Maureen O’Hara, spirited movie star, dies at 95

25 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Maureen O’Hara, actress known for Miracle on 34th Street, dies at age 95.

‘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. Maureen O’Hara, the fiery Irish-born actress who starred with John Wayne in “The Quiet Man,” John Ford’s film about an American ex-boxer’s unquiet retirement to his village birthplace in Ireland, has died.Maureen O’Hara, a flame-haired actress whose screen career spanned seven decades and was largely defined by the sassy firecrackers she played opposite leading men ranging from John Wayne to John Candy, died Oct. 24 at her home in Boise, Idaho.

The actress, who was born in Dublin, had moved back to the States in 2012 to be closer to her grandson after living for several years in her native Ireland . Famous for her striking red hair and green eyes, O’Hara found fame at 19 when she was cast as the gypsy Esmeralda opposite Charles Laughton in the 1939 movie The Hunchback Of Notre Dame. But when that happens, I say, ‘Find another hill to climb.’” In her heyday, O’Hara was known as the Queen of Technicolor because of the camera’s love affair with her vivid hair, bright green eyes and pale complexion. “I proved there was a bloody good actress in me,” she told the British newspaper The Telegraph last year. “It wasn’t just my face. As Doris Walker, the Macy’s store employee in charge of the Thanksgiving Day Parade, she unwittingly persuades Kris Kringle, who insists he is the real Santa Claus, to star in the parade. I gave bloody good performances.” Never nominated for an Oscar (although she received an honorary Academy Award last year), O’Hara nonetheless starred in some of the best-known and beloved movies of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

She also worked with demanding masters Alfred Hitchcock (”Jamaica Inn,” 1939) and John Ford (the Oscar-winning “How Green Was My Valley,” 1941). Whether playing a rancher’s wife, a pirate queen, or a mother, her characters were strong-willed women — a characteristic she practiced in real life as well and attributed to her Irish roots.

However, in 2014 she was given an honorary Oscar for career achievement and showed she still had her fiery temperament at age 94 by protesting when her acceptance speech was cut short and she was rolled offstage in her wheelchair. She largely retired from the movies after the 1971 big-screen western, Big Jake, with Wayne and the 1973 television movie, The Red Pony, with Fonda, but returned to the big screen to play John Candy’s overbearing mother in Only the Lonely in 1991.

Wayne, who co-starred with her in five movies, once said: “I’ve had many friends, and I prefer the company of men, except for Maureen O’Hara; she’s a great guy.” “We met through Ford, and we hit it right off,” she remarked in 1991. “I adored him, and he loved me. Aside from Wayne, she was paired on-screen with Tyrone Power, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Jeff Chandler and Anthony Quinn, to mention just a few of her co-stars. She performed many of her own stunts in movies and, in addition to Ford, worked with such famous directors as Alfred Hitchcock, Carol Reed, Henry Hathaway and Jean Renoir. In the original version of the popular Disney comedy “The Parent Trap” (1961), O’Hara and Brian Keith played the estranged parents reunited by Hayley Mills.

In 1991, O’Hara was lured from retirement to portray a domineering, bigoted widow who tries to shatter her son’s romantic relationship in “Only the Lonely.” Candy played her son, a Chicago cop. Later, she was equally candid in discussing her 15-year romance with a married man, as well as her marriages and her leading men, in “’Tis Herself: A Memoir,” written with Nicoletti in 2004.

Through her father, she learned to love sports; through her mother, she and her five siblings were exposed to the theater. “My first ambition was to be the No. 1 actress in the world,” she recalled in 1999. “And when the whole world bowed at my feet, I would retire in glory and never do anything again.” In her 2004 autobiography, “’Tis Herself,’” O’Hara recalled that a Gypsy told her at the age of 5 that “You will leave Ireland one day and become a very famous woman known all around the world.’” Maureen was admitted to the training program at Dublin’s famed Abbey Theatre, where she was a prize student. Red-haired actress Jessica Chastain posed for a photo with the screen legend at the event and on Saturday she posted that photo on social media along with a tribute to the iconic star. The great actor Charles Laughton, who was producing and starring in films made in England, saw the test and said he was intrigued by her dancing eyes. Trained in fencing and fond of doing her own stunt work, she held her own in swashbucklers opposite Errol Flynn (“Against All Flags,” 1952) and Tyrone Power (“The Black Swan,” 1942). Studio contracts, marriage and childbirth intervened before she saw Ireland again seven years later. “Whether I liked it or not, I was now a property of the powerful Hollywood studio system,” she wrote in her memoir.

In the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street, O’Hara played a single working mother to daughter Natalie Wood, who hired a kindly man portrayed by Edmund Gwenn to play a department store Santa Claus only to realise he may be the real thing. O’Hara’s career was threatened by a manufactured scandal in 1957, when Confidential magazine claimed she and a lover engaged in “the hottest show in town” in a back row in Hollywood’s Grauman’s Chinese Theater. But at the time, she told AP, “I was making a movie in Spain, and I had the passport to prove it.” She testified against the magazine in a criminal libel trial and brought a lawsuit that was settled out of court. The film is an idealized portrait of the Irish countryside and the colorful wisdom of the locals, as when a chaperone tells Danaher while being courted by Thornton, “Have the good manners not to hit the man until he’s your husband.” Their screen romance blossoms in one of the most melodramatic movie kisses of the era, with Thornton taking liberties with Danaher as her wild hair and long skirt blow in a howling wind. Her mother, the former Marguerite Lilburn, was a trained opera singer and had been a theater actress. “My parents gave us all the confidence I would need,” O’Hara told the London Independent in 2004. “We were an Irish Von Trapp family, a little eccentric but wonderful.

While making The Christmas box in 1995, she admitted that roles for someone her age (75) were scarce: “The older a man gets, the younger the parts that he plays. But I was a tomboy; I loved football and boxing like my father.” While performing with the Abbey Players, she signed a seven-year contract with Laughton’s newly formed production company. Since I’m not a frail character, it’s not that easy.” O’Hara held dual U.S. and Irish citizenship and maintained strong ties to the land of her birth. She followed in anti-fascist wartime dramas that included Jean Renoir’s “This Land Is Mine” opposite Laughton and “The Fallen Sparrow” with John Garfield. O’Hara, who became a U.S. citizen in 1946, also had a long reign in Technicolor action films such as “The Spanish Main” (1945) with Paul Henreid, “Sinbad the Sailor” (1947) with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and “At Sword’s Point” (1952) with Cornel Wilde.

She played a “handler” sent to pre-revolution Cuba to check on a vacuum cleaner salesman moonlighting as a British secret agent, portrayed by Alec Guinness. That film also marked one of her first returns to cinema after her triumph over a scandal sheet that had accused her of having all but sex with her “south of the border sweetie” in the back of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Her advice to those younger performers was flinty and direct. “If you really want it, go after it,” she told an interviewer in 2010, “and learn how to speak properly, for God’s sake!”

Here you can write a commentary on the recording "Maureen O’Hara, spirited movie star, dies at 95".

* Required fields
All the reviews are moderated.
Our partners
Follow us
Contact us
Our contacts

About this site