In the 1939 film she was portrayed by Barbara O'Neil.
Biography[edit | edit source]
Ellen was born in 1829 and raised in Savannah, Georgia, the youngest daughter of Solange (nee Prudhomme) and Pierre Robillard. Her family was of French descent, and held great place in Savannah society.
By the time she was fifteen Ellen was deeply in love with her cousin Philippe Robillard, a match that was not accepted by her family. Philippe was sent West where he would later die in a barroom brawl. Ellen was greatly effected by his death and would show very little passion for anything in the rest of her life.
Desperate to escape Savannah and the memories it held, she married Gerald O'Hara quickly. The match itself was viewed with shock, but allowed only because Ellen informed her father that she would marry Mr. O'Hara or leave for a convent and become a nun. A staunch Presbyterian, Pierre relented.
Only fifteen at the time of her marriage, Ellen quickly brought Tara to the status of a true plantation home. Although she held mostly platonic feelings for her husband, he regarded her with adoration and believed her to be as happy as he was in their marriage.
She was loved to the point of adulation by her entire family, becoming nearly an idol in the eyes of her children. She loved her daughters, and often worried for Scarlett. After Scarlett was widowed Ellen arranged for her eldest to visit her sisters first in Savannah, then Charleston, before settling her in Atlanta with Pittypat Hamilton.
During the war she continued much as ever - more closely minding the ledgers as funds grew tighter, and worrying for her daughters. In 1863 and early 1864 she often wrote to Scarlett, requesting that she return to Tara and leave behind the rather scandalous reputation she was developing.
In 1864 Ellen, along with her two younger daughters, came down with typhoid Although Careen and Suellen would both recover, Ellen died of the fever only one day before Scarlett returned home from the Atlanta siege.
Appearance and Personality[edit | edit source]
Ellen was described as being calm, kind and gracious. She showed every behavior of a perfect Southern Lady; she was calm, soft-spoken, and forever capable. She allowed no idleness in her life, always with a bit of darning or needlework in her hands, unless she was at work with the plantation ledgers. She often worked as a nurse caring for the slaves at Tara or their nearby neighbors - particularly the Slattery family.
Within the narrative she is described thus:
She was a tall woman, standing a head higher than her fiery little husband, but she moved with such quiet grace in her swaying hoops that the height attracted no attention to itself. Her neck, rising from the black taffeta sheath of her basque, was creamy-skinned, rounded and slender, and it seemed always tilted slightly backward by the weight of her luxuriant hair in its net at the back of her head. From her French mother, whose parents had fled Haiti in the Revolution of 1791, had come her slanting dark eyes, shadowed by inky lashes, and her black hair; and from her father, a soldier of Napoleon, she had her long straight nose and her square-cut jaw that was softened by the gentle curving of her cheeks. But only from life could Ellen's face have acquired its look of pride that had no haughtiness, its graciousness, its melancholy and its utter lack of humor. She would have been a strikingly beautiful woman had there been any glow in her eyes, any responsive warmth in her smile or any spontaneity in her voice that fell with gentle melody on the ears of her family and her servants. She spoke in the soft slurring voice of the coastal Georgian, liquid of vowels, kind to consonants and with the barest trace of French accent. It was a voice never raised in command to a servant or reproof to a child but a voice that was obeyed instantly at Tara, where her husband's blustering and roaring were quietly disregarded. As far back as Scarlett could remember, her mother had always been the same, her voice soft and sweet whether in praising or in reproving, her manner efficient and unruffled despite the daily emergencies of Gerald's turbulent household, her spirit always calm and her back unbowed, even in the deaths of her three baby sons. Scarlett had never seen her mother's back touch the back of any chair on which she sat. Nor had she ever seen her sit down without a bit of needlework in her hands, except at mealtime, while attending the sick or while working at the bookkeeping of the plantation. It was delicate embroidery if company were present, but at other times her hands were occupied with Gerald's ruffled shirts, the girls' dresses or garments for the slaves. Scarlett could not imagine her mother's hands without her gold thimble or her rustling figure unaccompanied by the small negro girl whose sole function in life was to remove basting threads and carry the rosewood sewing box from room to room, as Ellen moved about the house superintending the cooking, the cleaning and the wholesale clothes-making for the plantation. She had never seen her mother stirred from her austere placidity, nor her personal appointments anything but perfect, no matter what the hour of day or night. When Ellen was dressing for a ball or for guests or even to go to Jonesboro for Court Day, it frequently required two hours, two maids and Mammy to turn her out to her own satisfaction; but her swift toilets in times of emergency were amazing.