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Merle Oberon Movie style icon

March 3, 2015

Merle Oberon, who starred with Laurence Olivier in Wuthering Heights, played Jane to Tarzan in the famous Tarzan movies and Anne Boleyn in The Private Life of Henry VIII, was a beautiful actress.

Although perhaps not as famous as other well-known actresses at the time, she played some fabulous roles during the 40s. Today, many may not even know who she is, but she is certainly one of 40s most natural and memorable beauties.

Merle Oberon in Wuthering Heights,1939

Merle Oberon in Wuthering Heights,1939

Born in India

She was born Estelle Merle Thompson and was born in Bombay to an Indian mother and English father, although there was some dispute as to where she was born throughout much of her life, with Oberon insisting she’d been born in Tasmania for many years until her death in 1979.

 

Oberon’s dark beauty, like Ava Gardner and Vivien Leigh, meant she could wear almost anything and still look beautiful. Her style was always feminine and glamorous and she favoured jewellery, especially necklaces which showed off her olive skin beautifully.

Merle Oberon,in the Private Life of Don Juan

Merle Oberon,in the Private Life of Don Juan

Although she wore suits and white shirts that were in vogue throughout the 40s, Oberon’s look was always quite feminine, with suits having lace embellishments and beautifully patterned dresses that were decorated with lace and chiffon.

first comes courage, merle oberon,1943

first comes courage, merle oberon,1943

She often wore headpieces or hats with beautiful embellishments either in character or for photo shoots and although they were eye catching, they always stayed this side of classy, without too much ostentation.

merle oberon,Hollywood Glamour

merle oberon,Hollywood Glamour

Oberon captivated the camera

Early pictures of Oberon in the 30s seem to present Oberon at her best and not just because she was younger. There’s seems to be a serenity and joy to her features that’s missing from later pictures.

Her pencil thin eyebrows and perfectly framed features, gives her an almost ethereal look in some shots. One has her swathed in a transparent black chiffon cape with her face staring out with hands held upwards, it’s a haunting picture.

Portrait of Merle Oberon,1934

Portrait of Merle Oberon,1934

Mystique

There was always a sense of other worldliness to Oberon’s look right down to how she held her hands. In a later picture, we have Oberon standing outside with the light behind her, staring at the camera with barely any makeup but for winged eyeliner, she stands with a bandeau strapless white dress, her hands held folded at her waist. She stares determinedly into the camera.

The picture could have been taken a week ago. In another shot, she’s dressed in Victorian dress, all in white, as she stares into the middle distance away from the camera.

Merle Oberon-bandeau strapless white dress

Merle Oberon-bandeau strapless white dress

Oberon lived in unenlightened times and spent much of her film career denying her Indian heritage, even towards the end of her life, she continued to insist she’d been born in Tasmania rather than Bombay. She lightened a portrait of her mother and had at one time passed her off as her maid.

Merle Oberon,1934

Merle Oberon,1934

Ironically, it was her Indian heritage that had given her this unique beauty. landing her many film roles that made her famous, and with it financial success. It wasn’t until Oberon’s death that her original records were discovered and her real birth place revealed.

Oberon’s style

If you like Oberon’s style and you want to emulate it, her 30s look is much more of a winner for me than the 40s, although you may find you prefer the latter. There’s a serenity and glow about Oberon’s look that’s missing in later styles during the 40s.

Merle Oberon,1940's

Merle Oberon,1940’s

Accessorize

Accessories are key here with necklaces with unusual shapes and designs and hairbands, again with unusual designs.

The make-up is simple with winged eyeliner and dark lips. Hair can be piled up, plaited and wound round the head or left loose and wavy at the shoulders.

Where jewellery is concerned, vintage is the way to go, try to find something unusual and unique, but not to garish and flashy.

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