Monday, October 23, 2017

Born Today (Not So Silent Edition) October 23: Una O'Connor


1880-1959

Character actor and funny lady Una O'Connor was born Agnes Teresa McGlade on this day in Belfast, Ireland (when all of Ireland was still under the Kingdom rule; now Belfast is obviously in Northern Ireland).  Her intended vocation was teaching, and as such, she enrolled in the South Kensington School of Art in London, after having been schooled, when younger, in both Belfast and Catholic convent schools in Paris.  Before she could take up teaching, she decided to enroll in the Abbey School of Acting which was affiliated with the Abbey Theater in Dublin (now the National Theater).  Having gotten a taste for acting, she changed her name and went to work in productions at The Abbey.  She made her stage debut in 1911 in Shaw play that ran Dublin and New York.  By 1913, she was acting in London.  Her years in the theater is where she picked up the knack for acting in a very comedic fashion in roles such as servants and waitresses, this would be her calling card as a character actor in films.  She acted on the stage all through out the 1920's both in London and on Broadway, when she was finally cast in a motion picture in 1929.  She is Mrs. Weeks in early British sound drama Dark Red Roses, a Sinclair Hill directed affair (the film reached the US in March of 1930).  Her next role was in Hitchcock's 1930 mystery crime thriller Murder.  Of course, what O'Connor is best remembered for are her wacky roles in Universal horror films of the 1930's.  She first appeared in The Invisible Man (1933), and might well have stolen the show if were not for the eccentricity of Claude Rains' performance Dr. Jack Griffin. She then showed up two years later in James Whale's followup to his Frankenstein, as the hysterical and hilarious Minnie (a very loud villager!).  Her on screen acting career would span the rest of her life.  She appeared in a number of well known films in the 1930's and 1940's (The Adventures of Robin Hood 1938, The Canterville Ghost 1944, and Christmas In Connecticut 1945 just to name a few).  She made her formal television debut in 1950 in an episode of The Chevrolet Tele-Theater (though she has a appeared in two very early made for television films in 1938).  Her last role came in Billy Wilder's Witness For The Prosecution in 1957.  She passed away two years later from a heart complaint in New York City on the 4th of February; she was 78 years old.  She is buried at New York's Calvary Cemetery under both her birth name and her stage name.  


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2 comments:

  1. She is a fun presence in the films she appears in. She does nearly steal the show in The Invisible Man, and is nearly as horrific as the Monster in The Bride (I kid). Also love her in Christmas in Connecticut.

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    1. Laughing here! I too love her turn in "Christmas"--she had such a way with expressions, the perfect foil in spots to clueless Stanwyck's Elizabeth Lane!

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