Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Una O'Connor

I’m writing this brief post as part of the fourth ‘What A Character’ blogathon. Many thanks to Paula, Aurora and Kellee for doing this again this year and putting in the work to promote beforehand and during the ‘push week’. 

Character actors are often the glue the holds a film together. Without them, there’d be a hole in many films.

There’s a reason I proudly proclaim ‘UNA!’ on twitter whenever this fair maiden of scream appears on my TCM screen: She’s delightfully charming and slightly off-key. And while--at five foot, two inches--she’s slight in stature, she makes up for it with a unique voice, great facial expressions and (last but not least) a great high-pitched screech of a scream.

Young Una O'Connor

The New York Times biography aptly describes her as having “...the body of a scarecrow, the contemptuous stare of a house detective, and the voice of an air-raid siren…”

I’d be remiss if I only talked about her elastic face and screeching voice, because there were performances that were quieter. Take for example her role as Mrs. Wilson in Ernst Lubitsch’s Cluny Brown (1946). In this film she gives a subtle performance without one line of dialog.

Cavalcade w/Herbert Mundin

Una O’Connor was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1880 as Agnes Teresa McGlade. Her early career began on the stage in Ireland and England. Appearing in productions like “The Starlight Express” and “Autumn Fire”. In fact her work on the stage continued through her entire career. On the screen she was frequently cast as the meddlesome housekeeper and was frequently used for comic relief.

Let’s look at some of the amazing films and stars she worked with:

That’s an impressive list of talent to be working with.

Like many actors, her later career included a lot of television roles including shows like “Martin Kane”, “Hopalong Cassidy” and “Tales of Tomorrow”.

Witness For The Prosecution

In Witness for the Prosecution, O’Connor reprised her role from the stage. ‘Witness’ was her final film, she retired after making this film in her 70s and died two years later in New York City having never married and having no children.

The next time you're watching a classic film and see Ms. O'Connor in the film...don't be shy.  Shout out to the Twitter world "UNA!" :)


  1. Cool tribute to the woman who has rightfully become a #TCMParty much here that I didn't know. Thanks for this, Joel :)

    1. The pleasure was mine...I leaned a lot doing this :)

  2. It's a wonder that Una and Herbert Mundin have never made it unto any of those great screen team lists, with 7 movie titles together. We should start a cult.

  3. I always smile when she enters her scenes in a film. She's so great in The Invisible Man and Bride of Frankenstein, which I recently re-watched. I just watched The Quiet Man for the umpteenth time and wish the tiny maid who barked at Victor McLaglen to "Wipe Your Muddy Boots!" had been Una, but it wasn't.

    1. I watched THE QUIET MAN the other night and thought the exact same thing! She had that Una stature...and I thought "oh, I wish it was her" :)

  4. I ADORE Una. She's one of those actors who make the scene better just by her presence.

    Great Twitter idea. Next time I see her, I will shout out "UNA!" too. :)

  5. I've certainly seen some of those films but I just can't place Una. Clearly quite the oversight on my part - but any excuse to re-watch The Adventures of Robin Hood or The Invisible Man is fine by me!

  6. I definitely agree with your 'off-key' description. She was small but mighty and always left a big impression, no matter how tiny the role.
    I simply love her in CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT!
    Thanks for sharing :)

  7. When Warner Bros. was making 'The Adventures of Don Juan' 1949, I'm certain the role of Duenna was written just so she would be in the film.