Given that she had been off of radar from many years, I did not know that Maureen O’Hara was still with us until she left us Saturday, at the age of 95. Everybody and his cousin is doing a tribute to O’Hara, and given that I am another of the millions smitten by her films, why should I be any different?
The facts of her life can be read in most news websites, so I won’t get into all the factoids that can be so fascinating, but rather mention three classic movies that round out the idea of “Maureen O’Hara” to me.
In 1961, Disney released a movie that set the hearts of millions of boys like me, teetering on the edge of approaching puberty, aflutter: The Parent Trap. Oh my stars and garters, Hayley Mills! Two of them! And the mother? Maureen O’Hara. Yes, the draw for The Parent Trap was Hayley Mills, But the reason to stay was the love story between the two great actors who played her parents, Brian Keith and Maureen O’Hara. The Parent Trap was my first introduction to O’Hara; yes, I know that she was an established actor with many film roles to her credit, but I was only 11 years old, and my awareness of cinema ran to only what was au courant.
Next, Christmas movies. I love Christmas movies, and starting next month, I will drive my family crazy with two months of holiday movies. You can count on The Miracle of 34th Street being one of the first. Again, cast as a divorced mother in Mo34, O’Hara is the cynical mother of no-nonsense Susan (Natalie Wood) who hires a man to be the Macy’s Santa Claus and dismayed to find out he claims to be the real Santa Claus. It is well-known around the CSL household that I love schmaltz, and the transformation of O’Hara’s character in Mo34 gets me every year. I love that movie, not for Natalie Woods, but for O’Hara.
Tell the truth: when you read the news that Maureen O’Hara died on Saturday, the first thing that passed through your mind was The Quiet Man, wasn’t it? For a woman who created many iconic roles, the iconic-est was that of Mary Kate Danaher, right? She will forever be remembered as the fiery Irish lass who gave John Wayne as good as she got, scene for scene, in The Quiet Man. I think it is a tribute to the film’s greatness that, even in today’s PC climate, the scene where Wayne drags O’Hara over half the county and is offered a stick “to beat the lovely lady”, we don’t get offended.
The Quiet Man was O’hara’s favorite from her oeuvre and John Wayne was her favorite leading man, so it is only fitting that I leave you with O’Hara’s defining image:
(Oh, and since O’hara was proudly Irish, Erin Go Bragh!)