The Passing of a Hollywood Great
- Maureen was perhaps my favorite from that era. A stunningly beautiful actress who often played strong women trying to make their way in a hard world. Thanks for the memories.
(Los Angeles Times) - Irish-born actress Maureen O’Hara was one of the biggest stars in films of the 1940s and ’50s, an era when it was common for leading ladies to be domineered by male heroes.
But not the fiery O’Hara. She more than held her own in her most heralded roles, even against as forceful a presence as John Wayne, with whom she made five films including the classic “The Quiet Man.”
“I was the only leading lady big enough and tough enough for John Wayne,” she wrote in her 2004 memoir, “'Tis Herself.”
“Duke's presence was so strong that when audiences saw him finally meet a woman of equal hell and fire, it was exciting and thrilling.”
She also proudly included in her book Wayne’s description of her: “She's big, lusty, absolutely marvelous — definitely my kind of woman. I've had many friends, and I prefer the company of men. Except for Maureen O’Hara.”
O’Hara, 95, whose on-screen toughness extended to real life when she took on a powerful scandal magazine in the 1950s, died Saturday at her home in Boise, Idaho, near the home of her grandson, Conor FitzSimons.
She died in her sleep of natural causes, said her longtime manager and the co-author of her memoir, Johnny Nicoletti. Family members were with her, Nicoletti said, and they played the music from her favorite film, “The Quiet Man.”
That film was directed by John Ford, a mighty force in his own right, who directed O’Hara in four other movies: “How Green Was My Valley,” “Rio Grande,” “Long Gray Line” and “Wings of Eagles.” O'Hara respected Ford, whom she called “Pappy,” and felt proud of her work with him, but conceded to The Times in 2004: “At times [we] wanted to punch him in the nose. But Ford was a genius. He was talented, and intolerable.”
Generations who never saw O'Hara in a movie theater came to admire her in the perennially televised 1947 Christmas film “Miracle on 34th Street,” about the true identity of Macy's Kris Kringle.
“We knew we were making a good movie — the script was so wonderful and there was such rapport among the cast,” she reflected in 1990 about the film that also featured Edmund Gwenn, Natalie Wood and John Payne. “But no one had any idea that the film would be with us, well, forever.”
Always praised for her beauty — she was called “the queen of Technicolor” because of her photogenic green eyes, flaming red hair, and peaches and cream complexion — O'Hara constantly fought her “pretty girl” image to get stronger acting roles.
Born Maureen FitzSimons in Dublin on Aug. 17, 1920, she made her first stage appearance at age 5, reading a poem at a school play. She earned her first pay at 12 for performing on a radio program.
Her father owned a clothing business and her mother was an actress and operatic star who designed clothing. Her five siblings all were involved in show business for varying lengths of time.
A screen test brought her to the attention of actor Charles Laughton and producer Erich Pommer, who cast her as the young female lead in their 1939 film “Jamaica Inn,” directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It was Laughton who, over her protests, gave her the stage name O'Hara, saying FitzSimons was too long.
Next cast as the alluring gypsy Esmeralda opposite Laughton in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” the 18-year-old O'Hara, chaperoned by her mother, came to Hollywood in the summer of 1939. Expecting to stay only three months to film “Hunchback,” she remained in Hollywood when war broke out in Europe.
In addition to her grandson, O’Hara is survived by her daughter, Bronwyn FitzSimons, who lives in Ireland, and two great-grandchildren.
Read More . . . .
|Maureen O'Hara in Lady Godiva, 1955.|
|Maureen O'Hara filmography|