She wasn’t a scream queen, nor did she appear in Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers serials. But the cute, spirited, Irish-born actress MAUREEN O’SULLIVAN (1911-98) was a key figure in 1930s-era silver-screen science fiction. In one of her first movies, the silly musical Just Imagine (1930; shown above), she played LN-18, teenage citizen of a Zamyatin-like future dystopia in which dating and mating are organized by the State. In ’31, she appeared in the time-travel comedy A Connecticut Yankee (with Will Rogers); half a century later, she’d show up in another time-travel movie, Peggy Sue Got Married. Forget her quality performances in high-middlebrow entertainments like Anna Karenina, David Copperfield, and Pride and Prejudice — in The Devil-Doll (1936), O’Sullivan played the daughter of a miniaturized Devil’s Island fugitive (Lionel Barrymore)! And in the obscure 1987 sci-fi movie Stranded, the mother of alien-like actress Mia Farrow played an alien abductee; it was her final role. O’Sullivan is most famous for having played Jane to Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan, in six blockbusters; though Edgar Rice Burroughs was a preeminent author of Radium Age science fiction, none of these flicks is SF. However, the underwater scene in Tarzan and His Mate (Josephine McKim doubled for O’Sullivan) is truly out of this world.
ALSO BORN MAY 17: Erik Satie.
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In 2012, HiLoBooks serialized and then republished (in gorgeous paperback editions, with new Introductions) five forgotten Radium Age science fiction classics! Five more titles will be serialized and published in 2013. For more info: HiLoBooks.
MORE RADIUM AGE SCI FI ON HILOBROW: HiLoBooks homepage! | What is Radium Age science fiction? | Radium Age Supermen | Radium Age Robots | Radium Age Apocalypses | Radium Age Telepaths | Radium Age Eco-Catastrophes | Radium Age Cover Art (1) | SF’s Best Year Ever: 1912 | Radium Age Science Fiction Poetry | Enter Highbrowism | Bathybius! Primordial ooze in Radium Age sf | War and Peace Games (H.G. Wells’s training manuals for supermen) | J.D. Beresford | Algernon Blackwood | Edgar Rice Burroughs | Karel Čapek | Buster Crabbe | August Derleth | Arthur Conan Doyle | Charlotte Perkins Gilman | Cicely Hamilton | Hermann Hesse | William Hope Hodgson | Aldous Huxley | Inez Haynes Irwin | Alfred Jarry | Jack Kirby (Radium Age sf’s influence on) | Murray Leinster | Gustave Le Rouge | Gaston Leroux | David Lindsay | Jack London | H.P. Lovecraft | A. Merritt | Maureen O’Sullivan | Sax Rohmer | Paul Scheerbart | Upton Sinclair | Clark Ashton Smith | E.E. “Doc” Smith | Olaf Stapledon | John Taine | H.G. Wells | Jack Williamson | Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz | S. Fowler Wright | Philip Gordon Wylie | Yevgeny Zamyatin