Spotlight on Maureen O'Hara
Every year around St. Patrick’s Day, I think about Maureen O’Hara, one of the great film stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood. She was an excellent actress and grand lady, for sure. I first saw her way back in 1939 as Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was a black and white film – and I was bowled over by her beauty – even without the later technicolor that made her famous. Because of her gorgeous red hair, she was called The Queen of Technicolor.
My top three favorite O’Hara films are The Quiet Man, The Black Swan, and Dance, Girl, Dance. And my favorite O’Hara performance is her fiery turn in The Quiet Man. She really held her own with John Wayne in that one! It’s interesting that O’Hara co-starred opposite a host of A-list actors, including John Wayne, Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stewart. But I think she and John Wayne worked the best together. They co-starred in such films as Rio Grande, The Wings of Eagles, McClintock, and The Quiet Man. I love what O’Hara said about their chemistry together in The Quiet Man. “I was tough, I was tall, I was strong and didn’t let anyone get away with any nonsense. He was tough, he was tall, he was strong and didn’t let anyone get away with any nonsense -- so we were a perfect pair.”
Maureen O’Hara was brought to Hollywood from Ireland by Charles Laughton during the late 1930s and achieved immediate acclaim for her stunning performances in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Jamaica Inn. She remained a popular box-office draw throughout her long acting career, which lasted for seven decades! I think she must have been wonderful to work with -- and that means a lot in Hollywood.
It’s no surprise that Maureen displayed an impressive talent for acting as a child and was accepted into Ireland’s Abbey Theater at the age of 14. Ironically, her operatic training there seemed wasted in Hollywood. Although she was the number one choice for the lead in The King and I musical, the director didn’t want someone who made “all those pirate movies” playing Anna – so the role went to Deborah Kerr, whose vocals had to be dubbed. Go figure! But I was surprised to learn that her work in so many Western movies earned her a Golden Boot Award in 1991.
As one of O’Hara’s many fans, I was very happy when she received an Honorary Oscar in 2014 for “her inspiring performances that glowed with passion, warmth and strength.”