Christmas with Margaret O'Brien
December 1, 2018
Adorable Margaret O'Brien began her big-screen career at the age of three with a one-minute spot in 1941's "Babes on Broadway." Her career took off the following year as the star of MGM's "Journey for Margaret." Throughout the 1940s she continued to endear herself to millions seeking Hollywood diversions as World War II came and went.
Ms. O'Brien, now 81, is back this holiday season starring in "This is Our Christmas," a sequel to the popular 2015 TV movie "Beverly Hills Christmas," and follows the Foxworth family 7 years after the original picture.
The film had its broadcast premiere on the UPtv network in November, followed by DVD distribution through Walmart and Target, and will be rebroadcast on UPtv in December (see http://www.uptv.com).
O'Brien is no stranger to holiday classics having appeared in "Meet Me in St. Louis" (1944), "Tenth Avenue Angel" (1948), and "Little Women" (1949), which all featured themes and/or songs relating to Christmas festivities. Appearing in almost 20 feature films throughout the 40s, O'Brien was one of only a dozen children to receive a Juvenile Academy Award when the prize was intermittently given from 1935 to 1961. She astonished audiences with a display of adult emotions though she was not yet even a teenager.
"I think movie kids are just a little more mature in some ways," said O'Brien. "I knew it was a job, not playacting, and that others depended on me to know my lines. I took my work very seriously."
Though she says she never watches her own films, she claims she can recall even her first brief role in "Babes" starring Mickey Rooney.
"Mickey and I didn't have any scenes together, but I can still remember him walking by and saying 'Hello, what a cute little girl!' I sort of have a photographic memory and can remember all my movies just like I was back there now."
An avid reader as a child, little Margaret was thrilled to tackle many roles based on the books she grew up reading such as "Little Women," "Jane Eyre," and "The Secret Garden."
"How many children get to play a character from their favorite books?" she asked. "I knew them so well, it was just fabulous to create them on the screen." And unlike many child actors who ventured into the darker side of Hollywood and fame, O'Brien never strayed.
"My mother raised me to be pretty well-grounded," she says. "So I never had the problems that a lot of child actors faced. Acting has been a wonderful career, and still is."
Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, Ala., and has written features, columns, and interviews for over 700 magazines and newspapers.