Sunday, October 25, 2015

RIP: Maureen O'Hara

I guess everybody was in love with Maureen O’Hara,” Clint Eastwood said of Maureen O’Hara at the 2014 Governors Awards. An Irish-born actress and one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the 1940s and 50s, Maureen O’Hara passed away today at the age of 95, per a statement from her family.

“Maureen was our loving mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend,” the statement read. “She passed peacefully surrounded by her loving family as they celebrated her life listening to music from her favorite movie, The Quiet Man.”

The Dublin-born O’Hara first broke into motion pictures in 1939, with roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn and as Esmerelda, opposite Charles Laughton’s Quasimodo, in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Over her celebrated career, O’Hara worked with the greats of her time, including John Ford (most notably on the 1941 Best Picture winner How Green Was My Valley) and John Wayne, with whom she made five films, including 1952’s The Quiet Man. She is, perhaps, most widely remembered for her roles in two family films, The Parent Trap and Miracle on 34th Street.
She had a remarkable story:
O'Hara was born as Maureen FitzSimons on Beechwood Avenue in the Dublin suburb of Ranelagh and attended school in Milltown, Dublin. She was the second oldest of the six children of Charles Stewart Parnell FitzSimons and Marguerita (nėe Lilburn) FitzSimons. Her father was in the clothing business and also bought into Shamrock Rovers Football Club, a team O'Hara supported from childhood. Her mother, a former operatic contralto, was a successful women's clothier.

 O'Hara's father was a very practical man and did not entirely support her theatrical aspirations. He insisted that she learn a skill so that she would have something to fall back on to earn a living with in case her experience in the performing arts was not successful. She enrolled in a business school and became a proficient bookkeeper and typist. Those skills proved helpful many years later when she was able to take and transcribe production notes dictated by John Ford for the screen adaptation of Maurice Walsh's short story The Quiet Man.

 She did well in her Abbey training and was given an opportunity for a screen test in London. The studio adorned her in a "gold lamé dress with flapping sleeves like wings" and heavy makeup with an ornate hair style. Reportedly, her thoughts concerning the incident were, "If this is the movies, I want nothing to do with them!" The screen test was deemed to be far from satisfactory; however, actor Charles Laughton later saw the test and, despite the overdone makeup and costume, was intrigued, paying particular notice to her large and expressive eyes.
Much acting followed. . .
 An icon of Hollywood's Golden Age, at the height of her career O'Hara was considered one of the world's most beautiful women. She is often remembered for her onscreen chemistry with John Wayne. They made five films together between 1948 and 1972: Rio Grande, The Quiet Man, The Wings of Eagles, McLintock! and Big Jake.

She married her third husband, Charles F. Blair, Jr., on 12 March 1968. Blair was a pioneer of transatlantic aviation, a former brigadier general of the US Air Force, a former chief pilot at Pan Am, and founder and head of the U.S. Virgin Islands airline Antilles Air Boats. A few years after her marriage to Blair, O'Hara for the most part retired from acting (in the special features section to the DVD release of The Quiet Man, a story is recounted that O'Hara retired after longtime collaborators John Wayne and John Ford teased her about being married but not being a good, stay-at-home housewife). Blair died in 1978 while flying a Grumman Goose for his airline from St. Croix to St. Thomas, crashing after an engine failure. O'Hara was elected CEO and president of the airline, with the added distinction of becoming the first woman president of a scheduled airline in the U.S. Later she sold the airline with the permission of the shareholders

In 2014, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences selected O'Hara to receive the Academy's Honorary Oscar, to be presented at the annual Governor's Awards in November. O'Hara becomes only the second actress, after Myrna Loy in 1991, to receive an Honorary Oscar without having previously been nominated for an Oscar in a competitive category.
Not a bad run.

Wombat-socho has "Rule 5 Sunday: Just What It Says On The Label" ready at The Other McCain to fulfill any Rule 5 needs I might have missed.

A stray Jane Russell who just crept in - Thanks Evi!


  1. Ms. O’Hara was called the Queen of Technicolor, because when that film process first came into use, nothing seemed to show off its splendor better than her rich red hair, bright green eyes and flawless peaches-and-cream complexion. One critic praised her in an otherwise negative review of the 1950 film “Comanche Territory” with the sentiment “Framed in Technicolor, Miss O’Hara somehow seems more significant than a setting sun.” Even the creators of the process claimed her as its best advertisement.

  2. Great Post but you got a stray Jane Russell (not that is a bad thing)