Place, race and stardom: Becoming Merle Oberon

M. Delofski*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This essay explores ways a documentary film can offer complex historical arguments about the truth status of memory. Analysing the dialogic relationship that may exist between a filmmaker and a subject together with a range of formal strategies employed in the documentary, The Trouble with Merle (Delofski 2002), it examines how the film attempts to represent the complex flow of stories that linked, and indeed continues to link, Bombay, Calcutta, Hollywood, London and Hobart through the transnational movement of the 1930s cinematic figure, Merle Oberon. A negotiation or re-narrativization of Oberon's Anglo-Indian origin by film studios in the Northern hemisphere did not achieve the goal of containing discussion of her provenance. Instead, an intriguing mesh of tales developed about the star as Tasmanians, in response to the studio tale of Oberon's aristocratic white background, also reconfigured her birth narrative in accordance with their ideas about colonialism, race and class; a reformulation that included a reluctant acknowledgement of a troublesome connection to India.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)803-814
Number of pages12
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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