Maureen O'Hara: The Biography

Maureen O'Hara: The Biography

Maureen O'Hara: The Biography

Maureen O'Hara: The Biography


From her first appearances on the stage and screen, Maureen O'Hara (b. 1920) commanded attention with her striking beauty, radiant red hair, and impassioned portrayals of spirited heroines. Whether she was being rescued from the gallows by Charles Laughton (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1939), falling in love with Walter Pidgeon against a coal-blackened sky (How Green Was My Valley, 1941), learning to believe in miracles with Natalie Wood (Miracle on 34th Street, 1947), or matching wits with John Wayne (The Quiet Man, 1952), she charmed audiences with her powerful presence and easy confidence.

Maureen O'Hara is the first book-length biography of the screen legend hailed as the "Queen of Technicolor." Following the star from her childhood in Dublin to the height of fame in Hollywood, film critic Aubrey Malone draws on new information from the Irish Film Institute, production notes from films, and details from historical film journals, newspapers, and fan magazines. Malone also examines the actress's friendship with frequent costar John Wayne and her relationship with director John Ford, and he addresses the hotly debated question of whether the screen siren was a feminist or antifeminist figure.

Though she was an icon of cinema's golden age, O'Hara's penchant for privacy and habit of making public statements that contradicted her personal choices have made her an enigma. This breakthrough biography offers the first look at the woman behind the larger-than-life persona, sorting through the myths to present a balanced assessment of one of the greatest stars of the silver screen.


They’ve built a statue to her in Kells. Her website receives 250,000 hits a day. Every Christmas Day somebody in the world is watching Miracle on 34th Street, and every St. Patrick’s Day somebody is watching The Quiet Man.

Maureen O’Hara (née FitzSimons) occupies an unusual place in the film pantheon, in that she was never nominated for an Oscar, yet she’s the only Irish actress to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She also worked with all the greats, both in front of the camera (Charles Laughton, Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda, James Stewart, among others) and behind it (Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Jean Renoir, Nicholas Ray, Sam Peckinpah). She always said that working with top-flight stars helped her to get the best out of herself.

O’Hara’s belle époque was the 1940s and 1950s, when she occupied the front ranks of female action roles. The films she appeared in had an old-world simplicity, but that made them no less entertaining. She cantered across burning sands in a yashmak as a harem heroine and clambered up a ship’s rigging in hoopskirts as a love goddess–cum–pirate queen. “There was always a fight in them between me and someone else,” the rapier-slashing star told Joe Hyams in a 1959 Los Angeles Times interview, “usually another girl. That made up for the bad script.” In all these roles she leavened the exotic superstructures with a large dose of Irish common sense. “Black is black and white is white,” she declared, “I never stand on middle ground.”

She was good at taking her punishment in such ventures. She endured so many on-set injuries during her career that her colleagues joked she should have been awarded a Purple Heart. The payoff was that she was rarely out of work. “I’ve never been without a contract,” was a frequent boast during her prime, “not for a split second. It’s better that way because . . .

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