Maureen O'Hara: The Biography

By Aubrey Malone | Go to book overview

Introduction

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.”1

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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Maureen O'Hara: The Biography
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Young Girl in a Hurry 7
  • 2 - Maiden Voyage 21
  • 3 - The Old Son of a Bitch 29
  • 4 - Saluting Uncle Sam 45
  • 5 - Civvy Street 71
  • 6 - Sojourn in Cong 95
  • 7 - Back to Bread and Butter 111
  • 8 - Keeping Things Confidential 135
  • 9 - Reality Bites 145
  • 10 - Love in the Air 159
  • 11 - A Streetcar Named Retire 175
  • 12 - Ready for Her Close-UPS 185
  • 13 - Grande Dame 203
  • Acknowledgments 211
  • Filmography 213
  • Notes 215
  • Bibliography 235
  • Index 249
  • Screen Classics 265
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