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1920-2015

 

 

Maureen O'Hara (born Maureen FitzSimons; 17 August 1920 – 24 October 2015) was an Irish-born American actress and singer. The famously red-headed O'Hara was known for her beauty and playing fiercely pas.sionate but sensible heroines, often in westerns and adventure films. She worked on numerous occasions with director John Ford and longtime friend John Wayne, and was one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

O'Hara grew up in the Dublin suburb of Ranelagh to an "eccentric" devout Catholic family, and aspired to become an actress from a very young age. She trained with the Rathmines Theatre Company from the age of 10 and at the Abbey Theatre from the age of 14. She was given a screen test, which was deemed unsatisfactory, but Charles Laughton saw potential and arranged for her to co-star with him in Alfred Hitchc.o.c.k's Jamaica Inn in 1939. She moved to Hollywood the same year to appear with him in the production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and was given a contract by RKO Pictures. From there, she went on to enjoy a long and highly successful career, and acquired the nickname "The Queen of Technicolor", something which she detested, believing that people saw her only for her beauty rather than talent. O'Hara gained a reputation in Hollywood for bossiness and prudishness, avoiding the partying lifestyle. She appeared in films such as How Green Was My Valley (1941) (her first collaboration with John Ford), The Black Swan with Tyrone Power (1942), The Spanish Main (1945), Sinbad the Sailor (1947), the Christmas cla.s.ic Miracle on 34th Street (1947) with John Payne and Natalie Wood and Comanche Territory (1950).

O'Hara made her first film with Wayne, the actor with whom she is most closely a.s.sociated, with Rio Grande (1950). This was followed by The Quiet Man (1952), her best-known film, and The Wings of Eagles (1957), by which time her relationship with Ford had deteriorated. Such was her strong chemistry with Wayne that many a.s.sumed they were married or in a relationship. In the 1960s O'Hara increasingly turned to more motherly roles as she aged, appearing in films such as The Deadly Companions (1961), The Parent Trap (1961) and The Rare Breed (1966). She retired from the industry in 1971 after starring with Wayne one final time in Big Jake, but returned 20 years later to appear with John Candy in Only the Lonely (1991). In the late 1970s, O'Hara helped run her third husband's flying business in St Croix in the American Virgin Islands, and edited a magazine, but later sold them to spend more time in Glengariff in Ireland. She was married three times, and had one daughter, Bronwyn, born in 1944 to her second husband. Her autobiography, 'Tis Herself, was published in 2004 and became a New York Times Bestseller. In November 2014, she was presented with an Honorary Academy Award with the inscri.pt.ion "To Maureen O'Hara, one of Hollywood's brightest stars, whose inspiring performances glowed with pa.s.sion, warmth and strength".

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