Friday, February 12, 2010

Maureen O' Hara (b.1920)

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In America the early performing arts accomplishments of young Maureen FitzSimons (who we know as Maureen O'Hara) would definitely have put her in the child protg category. However, for a child of Irish heritage surrounded by gifted parents and family, these were very natural traits. Maureen made her entrance into this caring haven on August 17, 1920 in Ranelagh (a suburb of Dublin) Ireland. Maureen's mother, Marguerita Lilburn FitzSimons, was an accomplished contralto. Her father, Charles FitzSimons managed a business in Dublin and also owned part of the renowned Irish soccer team, "The Shamrock Rovers." Maureen was the second of six FitzSimons children - Peggy, Florrie, Charles, Margot and James completed this beautiful family.
Maureen loved playing rough athletic games as a young child and excelled in sports. She combined this interest with an equally natural gift for performing. This was demonstrated by her winning about every Feis award for drama and theatrical performing her country offered. By age 14 she was accepted at the prestigious Abbey Theater and pursued her dream of classical theater and operatic singing. This course was to be altered, however, when actor Charles Laughton, after seeing a screen test of Maureen, became mesmerized by her hauntingly beautiful eyes. Before casting her to star in "Jamaica Inn," Laughton and his partner, Eric Pommer, changed her name from Maureen FitzSimons to "Maureen O'Hara" - a bit shorter last name for the marquee.

Under contract to Laughton, Maureen's next picture was to be filmed in America ("The Hunchback of Notre Dame") at RKO studios. The epic picture was an extraordinary success and Maureen's contract was eventually bought by RKO. At the young age of 19, Maureen had already starred in two major motion pictures with Charles Laughton. Unlike most stars of her era, Maureen started at the top, and remained there - with her skills and talents only getting better and better with the passing years. Maureen has an enviable string of all-time classics to her credit that include "Hunchback of Notre Dame," "How Green Was My Valley," "Miracle on 34th Street," "Sitting Pretty," "The Quiet Man," "The Parent Trap," and "McLintock." Add to this the distinction of being voted one of the five most beautiful women in the world and you have a film star who was as gorgeous as she was talented.

Although at times early in her career Hollywood didn't seem to notice, there was much more to Maureen O'Hara than her dynamic beauty. She not only had a wonderful lyric soprano voice, but she could use her inherent athletic ability to perform physical feats that most actresses couldn't begin to attempt, from fencing to fisticuffs. She was a natural to anything athletic.

In her career Maureen starred with some of Hollywood's most dashing leading men including Tyrone Power, John Payne, Rex Harrison, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Brian Keith, Sir Alec Guinnes and of course the favorite pairing with "The Duke" - John Wayne. Maureen starred in five films with Duke; the most beloved being "The Quiet Man" in 1951.

In addition to famed director, John Ford, Maureen was also fortunate to have worked for some other great directors in the business: Alred Hitchcock, William Dieterle, Henry Hathaway, Henry King, Jean Renoir, John M. Stahl, William Wellman, Frank Borzage, Walter Lang, George Seaton, George Sherman, Carol Reed, Delmer Daves, David swift, Andrew McLaglen, and Chris Columbus.

In 1968 Maureen found much deserved personal happiness when she married Charles Blair. General Blair was a famous aviator whom she had known as a friend of her family for many years. A new career began for Maureen - that of a full time wife. Her marriage to Blair, however, was again far from typical. Blair was the real-life version of what John Wayne had been on the screen. Blair had been a Brigadier General in the Air Force, a Senior Pilot with Pan American, along with incredible record-breaking aeronautic achievements. Maureen happily retired from films in 1973 after making the TV movie "The Red Pony" (which won the prestigious Peabody Award for Excellence) with Henry Fonda.

With Blair, Maureen managed a commuter sea plane service in the Caribbean, "Antilles Airboats." She not only made trips around the world with her pilot husband, but owned and published a magazine "The Virgin Islander" writing a monthly column "Maureen O'Hara Says." A very excellent assessment of her life with Blair, Maureen stated "I got to live the adventures I'd only acted out on the Fox and Universal lots." Tragically, Charles Blair died in a plane crash in 1978. Though completely devastated, Maureen picked up the pieces and with memories of ten of the happiest years of her life, continued on. She was elected CEO and President of Antilles Airboats which brought her the distinction of being the first woman president of a scheduled airline in the United States.

Maureen now lives quite happily in semi retirement. Though her home is in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, she also spends time throughout the year in New York, Los Angeles, and Ireland. Fortunately she was coaxed out of retirement several times; once in 1991 to star with John Candy in "Only the Lonely," and again in 1995 in a made for TV movie, "The Christmas Box" on CBS. In spring of 1998 Maureen accepted the second of what would be three projects for Polson Productions and CBS "Cab to Canada" and in October, 2000, "The Last Dance."

Maureen O'Hara is still absolutely stunning, with that trademark red hair, dazzling smile and those huge, expressive eyes. She has fans from all over the world of all ages who are utterly devoted to her legacy of films and her persona as a strong, courageous and intelligent woman. Maureen's world wide popularity became even more evident since her first appearance on the Internet. My first website paying tribute to Maureen constructed in 1996 became so popular (over 75,000 visitors ) that I created an extension site that brings a combined visitor toll to over 150,000 - and counting. I receive e-mails of appreciation and affection for Ms. O'Hara from teens as well as adults, from all corners of the globe on a daily basis.

The world keeps turning technology keeps advancing...the wide screen becomes wider, the soundtracks become louder, and the heroes and heroines have given way to computer digital enhancement. What a wonderful thing to know that Maureen O'Hara is still out there still glowing reminding us of a better time - a time of respect and honor a time of romance and fantasy.

The image of Maureen O'Hara that began in this country in 1939 as Esmeralda in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" now embodies over 60 years of performing - both in films, and television music and drama. We still need our heroes and heroines Maureen O'Hara remains so, in regal manner.


6 comments:

  1. This is Kristen from Swap-Bot (aka beautifulordinary). I loved reading about Maureen O'Hara! And I am now following your blog. =)

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  2. Swap-bot brought me to your blog. I love to read about strong women, so I will be following your blog gladly.

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  3. This is thesimplecountrychick from swap-bot. I am now following your blog. I look forward to reading more. I am a big fan of Marilyn!

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  4. Hi there! I'm solsuny from swap-bot and now i'm following your blog!!
    Love it!
    Have a nice day

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  6. What an awesome blog! I can't wait to learn more about these leading ladies!

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