Movie legend Maureen O’Hara died Saturday (Oct. 24) at the age of 95. Her work earned a spot among the Hollywood elite of her era and I don’t think you’ll see an actress of her caliber ever again. It’s the “they broke the mold” concept.
She was a stunning beauty and in the movies I saw her characters stood their ground. I didn’t know this until hearing an interview of her on Turner Classic Movies this year that she did many of her own stunts in her movies. She was higher on the toughness scale than I ever thought.
I haven’t seen all of her movies and I’m not saying the following are her best. They’re just my favorites.
1947 — “Miracle on 34th Street” — As much a part of Christmas as gift shopping and decorating the tree. O’Hara played Doris Walker, the event director at Macy’s in New York City, who is trying to raise her daughter (Natalie Wood) to view Christmas practically. It all changes when Macy’s hires a Santa (Edmund Gwenn) who actually thinks he’s the real Santa Claus. And you know and have enjoyed the rest.
1950 — “Rio Grande” — O’Hara and John Wayne are one of film’s most perfect on-screen couples. Sparks could fly romantically and sparks could fly when the two came into conflict. O’Hara plays Kathleen Yorke, the estranged wife of Lt. Col. Kirby Yorke, played by Wayne. He is in command of a calvary regiment that is fighting Apaches along the Texas frontier in the late 1870s. O’Hara pays a visit to the fort, which Wayne is in command of, when their son Jeff (Claude Jarman Jr.) joins the regiment after flunking out of West Point. The chemistry between O’Hara and Wayne, both good and bad, breaks the meter.
1952 — “The Quiet Man” — Another of the handful of movies that O’Hara made with director John Ford. I firmly believe that if O’Hara and Wayne hadn’t been in the main roles, this movie would have had a freefall in quality. Wayne plays Sean Thornton, an American boxer who returns to his native Ireland in the 1920s to live in the town of Innisfree. He meets Mary Kate Danaher (O’Hara). They fall in love. But sparks fly, and not the good ones, when O’Hara is denied her dowry by her brother Will (played by Victor McLagen, who was in several Wayne films). Combine a light comedic touch, the chemistry of O’Hara and Wayne, a wonderful cast of supporting actors playing the townspeople and a film that was beautifully filmed on location in Ireland and it’s easy to say it’s one of her best.
1955 — “The Long Gray Line” — This was also directed by Ford. It was a star vehicle for Tyrone Power, who played Marty Maher. Maher was an Irish immigrant who started as a waiter at West Point and later joined the U.S. Army. He rose to the rank of master sergeant during an over 50-year career as a physical education instructor and coach at West Point. The movie was a chronicle of life there from the turn of the 20th century through the early 1950s. O’Hara played Mary O’Donnell who became Maher’s wife. The pairing wasn’t the same as O’Hara with Wayne. But it worked very well and this is one of my all-time favorite classic movies.
UNTIL NEXT TIME. . .