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Sunday, 25 October 2015

Vale Maureen O'Hara - Noel Bjorndahl* remembers a star

Vale beautiful, ravishing Maureen O'Hara (nee FitzSimons), aged 95, She was John Ford's muse and frequent star in some of his best films, often opposite John Wayne with whom she generated a palpable chemistry and affection. 

Apparently, she first indicated her talent on radio as a child, and graduated to roles with the Abbey Players. In 1939, she joined Charles Laughton in Hollywood playing a stunning Esmeralda to his celebrated Hunchback of Notre Dame in a haunting studio evocation of medieval Paris, one of the best films William Dieterle ever made during his Hollywood years. John Ford cast her in the key role of Angharad, opposite Walter Pidgeon, Donald Crisp and Sara Allgood in his moving studio recreation of a Welsh coal mining community, How Green Was My Valley. There followed further substantial roles at Fox and RKO (The Black Swan for Henry King; The Immortal Sergeant for John M. Stahl, This Land is Mine for Jean Renoir; The Fallen Sparrow for Richard Wallace; The Foxes of Harrow, again for Stahl; the very funny Clifton Webb vehicle Sitting Pretty (Walter Lang, USA, 1948) with Webb as the deliciously acerbic Mr Belvedere). 


In 1950, Ford gave her another substantial role in the last film of his celebrated Cavalry Trilogy, Rio Grande, as the estranged wife of John Wayne. They shared some extraordinarily moving scenes and were serenaded by The Sons of the Pioneers. In 1952, Ford again cast her, as Mary Kate Danaher with John Wayne in his idiosyncratic comedy romance The Quiet Man, a beautiful, boisterous, brawling yarn centering on the payment of a dowry and the intransigence of O'Hara's brother played by Victor McLaglen. Set in the idyllic village of Cong,Ireland, it became a huge hit and won Ford his 4th Oscar. Winton Hoch deservedly was given a Best Colour Cinematography Award. O'Hara continued to enjoy leading roles with Ford and/or Wayne-The Long Gray Line, The Wings of Eagles, McLintock, Big Jake.


On a personal note I felt very privileged to explore some of the Cong locations during a trip to Ireland in 2011.

(*Cinephile Noel Bjorndahl first published this tribute on his Facebook page. Thanks Noel for permission to reprint and circulate via Film Alert.)

1 comment:

  1. As to Kangaroo, the goings on at Zanuckville in South Australia were represented by Max Brown in his novel Wild Turkey (Georgian House).

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