The Many Faces of Una O’Connor

Today is the birthday of Irish character actress Una O’Connor (Agnes Terese McGlade, 1880-1959). O’Connor got her start at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and spent many years on the boards in both Ireland and England before coming out to Hollywood in 1933 for the screen adaptation of Noel Coward’s Cavalcade. She proved eminently castable in Hollywood’s universe of types, so she simply stayed. Her scrawny neck, thin lips, weak chin, pointy nose and bulging eyes made her ideal for excitable housemaids, ornery aunts and the like, and she worked for as long as she wanted to (she retired shortly before she died).

O’Connor had many memorable roles in so many classic Hollywood films — Maid Marian’s nursemaid in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) springs immediately to mind. But we are in the midst of Halloween season and my amped up series of posts on classic horror films, so I thought it would be especially timely to recall her hilarious parts in two James Whale films: The Invisible Man (1933) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935). In the former she is the landlady at the inn where Claude Rains is hiding out; in the latter she plays Dr. Frankenstein’s housekeeper. In both cases she has ample opportunity to leap in fright, pop her eyes out, yell and scream, run away while holding her skirts, and generally work herself into a lather. Normally, I find this sort of thing really annoying, and some people do find O’Connor annoying in these films, but here I find her immensely entertaining and truly indispensable. I find it impossible to imagine either film without her.

Now, a little photo gallery of her making funny faces (or about to) in these two films.

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7 comments

  1. Marvelous comments with which I heartily agree. However, I would caption the second photo from the top you have posted “So I have a weak chin do I, dearie???”!

    Like

  2. I have never seen on film such a character as Una O’Connor. She could be so comical on many different levels – from the frightened housemaid in ‘THE INVISIBLE MAN’ to ‘THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN’ as another woman of servitude. Her facial expressions and the movements of her small body were so expressive in the roles she played. She is not widely known in the 21st Cent. but her acting style and expertise as a film actor live on to express her great ability to tell her character’s story in such an effective and believable style.

    Liked by 1 person

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