Celebrities pay tribute to Maureen O’Hara

25 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Celebrities pay tribute to Maureen O’Hara.

O’Hara, who starred in classics like Miracle on 34th Street and The Parent Trap, died in her sleep at her home in Idaho this weekend. Maureen O’Hara, who has died aged 95, appeared in more bad films than she cared to remember but nevertheless emerged as a Hollywood star on the strength of her extraordinary flame-haired beauty and a successful screen partnership with John Wayne. The Irish actress was known as the “Queen of Technicolor,” thanks to her signature red hair, and she appeared in Oscar-winning films like How Green Was My Valley and made five films opposite John Wayne. “She passed peacefully surrounded by her loving family as they celebrated her life listening to music from her favorite movie, The Quiet Man,” her family said in a statement. President Michael D Higgins, who is on an official visit to the US, said O’Hara would be remembered as an “outstanding and versatile actress whose work, especially in film, will endure for many years to come”. “I especially remember with affection her recent visit to Áras an Uachtaráin, when we discussed among other things her great love of Ireland and her strong family links to Shamrock Rovers,” said Mr Higgins. Tánaiste Joan Bruton paid tribute to the actor, saying she had proudly followed O’Hara whose career spanned many decades and “who brought great talent to the world stage”.

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys offered her condolences to O’Hara’s family and described her as one of the most internationally acclaimed Irish actress’ of the 20th century. “Maureen O’Hara left Ireland to carve a successful life in America but in the hearts and minds of every Irish person Maureen was the quintessential Irish success story,” said Ms Humphreys. “It was in her role as Mary Kate Danaher in The Quiet Man, the iconic film made over 60 years ago and still very much celebrated in Ireland and abroad, that we were first alerted to her natural beauty and talent.” Minister for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan said O’Hara always maintained a close link with her homeland and highlighted the importance of her role in The Quiet Man. “The Quiet Man is an extremely important film for Ireland; it depicted Ireland to audiences in all parts of the world and encouraged many to come to visit the country for themselves,” said Mr Deenihan. “On top of her role as Mary Kate Danaher in The Quiet Man, Maureen O’Hara promoted Ireland at home and abroad right throughout her life. On accepting her IFTA, O’Hara said: “All of you in the theatrical profession, television or movies, never forget you represent to the whole world this small, great, fabulous country. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this Award; it’s just a wonderful gift from Ireland to an Irish woman.” Born in Ranelagh, Dublin in 1920, O’Hara was the eldest of six children in the Fitzsimons family. In 1944 she signed a contract dividing her commitments equally between 20th Century Fox and RKO, and co-starred with Joel McRea in Buffalo Bill as the hero’s wife. Initially reluctant to star, Maureen O’Hara relented when she read the script and returned to New York from a trip home to Ireland for location filming.

Later in life, she became the first woman president of a commercially scheduled airline in the United States. ” “While we mourn the loss of a very wonderful woman, we also celebrate her remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world, especially in Ireland, to work hard to make their dreams come true and to always have the courage to stand up for themselves. O’Hara will not be buried in her native Ireland but at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, DC, next to her husband, the US Navy pilot General Charles Blair who died in a plane crash in 1978. Although during the war she had complained that directors considered her to be “a cold potato without sex appeal” , in March 1957 an American scandal sheet called Confidential ran a story about her indulging in a steamy “necking session” with a mystery South American man in the back row at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the famous Hollywood cinema: “It Was The Hottest Show In Town When Maureen O’Hara Cuddled in Row 35”. But Confidential produced no fewer than three witnesses, including Grauman’s former assistant manager who said he had flashed a torch in the darkened auditorium to discover Maureen O’Hara, blouse undone and hair in disarray, sprawled across her companion’s lap. The case ended in a mistrial and she was awarded only $5,000 damages (she had claimed $5 million); the question of just what happened on Row 35 was never incontrovertibly settled.

Although one of her three sisters became a nun, her four other siblings all went into showbusiness; as a child Maureen acted in plays she made up herself and later took elocution lessons. During her school days she acted in local amateur productions, studied music and dance, and took small roles with the Dublin Operatic Society as well as “spear-carrying” parts with the famous Abbey Theatre. When she was 14 she enrolled at the Abbey’s theatre school and within a year was playing Shakespearean roles, winning the All-Ireland Cup for her portrayal of Portia in The Merchant Of Venice. She was the youngest student to complete the drama course at the Guildhall School of Music, and at 16 had been awarded a degree and an associateship by the London College of Music.

A brief extract from her scene, however, attracted the attention of Charles Laughton and producer Erich Pommer, who cast her as Mary Yellan, the female lead in Jamaica Inn (1939). It was Laughton (acting as co-producer) who changed her name to Maureen O’Hara – it was a better fit on cinema marquees – and offered her a seven-year film contract, on which her signature was witnessed by her parish priest. When Paul Henreid stole a screen kiss in The Spanish Main (1945), she had him flogged, and when Tyrone Power did likewise in The Black Swan (1942) she knocked him out. Ronald Colman once told her that if you’re proud of one in 15 films you’ve made you can consider yourself lucky. “Well,” said Maureen O’Hara, “I’m proud of more than that and I know that I’ve been in some movies that’ll be played long after I’m dead and gone.” Maureen O’Hara married, in 1939, George Hanley Brown, a British film director whom she met while making Jamaica Inn, and who subsequently, in another marriage, became the father of the journalist and editor Tina Brown.

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