Sunday, 25 October 2015

Irish actress Maureen O’Hara dies at 95

Dublin suburb-born Maureen O’Hara, whose green eyes, porcelain skin and flaming red hair made her the reigning queen of the Technicolor costume dramas of Hollywood’s Golden Age, has died at age 95.
The Abbey Theatre-trained ingenue was discovered by English actor Charles Laughton with whom she starred in the 1939 version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” a memorable adaptation of the Victor Hugo classic, featuring Laughton in disfiguring makeup as Quasimodo and the striking O’Hara as the beautiful gypsy girl Esmeralda. The film was in regular circulation on 1950s television when I was a child, and while Laughton’s pitiable Quasimodo made a more lasting impression, O’Hara’s beauty and kindness also left their mark as the girl Quasimodo loves and rescues.
O’Hara previously had made her major screen debut, also with Laughton, in Alfred Hitchcock’s period drama “Jamaica Inn.” After her first collaboration with New England-born Irish-American director John Ford, with whom she would make five films, in the prestigious Academy Award-winning Welsh mining village drama “How Green Was My Valley” (1941), O’Hara then scored a major box-office coup opposite Tyrone Power in the rousing 1942 Technicolor swashbuckler, “The Black Swan.”
The film, a favorite among lads over the years, was nominated for three Academy Awards, and won for best color cinematography. As Lady Margaret Denby, pirate Power’s battling screen love interest, O’Hara is the most spectacular vision in the film. The film secured O’Hara regular roles in such films, most notably perhaps the 1947 Technicolor Arabian Nights extravaganza “Sinbad the Sailor,” in which O’Hara plays mysterious harem girl Shireen opposite a dashing Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in the title role.
As the all-too pragmatic Macy’s executive and mother of Natalie Wood in Christmas season favorite “A Miracle on 34th Street,” O’Hara enjoyed her perhaps most cherished role.
More important was her screen collaboration and simmering chemistry with legendary leading man John Wayne, including the John Ford-directed films “Rio Grande (1950) and most of all the 1952 Irish-set drama-romance “The Quiet Man.” In the latter, O’Hara, who referred to Ford as “Pappy,” is the prize in a titanic struggle between Wayne’s Irish-American prize fighter and her brutish screen brother, played by Victor McLaglen (if you can believe it). O’Hara, who was cast by Carol Reed (“The Third Man”) opposite future screen Obi-Wan Kenobi, Alec Guinness, in “Our Man in Havana” (1959), was the opposite of the screen’s many beautiful bad girls and femme fatales.
She was living proof beauty and goodness could go hand in hand, and she was just as capable playing attractive mothers of a certain age in such box-office hits as “The Parent Trap” (1961) with Haley Mills and a John Wayne-like Brian Keith, and in “Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation” (1962) with James Stewart, and with Henry Fonda in “Spencer’s Mountain” (1963).
In her final feature film “Only the Lonely” (1991), the actress played the Irish battle-ax mother of funnyman John Candy.
O’Hara, who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, enchanted generations of fans and received a long overdue honorary Academy award in 2014.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.