Happy 100th Birthday Maureen O’Hara

Today is the 100th birthday of the living Hollywood legend Maureen O’Hara.  Her career spans sixty full years, very few people can claim that, let alone in an industry as difficult to remain active in as filmmaking.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

NAME: Maureen O’Hara
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Singer, Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: August 17, 1920
EDUCATION: Abbey Theatre School
PLACE OF BIRTH: Ranelagh, Ireland
DATE OF DEATH: October 24, 2015
PLACE OF DEATH: Boise, ID

BEST KNOWN FOR: Maureen O’Hara was an Irish-born actress who was billed alongside Hollywood’s leading men in a slew of swashbuckling features in the 1940s.

Maureen FitzSimons was a pretty redheaded tomboy who learned judo, fenced, played soccer, and showed a keen interest in performing. She was accepted for drama classes at the prestigious Abbey Theater School when she was only 14, and sang and acted on Irish radio through her teens. Her parents knew, though, that performers rarely earned a decent living, so they made sure she spent most of her time studying bookkeeping and stenography.

At 17, she landed a tiny role in her first film, The Playboy, filmed in London. Strikingly beautiful and a natural in front of the cameras, she was almost immediately offered her first leading role, opposite Charles Laughton in Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn. Laughton suggested her stage name, and she became Maureen O’Hara. He also invited her to accompany him Hollywood and play Esmerelda to his Quasimoto in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Already an established star at 19, O’Hara was one of Hollywood’s favorite leading ladies through the next two decades. She stood apart from other starlets by virtue of her eagerness to perform unladylike scenes — fistfights, swordplay, even pratfalls, but always with attitude and intelligence. As color films came into vogue, her distinctive, fiery red hair made her stand out even more — she was nicknamed “The Queen of Technicolor.” And of course, O’Hara proved the perfect leading lady for John Wayne, a woman who came across every bit as tough as he did, in their five films together.

In some of her best films, she played the coal miner’s daughter in love with preacher Walter Pidgeon inHow Green Was My Valley, the schoolmarm loved by Laughton in This Land is Mine, Natalie Wood’s mother in the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street, the housewife who hired famed butler-philosopher Mr Belvedere in Sitting Pretty with Robert Young, the Southern belle at odds with Wayne in Rio Grande, the Irish spinster he pursued in The Quiet Man, his estranged wife in McLintock, andHayley Mills’ mother in the original The Parent Trap with Brian Keith. She also starred in a 1960 TV remake of the critically-acclaimed Mrs Miniver that some critics claimed was better than the Greer Garson original.

In 1957, O’Hara joined with Liberace to sue Confidential magazine — the National Enquirer of its time. The magazine had announced in shrieking headlines that she had been seen in a passionate embrace with a mysterious Hispanic man in the back row at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, but O’Hara offered her passport as proof she had been out of the country at the time of any alleged tryst. And why was Liberace involved? In a separate article, the magazine had alleged that Liberace was — brace yourself — homosexual, but the famed pianist somehow proved he too had been defamed, andConfidential was eventually driven out of business.

O’Hara left Hollywood in the mid-1970s, but returned to cinema as John Candy’s ferociously overbearing mother in Only the Lonely, and also starred in a few TV movies through the 1990s. Her last performance was opposite Eric Stoltz, playing his high school Latin teacher in a terrific 2000 TV movie, The Last Dance. Now retired but still active, O’Hara frequently travels between her homes in Ireland, New York, California, and the Virgin Islands. Her autobiography, Tis Herself, was published in 2004.

Her father, Charles FitzSimons, was an Irish shopkeeper and something of a local celebrity, as part-owner of the Shamrock Rovers soccer team, which now plays in the Football League of Ireland. Her brother, Charles FitzSimons, was a TV producer whose credits include superhero sagas The Green Hornet with Bruce Lee and the 1970s Wonder Woman with Lynda Carter. Another brother, James, had a long but unremarkable career as a supporting actor; sometimes billed as James Lilburn and sometimes as James O’Hara; he played a priest in The Quiet Man and had a recurring role as a cop on TV’s Batman with Adam West.

At 19, O’Hara married George H. Brown, a film producer and occasional scriptwriter whose best works include the pre-Pearl Harbor call to war 49th Parallel with Laurence Olivier, and the first ofMargaret Rutherford’s delightful 1960s ‘Miss Marple’ mysteries, Murder She Said. Their marriage ended when O’Hara’s parents insisted on an annulment, and although they had been married for more than a year, publicity at the time stressed that their union “had not been consummated.” O’Hara’s second husband was director Will Price, who helmed her romp with the Marines in Tripoli, but they divorced after he took to the bottle. Her last husband was Charles Blair, a man sometimes described as a real-life John Wayne — a retired Air Force Brigadier General, test pilot, and pilot for Pan American Airways who had, in 1951, flown the first solo flight over the North Pole. After quitting Pan Am, Blair ran Antilles Airboats, a commuter airline in the Caribbean. After his death she took over the company, which made Maureen O’Hara the first woman to serve as president of an American airline.

Film

Year

Film

Role

1938

Kicking the Moon Around

Secretary

My Irish Molly

Eileen O’Shea

1939

Jamaica Inn

Mary Yellen

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Esmeralda

1940

A Bill of Divorcement

Sydney Fairfield

Dance, Girl, Dance

Judy O’Brien

1941

They Met in Argentina

Lolita O’Shea

How Green Was My Valley

Angharad

1942

To the Shores of Tripoli

Mary Carter

Ten Gentlemen from West Point

Carolyn Bainbridge

The Black Swan

Lady Margaret Denby

1943

Immortal Sergeant

Valentine Lee

This Land Is Mine

Louise Martin

The Fallen Sparrow

Toni Donne

1944

Buffalo Bill

Louisa Frederici Cody

1945

The Spanish Main

Contessa Francesca

1946

Sentimental Journey

Julie Beck / Weatherly

Do You Love Me

Katherine “Kitten” Hilliard

1947

Sinbad the Sailor

Shireen

The Homestretch

Leslie Hale

Miracle on 34th Street

Doris Walker

The Foxes of Harrow

Odalie “Lilli” D’Arceneaux

1948

Sitting Pretty

Tacey King

1949

A Woman’s Secret

Marian Washburn

The Forbidden Street

Adelaide “Addie” Culver

Father Was a Fullback

Elizabeth Cooper

Bagdad

Princess Marjan

1950

Comanche Territory

Katie Howard

Rio Grande

Mrs. Kathleen Yorke

Tripoli

Countess D’Arneau

1951

Flame of Araby

Princess Tanya

1952

At Sword’s Point

Claire

Kangaroo

Dell McGuire

The Quiet Man

Mary Kate Danaher

Against All Flags

Prudence “Spitfire” Stevens

1953

The Redhead from Wyoming

Kate Maxwell

War Arrow

Elaine Corwin

1954

Malaga

Joanna Dana

1955

The Long Gray Line

Mary O’Donnell

The Magnificent Matador

Karen Harrison

Lady Godiva of Coventry

Lady Godiva

1956

Lisbon

Sylvia Merrill

Everything but the Truth

Joan Madison

1957

The Wings of Eagles

Min Wead

1959

Our Man in Havana

Beatrice Severn

1961

The Deadly Companions

Kit Tilden

The Parent Trap

Margaret “Maggie” McKendrick

1962

Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation

Peggy Hobbs

1963

Spencer’s Mountain

Olivia Spencer

McLintock!

Katherine Gilhooley McLintock

1965

The Battle of the Villa Fiorita

Moira

1966

The Rare Breed

Martha Price

1970

How Do I Love Thee?

Elsie Waltz

1971

Big Jake

Martha McCandles

1991

Only the Lonely

Rose Muldoon

1994

A Century of Cinema

Herself

Television/Misc.

Year

Title

Role

1958

The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom

As herself

1960

Mrs. Miniver

Mrs. Miniver

DuPont Show of the Month

Lady Marguerite Blakeney

The Bell Telephone Hour

Hostess

1963

Hallmark Hall of Fame

Susanna Cibber

1966

The Garry Moore Show

Sara Longstreet

1973

AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to John Ford

Herself

1973

The Red Pony

Ruth Tiflin

1976

An All-Star Tribute to John Wayne

Herself

1984

The Hollywood Greats

Herself

1993

John Ford

Herself

1994

100 Years of the Hollywood Western

Herself

1995

The Christmas Box

Mary Parkin

1998

Cab to Canada

Katherine Eure

2000

The Last Dance

Helen Parker

2000-2001

Backstory

Herself/Angharad/Doris Walker

2002

The Quiet Man: The Joy of Ireland

Herself/Mary Kate Danaher

2002

The Parent Trap: Caught in the Act

Herself/Margaret “Maggie” McKendrick

2010

Dreaming the Quiet Man

Herself/Mary Kate Danaher


Got a quote you love? Got an inspirational individual to celebrate? Favorite song? Leave it below and let me know how you want to be recognized (social media, blog, etc). Thank you!


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