This is the story of Hollywood legend Maureen O'Hara in her own words: “Above all else, deep in my soul, I’m a tough Irishwoman.”
And so she was.
She was born August 17, 1920 and named Maureen FitzSimons. Her family was a large, happy one, prominent in Ireland. As I read the story of her wonderful family, her early acting successes and her many professional opportunities, contrasted with her first two dismal marriages to unworthy men, I kept thinking of that book, Smart Women, Foolish Choices. We’ve all been there and my heart went out to her. She didn’t love the first two men she married (the first marriage was annulled and her second husband was, in her words, an “abusive alcoholic”). But she did come out of the second with a daughter, Bronwyn, who she loved.
Maureen rose to stardom in the era when studios owned the talent and could force a star like Maureen O’Hara to make movies that showcased her beauty instead of her acting talent. She hated it.
She came to Hollywood as a teenager in 1939, brought by the great Charles Laughton, who became her mentor and friend, and with whom she appeared in the classic film The Hunchback of Notre Dame. At one point he asked her parents if he could adopt her.
The Second World War trapped her in the US for many years and she missed Ireland and her family. But ultimately she came to be proud of her adopted country and became a dual citizen of Ireland and America (and that was another story!).
Her favorite movie of all those she made was, not surprisingly, The Quiet Man. Her telling of the making of the movie justifies buying the book. Her co-star, John Wayne, was a good friend and they got along very well with great on-screen chemistry, in part, she believed, because of her height (5'8") in contrast to many actresses with whom the studios paired the Duke. The movie was directed by John Ford, a difficult, if not twisted, genius, who often treated the actors—including Maureen—very badly. Her relationship with him, which extended over many years, was problematic.
There is nothing like hearing someone’s story in their own words and this candid telling of her life is no exception. She is frank in her assessments of the people she knew and lays the truth out “to set the record straight…before some self-serving writer pens a heap of rubbish about me after I am gone from this earth.”
I was very happy to finally read of Maureen’s finding true love with Charles F. Blair, Jr., an airline pilot who had been a Brigadier General in the Air Force. He was the great love of her life. Unfortunately, after ten years together, he died in a mysterious plane crash.