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Maureen O'Hara

Maureen O'HaraAKA Maureen FitzSimons

Born: 17-Aug-1920
Birthplace: Ranelagh, Ireland
Died: 24-Oct-2015
Location of death: Boise, ID
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA

Gender: Female
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Actor

Nationality: Ireland
Executive summary: Miracle on 34th Street

Maureen FitzSimons was a pretty redheaded tomboy who learned judo, fenced, played soccer, and showed a keen interest in performing. She was accepted for drama classes at the prestigious Abbey Theater School when she was only 14, and sang and acted on Irish radio through her teens. Her parents knew, though, that performers rarely earned a decent living, so they made sure she spent most of her time studying bookkeeping and stenography.

At 17, she landed a tiny role in her first film, The Playboy, filmed in London. Strikingly beautiful and a natural in front of the cameras, she was almost immediately offered her first leading role, opposite Charles Laughton in Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn. Laughton suggested her stage name, and she became Maureen O'Hara. He also invited her to accompany him Hollywood and play Esmerelda to his Quasimoto in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Already an established star at 19, O'Hara was one of Hollywood's favorite leading ladies through the next two decades. She stood apart from other starlets by virtue of her eagerness to perform unladylike scenes -- fistfights, swordplay, even pratfalls, but always with attitude and intelligence. As color films came into vogue, her distinctive, fiery red hair made her stand out even more -- she was nicknamed "The Queen of Technicolor." And of course, O'Hara proved the perfect leading lady for John Wayne, a woman who came across every bit as tough as he did, in their five films together.

In some of her best films, she played the coal miner's daughter in love with preacher Walter Pidgeon in How Green Was My Valley, the schoolmarm loved by Laughton in This Land is Mine, Natalie Wood's mother in the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street, the housewife who hired famed butler-philosopher Mr Belvedere in Sitting Pretty with Robert Young, the Southern belle at odds with Wayne in Rio Grande, the Irish spinster he pursued in The Quiet Man, his estranged wife in McLintock, and Hayley Mills' mother in the original The Parent Trap with Brian Keith. She also starred in a 1960 TV remake of the critically-acclaimed Mrs Miniver that some critics claimed was better than the Greer Garson original.

In 1957, O'Hara joined with Liberace to sue Confidential magazine -- the National Enquirer of its time. The magazine had announced in shrieking headlines that she had been seen in a passionate embrace with a mysterious Hispanic man in the back row at Grauman's Chinese Theater, but O'Hara offered her passport as proof she had been out of the country at the time of any alleged tryst. And why was Liberace involved? In a separate article, the magazine had alleged that Liberace was -- brace yourself -- homosexual, but the famed pianist somehow proved he too had been defamed, and Confidential was eventually driven out of business.

O'Hara left Hollywood in the mid-1970s, but returned to cinema as John Candy's ferociously overbearing mother in Only the Lonely, and also starred in a few TV movies through the 1990s. Her last performance was opposite Eric Stoltz, playing his high school Latin teacher in a terrific 2000 TV movie, The Last Dance. In her last years before dying in 2015, O'Hara frequently travelled between her homes in Ireland, New York, California, and the Virgin Islands. Her autobiography, Tis Herself, was published in 2004.

Her father, Charles FitzSimons, was an Irish shopkeeper and something of a local celebrity, as part-owner of the Shamrock Rovers soccer team, which now plays in the Football League of Ireland. Her brother, Charles FitzSimons, was a TV producer whose credits include superhero sagas The Green Hornet with Bruce Lee and the 1970s Wonder Woman with Lynda Carter. Another brother, James, had a long but unremarkable career as a supporting actor; sometimes billed as James Lilburn and sometimes as James O'Hara; he played a priest in The Quiet Man and had a recurring role as a cop on TV's Batman with Adam West.

At 19, O'Hara married George H. Brown, a film producer and occasional scriptwriter whose best works include the pre-Pearl Harbor call to war 49th Parallel with Laurence Olivier, and the first of Margaret Rutherford's delightful 1960s 'Miss Marple' mysteries, Murder She Said. Their marriage ended when O'Hara's parents insisted on an annulment, and although they had been married for more than a year, publicity at the time stressed that their union "had not been consummated." O'Hara's second husband was director Will Price, who helmed her romp with the Marines in Tripoli, but they divorced after he took to the bottle. Her last husband was Charles Blair, a man sometimes described as a real-life John Wayne -- a retired Air Force Brigadier General, test pilot, and pilot for Pan American Airways who had, in 1951, flown the first solo flight over the North Pole. After quitting Pan Am, Blair ran Antilles Airboats, a commuter airline in the Caribbean. After his death she took over the company, which made Maureen O'Hara the first woman to serve as president of an American airline.

Father: Charles FitzSimons (haberdasher)
Mother: Marguerita Lilburn FitzSimons
Sister: Peggy FitzSimons (nun)
Sister: Florrie FitzSimons (d.)
Brother: Charles B. FitzSimons (TV producer, b. 1924, d. 2001 liver failure)
Sister: Margot FitzSimons Edwards
Brother: James Lilburn FitzSimons ("James O'Hara", actor, b. 11-Sep-1927, d. 1992)
Husband: George H. Brown (film producer, b. 1913, m. 12-Jun-1939, annulled Aug-1940, d. 2001)
Husband: Will Price (m. 29-Dec-1941, div. 11-Aug-1953, d. 1962 heart attack)
Daughter: Bronwyn Brigid Price (b. Jun-1944 with Will)
Husband: Charles F. Blair, Jr. (aviator, b. 1909, m. 1968, d. 2-Sep-1978 plane crash)

    Conservatory: Abbey Theatre School, Dublin, Ireland

    RKO Radio Pictures under contract
    Hollywood Walk of Fame 7000 Hollywood Blvd.
    Endorsement of Liggett Group Chesterfield cigarettes
    Appendectomy (1941)
    Visited Disneyland on Opening Day
    Heart Attack
    Irish Ancestry
    Risk Factors: Smoking

    The Last Dance (29-Oct-2000)
    Cab to Canada (29-Nov-1998)
    The Christmas Box (17-Dec-1995)
    Only the Lonely (24-May-1991) · Rose
    The Red Pony (18-Mar-1973)
    Big Jake (26-May-1971) · Martha McCandles
    How Do I Love Thee? (Oct-1970)
    The Rare Breed (2-Feb-1966) · Martha Price
    The Battle of the Villa Fiorita (26-May-1965)
    Spencer's Mountain (16-May-1963)
    McLintock! (23-Feb-1963) · Katherine McLintock
    Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (15-Jun-1962) · Peggy
    The Parent Trap (12-Jun-1961)
    The Deadly Companions (6-Jun-1961) · Kit Tilden
    Our Man in Havana (27-Jan-1960) · Beatrice
    The Wings of Eagles (22-Feb-1957)
    Everything But the Truth (1-Dec-1956)
    Lisbon (17-Aug-1956) · Sylvia Merrill
    Lady Godiva (2-Nov-1955)
    The Magnificent Matador (24-May-1955)
    The Long Gray Line (9-Feb-1955) · Mary O'Donnell
    Fire Over Africa (29-Jun-1954)
    The Redhead from Wyoming (2-Jan-1953) · Kate Maxwell
    War Arrow (1953) · Elaine Corwin
    Against All Flags (24-Dec-1952)
    The Quiet Man (21-Jul-1952)
    Kangaroo: The Australian Story (16-May-1952)
    At Sword's Point (1952)
    Flame of Araby (19-Dec-1951)
    Rio Grande (15-Nov-1950)
    Tripoli (9-Nov-1950)
    Comanche Territory (7-Apr-1950) · Katie Howard
    Bagdad (23-Nov-1949)
    Father Was a Fullback (30-Sep-1949)
    The Forbidden Street (31-Mar-1949)
    A Woman's Secret (5-Mar-1949) · Marian Washburn
    Sitting Pretty (10-Mar-1948) · Tacey
    The Foxes of Harrow (24-Sep-1947)
    Miracle on 34th Street (2-May-1947) · Doris Walker
    The Homestretch (23-Apr-1947) · Leslie Hale
    Sinbad the Sailor (17-Jan-1947) · Shireen
    Do You Love Me? (17-May-1946)
    Sentimental Journey (6-Mar-1946)
    The Spanish Main (10-Sep-1945) · Francesca
    Buffalo Bill (13-Apr-1944) · Louisa Cody
    The Fallen Sparrow (19-Aug-1943) · Toni Donne
    This Land Is Mine (17-Mar-1943) · Louise Martin
    Immortal Sergeant (11-Jan-1943) · Valentine Lee
    The Black Swan (23-Dec-1942) · Lady Margaret Denby
    Ten Gentlemen from West Point (4-Jun-1942)
    To the Shores of Tripoli (11-Mar-1942)
    How Green Was My Valley (28-Oct-1941) · Angharad
    They Met in Argentina (25-Apr-1941) · Lolita
    Dance, Girl, Dance (30-Aug-1940)
    A Bill of Divorcement (13-May-1940) · Sydney Fairfield
    The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1-Sep-1939) · Esmeralda
    Jamaica Inn (15-May-1939)

Author of books:
Tis Herself: A Memoir (2004)

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