O'Hara, Maureen (1920—)

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O'Hara, Maureen (1920—)

Irish-born actress, best known for her portrayals of feisty women. Born Maureen FitzSimons on August 17, 1920, at Milltown (also seen as Millwall), near Dublin, Ireland; one of the six children of Charles FitzSimons (a clothing manufacturer) and Marguerite (Lilburn) FitzSimons (an erstwhile actress and singer); graduate of the Guildhall School of Music, Trinity College; received a degree and an associateship from the London College of Music; graduate of the Abbey Theatre School; married George Hanley Brown (a

film director), in 1939 (divorced 1941); married Will Price (a film director), on December 29, 1941 (divorced 1953); married Charles Blair (a retired brigadier general), in 1968 (died in a plane crash, 1978); children: one daughter, Bronwyn Bridget Price (b. 1944).

Selected filmography:

(bit part) Kicking the Moon Around (The Playboy or Millionaire Merry-Go-Round , UK, 1938): My Irish Molly (Little Miss Molly, UK, 1939); Jamaica Inn (UK, 1939); The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939); A Bill of Divorcement (1940); Dance Girl Dance (1940); They Met in Argentina (1941); How Green Was My Valley (1941); To the Shores of Tripoli (1942); Ten Gentlemen from West Point (1942); The Black Swan (1942); The Immortal Sergeant (1943); This Land Is Mine (1943); The Fallen Sparrow (1943); Buffalo Bill (1944); The Spanish Main (1945); Sentimental Journey (1946); Do You Love Me? (1946); Sinbad the Sailor (1947); The Homestretch (1947); Miracle on 34th Street (1947); The Foxes of Harrow (1947); Sitting Pretty (1948); The Forbidden Street (Britannia Mews, US-UK, 1949); A Woman's Secret (1949); Father Was a Fullback (1949); Bagdad (1949); Comanche Territory (1950); Tripoli (1950); Rio Grande (1950); Flame of Araby (1951); At Sword's Point (1952); Kangaroo (1952); The Quiet Man (1952); Against All Flags (1952); The Redhead from Wyoming (1953); War Arrow (1954); Malaga (Fire Over Africa, UK-US, 1954); The Long Gray Line (1955); The Magnificent Matador (1955); Lady Godiva (1955); Lisbon (1956); Everything but the Truth (1956); The Wings of Eagles (1957); Our Man in Havana (UK, 1959); The Parent Trap (1961); The Deadly Companions (Trigger Happy, 1961); Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962); Spencer's Mountain (1963); McLintock! (1963); The Battle of the Villa Fiorita (US-UK, 1965); The Rare Breed (1966); How Do I Love Thee? (1970); Big Jake (1971); Only the Lonely (1991).

Often described as strong-willed or "fiery," Irish-born actress Maureen O'Hara was one of the brightest, most beautiful film stars of the 1940s and 1950s, and was particularly notable as the action heroine of a series of technicolor swashbucklers and westerns. Although she made few movies after her third marriage in 1968 to retired Brigadier General Charles F. Blair (the first pilot to make a solo flight over the Arctic Ocean and the North Pole), she is still seen every Christmas in television airings of the film Miracle on 34th Street (1947), playing the bemused mother of moppet Natalie Wood . O'Hara made one of her few forays out of retirement in 1991, to play opposite John Candy in the romantic comedy Only the Lonely, and again in 1995, to appear in the CBS special "The Christmas Box," based on the bestselling book by Richard Paul Evans.

O'Hara was born near Dublin in 1920, the daughter of Charles FitzSimons, a clothing manufacturer, and Marguerite Lilburn FitzSimons , a former actress who had worked at the Abbey Theatre. Of her three sisters and two brothers, all would appear on the British or American screen with the exception of her oldest sister, who would become a nun. O'Hara began acting in little backyard dramas when very young and made her stage debut at age five, reciting a poem between the acts of a school play. That same year, she entered the Burke School of Elocution, where she continued as a student until she left Dublin 12 years later.

By the time she was 14, O'Hara had won numerous dramatic awards and was already enrolled in Dublin's prestigious Abbey Theatre School. Following her graduation, she accepted an invitation to go to London for a screen test. She qualified for a small part in a movie that was never produced, but a cut of her scene came to the attention of Charles Laughton and Erich Pommer (partners in Mayflower Pictures), who suggested her for the leading role in the screen version of Daphne de Maurier 's Jamaica Inn (1939), opposite Laughton and Robert Newton. The success of her debut in that British-made film, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, led to a trip to Hollywood, where she was cast as Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), again co-starring with Laughton, who played Quasimodo. Under contract to Mayflower, O'Hara made several subsequent films, then came to the attention of director John Ford, who cast her as Angharad in How Green Was My Valley (1941), a film that won six Academy Awards and gave O'Hara's career a boost. She went on to play the leads in several other films directed by Ford, who considered her one of Hollywood's finest actresses.

O'Hara's shimmering red hair, hazel eyes, and creamy complexion won her the title of "Queen of Technicolor," and her 5'8" frame and athletic prowess lent credibility to the adventurous heroines she was frequently called upon to play. She performed her own stunts, whether it be riding horseback over rough terrain, jumping off embankments, crossing swords with Errol Flynn in Against All Flags (1952), or jousting with John Wayne, her co-star in The Quiet Man (1952) and four other films. O'Hara's pluck and tenacity off the set was also legendary. Early in her career, when studio executives suggested she bob her nose, she simply told them, "Goodbye."

O'Hara was married three times. Her first two husbands were film directors George Hanley Brown (from 1939 to 1941), and Will Price (from 1941 to 1952), with whom she had a daughter, Bronwyn Bridget, named after her older sister. In 1968, when the actress married Charles Blair, she left Hollywood to live in St. Croix, where she assisted her husband in managing Antilles Airboats, an airline which sent seaplanes around the world. When Blair died in a plane crash in 1978, O'Hara took over his job, becoming the first woman president of a commercial airline. For many years, she also maintained homes in Los Angeles and New York, as well as in East Cork, Ireland, where she participated in a number of civic activities. There was never much to entice her out of retirement. "None of the scripts sent to me intrigued me that much," O'Hara said in 1995, just before the airing of "The Music Box." "It's much more fun to go fishing and play golf in Ireland and do the same thing in St. Croix than making something you don't believe in."


Current Biography 1953. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1953.

Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. NY: Harper-Collins, 1994.

"Maureen O'Hara," in People Weekly. September 20, 1999.

Parker-Beck, June. "Where Are They Now?," in Remember. April–May, 1995.

Thomas, Bob. "Maureen O'Hara shines in a new Christmas story," in The Day [New London, CT]. December 17, 1995.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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O'Hara, Maureen (1920—)

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