Manny P. here…
Maureen O’Hara (right) was the Irish beauty who appeared in such classic films as Miracle on 34th St., The Quiet Man, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and How Green was My Valley. Her pals were the biggest names in Hollywood, including John Wayne and director John Ford. She could stand up to the Duke, both on and off screen. She was proud when he remarked in an interview that he preferred to work with men — except for Maureen O’Hara; she’s a great guy. She joins Myrna Loy in being the only actresses ever to receive an Academy Award without a previous nomination.
The famous red head, O’Hara was known for playing fiercely passionate heroines with a highly sensible attitude. She trained in drama, music, and dance, and at the age of ten, joined the Rathmines Theatre Company and worked in amateur theatre in the evenings. Maureen enrolled in a business school and became a proficient bookkeeper and typist. Those skills proved helpful years later when she took and transcribed production notes dictated by John Ford for the screen adaptation of Maurice Walsh’s short story The Quiet Man.
Her first champion was Charles Laughton. O’Hara was offered an initial seven-year contract with his new company, Mayflower Pictures. Her first major film was Jamaica Inn, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Laughton was so pleased with O’Hara’s performance that he cast her in the role of the gypsy girl, Esmeralda opposite him in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. One person not happy with this decision was Elsa Lanchester, Laughton’s wife, who was fiercely jealous of O’Hara’s beauty. The popularity of How Green Was My Valley confirmed O’Hara’s status as a Hollywood star. RKO and 20th Century Fox shared her contract, and her most successful films were made at Fox. During her movie heyday, she became known as the Queen of Technicolor because of the camera’s love affair with her vivid hair, pale complexion, and spunky nature.
John Wayne’s favorite leading lady, they starred together in five fine motion pictures, including The Quiet Man, Rio Grande, Big Jake, and McLintock! Other screen credits: The Black Swan, The Parent Trap, Our Man in Havana, Spencer’s Mountain, and Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation. In addition to her acting skills, O’Hara had a soprano voice and described singing as her first love. The studio heads never capitalized on her musical talent, as she was already big box office in other genres of film. However, she was able to channel her love of singing through television. She was a frequent guest on variety shows with Perry Como and Andy Williams.
She was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma. In 1999, O’Hara was asked to be Grand Marshal of New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In addition to her Oscar, she was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Irish Film and Television Academy in her native Dublin. Maureen was formally inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame in 2011. After her third husband had died in a plane crash, she became the CEO of the airline company he owned, Antilles Air Boats. O’Hara released her autobiography ’Tis Herself, co-authored with Johnny Nicoletti and published by Simon & Schuster.
She made a public appearance at the 2013 John Wayne Birthday Tribute to Maureen O’Hara celebration in Winterset, Iowa. The occasion was the ground-breaking for the John Wayne Birthplace Museum; the festivities included an official proclamation from Iowa Governor Terry Branstad declaring May 25th, 2013, as Maureen O’Hara Day in Iowa.
Because of her roles in Miracle on 34th St. and more recently, a Hallmark television movie, The Christmas Box, the actress has a firm legacy to new generations of holiday viewers of the small screen. The latter film is based on a best-selling book.
Turner Classic Movies will celebrate the legacy of the legendary actress with a 24-hour film tribute on November 20th. Among the films screening on TCM are Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller Jamaica Inn; the flicks she made with Wayne; and swashbucklers Sinbad the Sailor and The Spanish Main.
The fiery Maureen O’Hara died peacefully in her sleep. She was 95.
Until next time> “never forget”