Maureen O’Sullivan
By: Joshua Glenn | Categories: HiLo Heroes, Radium Age SF

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 “classy” 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.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Michel de Certau, Erik Satie, J.E. Spingarn.

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In 2012–2013, HiLoBooks serialized and republished (in gorgeous paperback editions, with new Introductions) 10 forgotten Radium Age science fiction classics! 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



Joshua Glenn is an author, publisher, and semiotic analyst. He is co-author (with Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth) of THE IDLER'S GLOSSARY and THE WAGE SLAVE'S GLOSSARY, co-editor of the object-oriented story collections TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY and (with Rob Walker) SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS, and co-author (with Elizabeth Foy Larsen) of the family activities guide UNBORED and three forthcoming spinoffs, including UNBORED Games. He is editor of HILOBROW and publisher of the Radium Age science fiction imprint HiLoBooks. Also: Glenn manages a secretive online community known as the Hermenautic Circle; he is founding editor of the e-book club Save the Adventure; and he's a frequent co-host of Boing Boing's podcast GWEEK. In the ’00s, Glenn was an editor, columnist, and blogger for the Boston Globe's IDEAS section, he co-founded the international semiotics website SEMIONAUT, and contributed to CABINET, SLATE, and elsewhere. In the ’90s, he published the high-lowbrow zine/journal HERMENAUT, worked as a dotcom and magazine editor, and contributed to THE BAFFLER, FEED, and elsewhere. His publishing company is King Mixer, LLC; and his semiotic analysis consultancy is Semiovox LLC. He lives in Boston with his wife and children.