Maureen O’Hara, actress

25 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Actress Maureen O’Hara dies aged 95.

O’Hara, most famous for her role in The Quiet Man, passed away peacefully aged 95 at her home in Boise, Idaho according to a statement from her family. 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.

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. She appeared in five of his films, forging a strong screen bond of mutual admiration and respect. “I prefer the company of men,” Wayne declared, “except for Maureen O’Hara. O’Hara, an iconic figure in Hollywood’s Golden Age of the 1940s and 1950s who was once considered one of the world’s most beautiful women, also played a string of feisty women opposite John Wayne, including in “The Quiet Man”. “It is with a sad heart that we share the news that Maureen O’Hara passed away today in her sleep of natural causes,” they said in a statement cited by The Irish Times newspaper. “Maureen was our loving mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend. 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”.

She passed peacefully surrounded by her loving family as they celebrated her life listening to music from her favourite movie,‘The Quiet Man’.” Irish Arts Minister Heather Humphreys added: “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.” She was brought to Hollywood in 1939 by legendary actor Charles Laughton and her first film was “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, playing Esmerelda to his Quasimodo. With her creamy complexion, striking auburn tresses and haunting jade blue eyes, Maureen O’Hara was celebrated in her early films as the “Queen of Technicolor”, but she considered it a dubious accolade: it tended to imprison her in elaborate wartime features where she looked merely decorative or ornamental. “Almost every letter I receive,” she complained in 1945, “asks why Hollywood doesn’t take me out of those silly Technicolor pictures and give me dramatic pictures.” Maureen O’Hara had become an overnight star in 1939 when she played Mary, the pretty niece of Sir Humphrey Pengallan (Charles Laughton), in Alfred Hitchcock’s film of Daphne du Maurier’s Regency romance Jamaica Inn. 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. 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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