Things to know about Hollywood leading lady Maureen O’Hara

25 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Actress Maureen O’Hara dies aged 95.

DUBLIN (AFP) – Maureen O’Hara, the flame-haired star of “How Green Was My Valley” and “Miracle on 34th Street” who was one of Ireland’s most successful acting exports, has died aged 95, her family and the Irish president said Saturday.

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. She worked with directors ranging from Alfred Hitchcock to Chris Columbus, but is best remembered for her works with John Ford, particularly in her pairings with John Wayne. 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.

O’Hara starred opposite Wayne in five films including, “Rio Grande”, “McLintock!”, “Big Jake”,”The Quiet Man” and “The Wings of Eagles”. Trained for the stage in her native Dublin, O’Hara made four other movies with Wayne, including Ford’s “Rio Grande,” among her 55 films in a career that spanned six decades.

Born Maureen FitzSimons, on August 17, 1920, in a suburb of Dublin, she received training in drama and dance and went on to perform in amateur theatre at the age of 10. Apart from her powerful acting, O’ Hara was also a decent singer and showcased her soprano voice on the albums Love Letters From Maureen O’Hara and Maureen O’Hara Sings Her Favorite Irish Songs. O’Hara was presented with an honorary Academy Award in November 2014 by Clint Eastwood and countryman Liam Neeson, who called the actress’s talent “unsurpassed.” The academy cited performances imbued with “passion, warmth and strength.” While O’Hara became a leading lady in black-and-white films, she rose to stardom in the 1950s as Technicolor enhanced her flawless complexion and abundant red hair. 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.

She balked at her US naturalization hearing in 1946 when she was described as a British subject rather than an Irish citizen; her protest triggered a change in US policy. 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. She performed in radio plays at 13 and a year later joined Ireland’s famed Abbey Theatre, where she swept floors and painted sets before moving on to speaking roles. Still in her teens, she was cast opposite Charles Laughton in Hitchcock’s “Jamaica Inn” (1939), a thriller for which she adopted the stage name O’Hara.

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.

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