R.I.P. Maureen O’Hara

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In St. Louis on KTTV-Channel 11 on Sundays they would show old movies all day long-usually in a theme (ie…Tarzan Day, Bowery Boys, Garland & Rooney…you get the idea).

Having my mother as my own personal movie biographer, she would tell stories to my brother and I while watching films.  My brother and I quickly associated the name with the same Maureen O’Hara from the holiday classic “Miracle on 34th Street” with one of my personal favs – Natalie Wood.

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Unfortunately, the fiery red-haired beauty, also known for co-starring with John Wayne,  passed away this weekend at the age of 95.

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Her Hollywood career began in 1939 in “Hunchback of Notre Dame”  and some minor films at RKO.  She was borrowed by 20th Century Fox to play the beautiful young daughter in the 1941 saga of a coal-mining family, “How Green Was My Valley.”  “How Green Was My Valley” went on to win five Oscars including best picture and best director for John Ford, beating out Orson Welles and “Citizen Kane” among others.

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With Ford’s “Rio Grande” in 1950, O’Hara became Wayne’s favorite leading lady. The most successful of their five films was the 1952 “The Quiet Man,” also directed by Ford, in which she matched Wayne blow for blow.

My generation knew her from “Miracle on 34th Street”, but fell in love with her all over again when she appeared opposite Hayley MIlls in “The Parent Trap”.

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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. The older a woman gets, you’ve got to find parts that are believable. Since I’m not a frail character, it’s not that easy.”

Born in Dublin, Ireland as Maureen Fitzsimons, “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.”  She is survived by her daughter, Bronwyn FitzSimons of Glengarriff, Ireland; her grandson, Conor FitzSimons of Boise and two great-grandchildren.

Actresses like myself, will always be grateful that women like Maureen O’Hara hit the silver screen and changed the landscape to allow women the opportunity to be more than the pretty, brainless manicured ingenue. O’ Hara proved to Hollywood that women could have guts, be strong and still be respected by both genders.  RIP Diva!

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