A New Sybil's "WHO'Z DAT?"... UNA O'CONNOR (October 23, 1880 - February 4, 1959)

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Darlings! Mummy has made a decision! After reading dozens of posts and having hundreds of conversations with well-meaning folks who just don't know about the great CHARACTER actors who gave films the depth and genius that surrounded and supported the so-called "stars", I am going to post a regular, special entry called SYBIL'S "WHO'Z DAT??"....there'll be photos and a mini-bio, and the next time you see one of those familiar, fabulous faces that you just "can't quite place".......well, maybe these posts will help. Some of these actors worked more, had longer and broader careers, and ended up happier, more loved, and even wealthier than the "stars" that the public "worships"......I think there may be a metaphor in that! What do you think??? While you’re reflecting, I’m going to ring my little bell and summon the quintessential maid, lady-in-waiting, landlady, pub waitress, and all round hysteric in the history of film!! Una O’Connor (October 23, 1880 – February 4, 1959). And how appropriate that her birthday falls in October, the month of Halloween and most reminiscent of horror films, because she was featured in some of the most iconic of them.

Born Agnes Teresa McGlade to a Catholic nationalist family in Belfast, Ireland, and educated at St. Vincent's National School, she changed her name when she began her acting career with Dublin's Abbey Theatre. She began her career on the stage prior to World War I, and continued on through the 1920s, but her big breakthrough came when she was cast in Noel Coward’s play CAVALCADE (1933). She was taken to Hollywood to reprise her role in the film, and remained there to appear in some of the most iconic American movies of the 30s, 40’s and 50’s. A favorite of the director James Whale, among O'Connor's most successful and best-remembered roles are her comic performances in Whale's THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933) as the pub landlady and in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) as the Baron's housekeeper. It’s a tribute to the genius of both O’Connor and Whale that they could combine such broad comic strokes, nearly slapstick, with the horror and tragedy in both films!

She played "straight" roles too, such as the grieving mother of a captured IRA member in THE INFORMER (1935). Her distinctive voice, face, and physicality made her unforgettable to audiences. During her career, she co-starred with the biggest talents of her time; Boris Karloff, Claude Rains, Olivia de Havilland, Errol Flynn, Barbara Stanwyck, and many, many others and was respected and loved by them all. Who can forget her other performances in THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD and DAVID COPPERFIELD and over 40 other films? O'Connor also appeared in supporting roles in various theatre productions, and achieved an outstanding success in the role of "Janet McKenzie", the nearly deaf housemaid, in Agatha Christie's WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION at the Henry Miller Theatre on Broadway from 1954 until 1956. As one of the witnesses, in what was essentially a serious drama, O'Connor's character was intended to provide comic relief. She recreated the role the following year in the sensational film directed by Billy Wilder starring Marlene Dietrich, Tyrone Power and Charles Laughton, (coincidentally, she was reunited with Laughton’s wife Elsa Lanchester, her co-star in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN). She died, having never married or had children, in New York City from heart disease, aged 78.

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