondered how much of it was scripting and how much was just her. Did scriptwriter after scriptwriter just decide that her calling most males “darling” fit her character or was that part of her everyday vocabulary?

#8 – The Emperor’s Candlesticks (1937) — A lightweight and nearly forgotten period, spy, comedy and romance (as opposed to romantic comedy) starring William Powell and Luise Rainer. O’Sullivan is in a secondary role but is delightful.

#7 – Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) — The first of the Weissmuller Tarzan films that follows Jane’s father’s search for an elephant graveyard until they run into Tarzan. Weissmuller is an impressive Tarzan, but this is O’Sullivan’s show.

#6 – The Devil-Doll (1936) — A decent horror film at a time when horror films were out of vogue. It is not one of O’Sullivan’s better parts, but the whole is watchable and the best horror film of ’36 (Full Review)

#5 – A Day at the Races (1937) — The Marx Brothers are the stars, but they liked to shoehorn in a romantic pairing and O’Sullivan was the best young female they ever stuck in.

#4 – Pride and Prejudice (1940) — A romantic comedy take on the Jane Austen classic. O’Sullivan lands the supporting role of the nearly perfect sister, making it easy to believe that yes, everyone would love her. (Full Review)

#3 – Tarzan and His Mate (1934) — The best of the Tarzan films and the best lead part O’Sullivan ever had. She’s so natural, so joyful, playing in the jungle. The plot doesn’t matter. All that does is O’Sullivan and how she interacts with Weissmuller.

#2 – The Big Clock (1948) — One of the great Film Noirs as Ray Milland is placed in charge of an investigation to find a man who turns out to be himself. Remade in ’87 as No Way Out with Kevin Costner. O’Sullivan plays Milland’s poorly treated wife. (Full critique) [Also on the Ray Milland list]

#1 – The Thin Man (1934) — Myrna Loy is a rich socialite; William Powell is a retired detective (now living the high life on her money) who gets sucked into a murder case. Funny and charming, this introduction of Nick and Nora Charles is as good a time as you can have at the cinema. O’Sullivan plays the daughter of the missing thin man. [Also on the William Powell list & the Myrna Loy list]