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Historical Relationships

Merle Oberon (Part 2)

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Merle Oberon and Lucien Ballard

Lucien Ballard was a cameraman/cinematographer, and Merle had always been conscious of the role of the cameraman in her work. She had worked with several men who had known just what to do in order to capture her face on film in its best light including Greg Toland and Hal Rossen, Jean Harlow's husband. The vagaries of light and photography and the importance of being well filmed was very much part of her consciousness, especially after her facial surgery. She always took time to get to know the men who would be crucial to the projection of her image, such was Merle Oberon's characteristic attention to detail.

Lucien was thirty five years old when he became involved with Merle, who had not been close to any man since Richard Hillary. Like her, he was of mixed parentage (being part Cherokee) and is described as being calm, silent and strong. His masculinity being rugged and uncomplicated which was just what Merle was looking for at the time 11. They were married in 1945.

Higham and Moseley describe their romance as 'electric', an interesting description given the astrological detail of their union.

They were both 'passionate, longing for fulfilment and possessed many interests in common.

.but there were furious arguments' . 12


Fig 16. Matrix showing the natal planetary positions of Merle Oberon and Lucien Ballard, together with their progressed planetary positions for the year 1945.

Merle's second marriage mirrors her first, again there is a natal Sun (B3) Venus (E6) trine, but also a natal Venus (B6) Mars (E7) square. Her attraction to and love for Lucien is tempered by her ill-treatment of him. Their differing approach to how to conduct their relationship is obvious. He attracted her, but was not enough for her.

There was a social problem in their relationship. Although Merle and Lucien kept in touch and visited with her friends Norma Shearer and Cole Porter, she spent more and more time with Lucien who was a practical down-to-earth fellow. He would build and redecorate and they would spend evenings watching the sun setting over the sea. Her presence at the most exclusive Hollywood parties was no longer required, not because she (being Lady Korda) had begun an adulterous affair, but because Lucien was a lowly paid cameraman and not a great name in Hollywood society. The Hollywood moguls could not have one of the lower social orders at their houses at the weekend and so Merle's choice was treated as a mistake for this reason. She disappeared from the social circuit for years and went to the beach with Lucien instead. She had fallen in love with him after all, so what else would she do?

Her life with Lucien Ballard saw her embracing a much simpler life and this romantic time enabled her to regain both health and beauty.

They were well matched as far as passion was concerned, but Ballard was an earthy pragmatist and he was not given to treat Merle's interest in mysticism and spiritualism with any enthusiasm or sympathy. Higham and Moseley describe him as being rooted to the earth.

This is a good description of the man in Merle's life; he was in fact a Sun Taurus and therefore a more fitting description than rooted to the earth could not be more apt for this Sun position in a birth chart.

He is further described as ' being happiest stripped to the waist chopping logs or riding horses.' 13: yet more 'earthy' pastimes.

Merle married Lucien in Mexico in 1945, but at what appears to be the first opportunity (while filming A Night in Paradise ) she fell for and according to director Arthur Lubin, became briefly involved with the actor Turhan Bey. This was a difficult situation as Bey was being pursued at the time by Lana Turner who was one of MGM's biggest stars. Her intrusion into their liaison no doubt caused some annoyance and the affair did not last much longer than the duration of the shoot. Lubin says they had a steamy affair and that Merle was attracted to Bey's physique.


Merle Oberon and Turhan Bey

Fig 17. Matrix showing the natal planetary positions of Merle Oberon and Turhan Bey, together with their progressed planetary positions for the year 1946

Here the progressed conjunction of Bey's Sun (C3) and Merle's Venus (D6), near to exact in 1946 creates the backdrop to their brief affair.


Fig 18. Graph showing the two degree window of opportunity 1938 onwards created by Oberon and Bey's progressed Venus progressed Sun conjunction


Lucien did not work as cameraman on this film, but on their next joint venture, Berlin Express Merle fell for another physically attractive and rugged man, Robert Ryan.

The picture was filmed in Hollywood and Europe and it is clear that Merle slept with Ryan in both locations, cuckolding Lucien who could do little about it but take the humiliation as Merle slipped from his bedroom to Ryan's.


Merle Oberon and Robert Ryan

Fig 19. Matrix showing the natal planetary positions of Merle Oberon and Robert Ryan, together with their progressed planetary positions for the year 1947.

This relationship, conducted under the nose of her husband, contains the inverse of their Sun Venus trine. In this instance, it is Robert Ryan's Sun (E3) in trine to Merle's Venus (B6). He instigates and drives while she attracts. Her progressing Venus (D6) romances his natal Venus (E6), but she needs to control rather than be controlled and stays with Lucien while Robert moves on to pastures new.


Fig 20. Graph showing the two degree window of opportunity 1946 to 1949 created by Oberon and Ryan's progressed Venus natal Venus trine


Lucien and Merle tried to patch things up after the filming of Berlin Express was completed and she never saw Robert Ryan after the end of the film. The couple left for a skiing holiday in Switzerland and moved on to holiday in Italy where Merle once again cuckolded the ever-patient Lucien, this time with Giorgio Cini, son of Count Vittorio Cini.


Merle Oberon and Giorgio Cini

Their tempestuous affair continued until 1949, when Giorgio was killed, thrown from a blazing aeroplane as Merle looked on. The shock of seeing her lover killed in this way must have had a deep and lasting impact on her. Merle attempted suicide and grieved long and hard for her lost passion. She consulted the medium Lilian Bailey and was convinced that Bailey 'channelled' Giorgio's discarnate spirit. In a scene reminiscent of the 1990 blockbuster Ghost , Merle embraced Lilian Bailey and with eyes closed she felt the presence of her lover in the body of the aged medium. 14 Merle was absolutely convinced by this episode that her lover was now in the world of spirit.

Merle and Giorgio share a progressed Sun Venus trine and an applying progressed Venus natal Mars conjunction. The former aspect is found in many relationships, the latter is also very popular; its presence in the synastry of Charles and Emma Darwin at the time of their marriage is surely no coincidence.


Fig 21. Matrix showing the natal planetary positions of Merle Oberon and Giorgio Cini, together with their progressed planetary positions for the year 1948.


Fig 22. Graph showing the two degree window of opportunity 1934 onwards created by Oberon and Cini's progressed Venus progressed Sun trine


Merle Oberon and David Beatty

1950 saw Merle with Earl David Beatty, the son of the British Admiral of the Fleet. They spent a few close months, but there were always issues that Merle found impossible to address, not least the fact that she could not have children. When she returned to Hollywood she started to see a young Beverley Hills physician, Rex Ross, at the same time David Beatty flew from Britain with the intention of proposing marriage. She was forced into an embarrassing confrontation with Beatty who accepted defeat in favour of Merle's career. Her affair with Ross then took off. The overriding opinion of commentators appears to be that although Merle was fond of both Beatty and Ross, she was not head over heels in love with them. Giorgio Cini was a tough act to follow.

Fig 23. Matrix showing the natal planetary positions of Merle Oberon and David Beatty, together with their progressed planetary positions for the year 1950.


There is no Sun aspect here, suggesting that this relationship was one of physical attraction and while many relationships of this type succeed, for Merle, who was very conscious of her self, her ideals and her own needs, this trine aspect exact between 1949 and 1950 was enough for the two to encounter each other, it was plainly not enough for their relationship to flourish.


Fig 24. Graph showing the two degree window of opportunity 1934 onwards created by Oberon and Beatty's natal Mars progressed Venus trine


The early 1950's were Merle's wilderness years. She did not make her mark in any films and avoided marriage with Rex Ross, whom she became dissatisfied with in around 1956. They split amid allegations that he was seeing Liliane Montevecchie.

Merle met multi-millionaire Bruno Pagliai in 1956. Their marriage lasted for many years, and they adopted two children, naming them Bruno and Francesca. Their life was idyllic and privileged in the true sense of the word, but it was not without interruption. In 1962, after a course of rejuvenation treatment from Dr Paul Niehans, she began an affair with Rod Taylor, another very down to earth character in the same mould as some of Merle's previous beaux. There followed another liaison with director Richard Rush while filming Of Love and Desire in 1962.


Merle Oberon and Rod Taylor

Fig 25. Matrix showing the natal planetary positions of Merle Oberon and Rod Taylor, together with their progressed planetary positions for the year 1962.


Merle was fairly sure of what she liked in a man, and especially when it came to her affairs, she was tied to Bruno during this dalliance, but again she has chosen someone with whom she has much in common as far as progressed and natal synastry are concerned. Her progressing Venus (D6) trines Rod's natal Sun (E3) while her Mars (B7 - her sexual expression) is in the same place as his natal Venus (E6).


Fig 26. Graph showing the two degree window of opportunity 1960 to 1962 created by Oberon and Taylor's natal Sun progressed Venus trine


Merle Oberon and Richard Rush

Fig 27. Matrix showing the natal planetary positions of Merle Oberon and Richard Rush, together with their progressed planetary positions for the year 1962.

The salient astrological relationship indicator here is Rush's progressing Venus (C6) moving slowly forward through Aries in conjunction with Merle's progressing Sun (D3). Rush's Venus had been retrograde for most of his life, and had become stationary in the mid 1950's. It was slowly picking up speed, but Merle's progressing Sun was still moving much more quickly.

Between 1962 and 1963 her progressing Sun was applying to conjunct Rush's progressing Venus. This is a strong indicator for a relationship. Of course, if Rush's Venus was progressing at normal speed, it would have been separating and a relationship would be far less likely. 15


Fig 28. Graph showing the two degree window of opportunity 1963 to 1969 created by Oberon and Rush's natal Sun progressed Venus conjunction

Merle met the final love of her life, Robert Wolders in 1970. By now she was becoming more distant from Bruno, a pattern that had emerged with all her companions, perhaps her manner, her mystical bent, her strange habits, her secretiveness - especially her secretiveness - created an atmosphere that would mean she required a rare type of man indeed, one whose masculinity was not in doubt, but who was in touch with feminine ideas, someone whose care and concern was mirrored by their passion and virility. A rare find in any circle, but in the circles of the rich and famous, often the supply of new blood is limited in any event. That such a diamond as Robert Wolders should walk into Merle's life unaided and unprompted was unlikely. So some

arrangements were made and the die was cast. Luis Estevez, Merle's designer, Janet de Cordova and Ingrid Orhbach conspired to find her a new love, they settled on Robert, the son of an airline executive. He had been surrounded by feminine influences as a child and as such he had grown into a man with great sensitivity to the female temperament. 16

Merle, still a great beauty at fifty nine years, was a quarter of a century older than Wolders who was born at about the same time Merle was living with David Niven.

Robert had appeared on TV and on screen in forgettable roles and although an actor by trade, he was not particularly successful. He had one trait, though that is guaranteed to allow progress: everyone liked him.

Ingrid Ohrbach gave a party and seated Merle next to Robert. They hit it off from the word go. Wolders was charming, interested, and disarmingly innocent, he quizzed Merle on her early films, not really knowing much about her. Merle was fascinated by Robert's thoughtful sensitivity.

Robert thought long and hard about beginning an affair with Merle, being a poor(ish) actor and with Merle having a husband and two children (even if her marriage to Bruno was all but over). They both shared a sense of honour and consideration for others and as Robert was absurdly considerate (by modern standards) and his behaviour may have charmed or even rubbed off on Merle, they waited to consummate their relationship.

They spent the best part of a decade together, a few years that both would have preferred could have lasted a longer lifetime. Devoted and in love, their feelings for each other remained until the end.

Carol Matthau describes visiting Mr and Mrs Wolders in company with Oona Chaplin in her book Among the Porcupines .

'.The lunch was stultifying and boring and sad. She (Merle) had known Charlie and Oona and was doing 'the right thing', but she had nothing to say to Oona and Oona had nothing to say to her. All she could do is sit there and be Merle Oberon.

She was married to a very young man who seemed to take care of her. He was quite charming in this way, which put him in a somewhat less embarrassing light. He seemed to really care about her.' 17


Merle Oberon and Robert Wolders

Fig 29. Matrix showing the natal planetary positions of Merle Oberon and Robert Wolders, together with their progressed planetary positions for the year 1970.

Merle's fourth marriage sees her pick yet another Sun Venus trine, identical to those of her first two marriages. Merle appears to have had an uncanny ability to recognise the astrological indicators that I have found to be the most prevalent in intimate relationships.

Merle died at 3pm on 26 th November 1979.


Robert Wolders and Audrey Hepburn

Robert found love again with Audrey Hepburn and was her companion for nearly fourteen years until her death in 1993 when he was once again bereaved, losing a second remarkable partner, The beginning of their relationship includes a progressed Venus (C6) progressed Mars (D7) trine, along with a progressed Sun Venus opposition that is just outside two degrees. He has since become the partner of Shirley Fonda, widow of Henry.

Fig 30. Matrix showing the natal planetary positions of Audrey Hepburn and Robert Wolders, together with their progressed planetary positions for the year 1980.


References and Notes

11 Charles Higham and Roy Moseley, Merle - A biography of Merle Oberon , New English Library, 1983, p161

12 ibid p161

13 ibid p165

14 ibid pp204-205

15 The relationship of Merle Oberon and Richard Rush is not included in the 1300 relationships

16 Charles Higham and Roy Moseley, Merle - A biography of Merle Oberon , New English Library, 1983, p274

17 Carole Matthau - Among The Porcupines, Orion, 1992, p285


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