Actress Maureen O’Hara, best known as the favorite leading lady of the late John Wayne has died. She was 95 years of age.
Born Maureen FitzSimons in a Dublin suburb, she grew up wanting to be a stage actress. She trained in drama, dance and music. She went to London for a screen test which was viewed by most as a flop. However, Charles Laughton saw the test and was quite impressed. As a result she was signed to a contract with his Mayflower Pictures. That led to her first feature, Jamaica Inn, directed by the great Alfred Hitchcock. It would be Hitchcock’s last movie filmed in the UK as he moved to Hollywood afterward.
Maureen FitzSimons went to Hollywood as well, to star in The Hunchback of Notre Dame opposite Charles Loughton. He insisted she be billed as Maureen O’Hara and that is how she was known from this point forward. RKO Pictures bought her contract after World War II began. This is what led up to her real breakthrough role as “Angharad” in How Green Was My Valley. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won five, including Best Picture and Best Director for John Ford.
Miracle on 34th Street was her next really big success, coming in 1947. In the years between 1941 and 1947 she made a slew of other pictures including To the Shores of Tripoli, Ten Gentlemen from West Point, This Land is Mine (her final film with Charles Laughton) and Sentimental Journey.
Although Rio Grande wasn’t released until 1950, shooting began in 1948 and that started a 24 year, five film relationship between Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne. They also made The Quiet Man, The Wings of Eagles, McClintock! (can’t forget that all important exclamation point) and Big Jake between 1948 and 1972. Maureen O’Hara stood 5’8” in her stocking feet and some say her height was one reason John Wayne liked working with her.
O’Hara became only the second woman in Academy Award history to be honored with the Honorary Oscar without ever having been nominated for one. In 2012 O’Hara’s family raised allegations of elder abuse and she wound up moving to the U. S. to live with her grandson.
Maureen O’Hara was married three times during her life and had one child, a daughter named Bronwyn FitzSimons, also known as Browyn Bridget Price.