Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

O'Hara

It was nice watching a new Sky Arts documentary on Maureen O'Hara, the latest of an occasional series, reminding one of much much we like the veteran actress who often seems overlooked in the pantheon of movie greats.
Maureen, now all of 95, is still going and received an honorary Oscar last year. She will of course be forever linked to those John Ford-John Wayne films, but has a great body of work, starting with those early films with Charles Laughton: Hitch's JAMAICA INN and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME in 1939. Born in Dublin in 1920, she was soon in America. 
I particularly liked her and Lucille Ball as showgirls in Dorothy Arzner's DANCE GIRL DANCE in 1940. Maureen then became "The Queen of Technicolor" with that flaming red hair and all those pirate and adventure movies she did in the 1940s and into the '50s: THE SPANISH MAIN, AGAINST ALL FLAGS, THE BLACK SWAN, SINBAD THE SAILOR, THE FLAME OF ARABY, TRIPOLI, LISBON where she was teamed with the likes of Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn, John Payne, Ray Milland, and Rex Harrison in THE FOXES OF HARROW, as well as playing perfect wives for James Stewart and Henry Fonda in the Sixties. She and John Wayne were first paired in Ford's RIO GRANDE in 1950, then came their classic THE QUIET MAN where her Mary Kate Danaher is the spirited centre of the film. She and Wayne were also in Ford's THE WINGS OF EAGLES in 1957, and they were both in McLINTOCK! and BIG JAKE in 1971. She and Tyrone Power headed Ford's THE LONG GREY LINE in 1955.
Two of her late 1940s classics are the imperishable THE MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET in 1947, where she has great rapport with the young Natalie Wood, and SITTING PRETTY in 1948 where she is the mother of the children being babysat by Mr Belvedere (Clifton Webb). She was in good company too in OUR MAN IN HAVANA in 1959, with Alec Guinness, and Disney's THE PARENT TRAP was an enormous hit in 1961 with Hayley Mills as those twins. 
She was teamed again with Brian Keith in that early Peckinhah western THE DEADLY COMPANIONS in 1961. It seems impossible to see her THE BATTLE OF THE VILLA FIORITA, a Delmar Daves romance from 1965, One of her last roles was as John Candy's Irish mother in ONLY THE LONELY in 1991, before a long retirement in County Kerry, Ireland. She ran an airline for 10 years as well, when her third husband, Charles Blair, a pilot, died in a plane crash in 1978, so she took over their Antilles Airboats, a commuter seaplane service in the Carribean, scene of her many swashbuckling adventures. So she was the first woman president of a scheduled airline in the United States, Her autobiography "Tis Herself" is an enjoyable read too. 
Maureen had a good singing voice too and did some recordings and cabaret appearances. She would have been an ideal Mrs Anna in THE KING AND I, but it seems Oscar & Hammerstein would not consider "The Queen of Technicolor" ..... but we will always have Mary Kate and her QUIET MAN. I've just had to pre-order the Blu-ray out in November, as there are so many ropey prints of it out there ...

2 comments:

  1. I thought Maureen held out until she got her Oscar; now I know she held out until she read your tribute and knowing each was never going to get as good again, decided to shuffle off this mortal coil and go join the quiet man in the sky. Very nicely put and she would have been excellent in THE KING AND I.

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