Merle Oberon

Birth Name: Estelle Merle O’Brien Thompson

Date of Birth: 19 February, 1911

Place of Birth: Girgaum, Emmanuel, Bombay, British India (now Girgaon, Mumbai)

Date of Death: 23 November, 1979

Place of Death: Malibu, California, U.S.

Ethnicity: English, Irish, Indian, Māori

Merle Oberon was a British actress. She starred in the films The Private Life of Henry VIII, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Dark Angel, Wuthering Heights (1939), and A Song to Remember, among many others.

She was born in Bombay, British India. She was born outside of marriage, with her mother being twelve years old. Her mother was named Constance. The identity of Merle’s biological father is not known.

Merle’s biological maternal grandfather was named Henry Alfred Selby. Harry was Irish, and was a foreman at a tea plantation.

Merle’s biological maternal grandmother was named Charlotte. Charlotte was from Ceylon, with Indian and Māori ancestry.

Merle’s birth certificate lists her parents as Charlotte Selby, who was her maternal grandmother, and Arthur Terrence O’Brien Thompson, a British mechanical engineer from Darlington, who worked in Indian Railways, and who was actually Merle’s grandmother’s partner. His name was misspelled Arther on the record.

Merle was raised believing that her mother was her sister, and that her maternal grandmother was her mother. The truth about her parentage was not publicly established until the 2000s. Merle was raised in Calcutta.

Merle hid her ancestry for her entire life, fearing discrimination from Hollywood.

Merle was married to Dutch actor Robert Wolders, until her death. She had two children, who were adopted, with her former husband, Italian-born industrialist Bruno Pagliai.

Merle was said to have been a great-aunt of actress Shelley Conn.

Source: Genealogy of Merle Oberon (focusing on her mother’s side) –


ethnicity obsessed :)

4 Responses

  1. comrade says:

    Merle’s birth record says she was born in Girgaum, Emmanuel, Bombay (now Girgaon, Mumbai).

    “The identity of Merle’s biological father is not known.” Supposedly Merle’s mother, Constance got pregnant by her step-dad Arthur Terrence O’Brien Thompson.

    Of all the biographies only Bob Casey’s biography ‘Merle Oberon: Face of Myster’ mentions her grandmother to be part Māori. How would Bob Casey know that Merle’s grandmother was part Māori if there’s no birth record of her and no one knows her maiden name? All other biographies only mention her grandmother to be Indian/Eurasian.

    Merle’s maternal half-brother Harry Selby never said anything about them being Māori either, only Indian.

    • andrew says:

      Did she actually have Indian ancestry? and how “Māori” popped out from India? It seems quite unlikely.

      • comrade says:

        Supposedly her maternal grandmother was part ‘Eurasian'(I guess that means Indian with a bit of European) as stated in most biographies, who was born on Sri Lanka/Ceylon.

        Merle did have a tan (she wasn’t pale skinned) but that’s not conclusive proof that she was part Indian/Māori. I do believe that her grandmother could have been part Sri Lankan but I’m not sure if she was also part Māori. It does seem quite unlikely. There’s no evidence of Māori’s/Polynesians living on Sri Lanka in the 1800’s.

        They talk about Merle Oberon’s ancestry here: (It starts at 6:28).

        • andrew says:

          Never seen her movies but from Google images she looked like she may have been Liz Taylor’s sister. No non-European influence to me, even considering Sri Lankans are very dark brown on average.

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