“Some time ago, I told Larry King that I planned to live to be 102. I still do.”
– Maureen O’Hara
Legendary actress Maureen O’Hara passed away last Saturday at her home in Boise, Idah. She was 95. Even if she didn’t quite make it to 102 as predicted, this Irish beauty undoubtedly lived a colorful life. As a matter of fact, O’Hara was often considered the Queen of Technicolor, a title that was also held by the late Maria Montez. O’Hara could light up the screen like no other with her blazing red hair and shimmering green eyes. Of course some of O’Hara’s most famous screen roles were ironically in black-and-white.
1939 was a breakout year for O’Hara, starring in Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn and playing Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. She continued to deliver strong performances in several films from Director John Ford, including 1941’s Best Picture winner, How Green Was My Valley. O’Hara would also star opposite John Wayne on numerous occasions in westerns like McLintock!, Rio Grande, and Big Jake. Her most memorable collaboration with Ford and Wayne would have to be 1952’s The Quiet Man, where O’Hara played the strong-willed Mary Kate Danaher.
“I’ve had many friends, and I prefer the company of men, except for Maureen O’Hara. She is a great guy.”
– John Wayne
O’Hara will probably be best remembered for her performance in the Christmas classic, Miracle of 34th Street. As Doris Walker, O’Hara played the loving, yet no nonsense, mother of a young Natalie Wood. Doris raises her daughter to believe there’s no Santa Claus, but has a hard time sticking to her guns when Kris Kringle himself shows up. O’Hara hit the perfect note as an independent woman torn between logic and the seemingly impossible. She also notably brought great charm to her performance as Hayley Mills’ mother in 1961’s The Parent Trap.
After 1971, O’Hara virtually disappeared from the silver screen. She only resurfaced in 1991 as John Candy’s controlling Irish mother in Only the Lonely. Her final screen performance was in the 2000 TV movie, The Last Dance.
While she was never nominated for an Academy Award, O’Hara did receive an Honorary Oscar in 2015. Her statuette was inscribed, “To Maureen O’Hara, one of Hollywood’s brightest stars, whose inspiring performances glowed with passion, warmth and strength.” That couldn’t be a more fitting summary of O’Hara’s illustrious career. The world feels like a much less colorful place now that one of the last surviving stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age has left us. Whenever we watch one of O’Hara’s films, though, she’ll still manage to brighten our day.