Maureen O’Hara has found peace in Idaho – but still has a place in her heart for Ireland and Hollywood.
After a bitter legal struggle with a former personal assistant back in Cork, O’Hara has settled into a new life in Boise staying with her grandson Conor FitzSimons and as a great-grandmother to his two kids.
Allegations of elder abuse and financial mismanagement by her personal assistant Carolyn Murphy was made which Murphy strongly denied.
In a statement last summer in Glengarrif,Cork where she then lived O’Hara stated “Discoveries give me grave concern regarding the handling of my affairs . . . Carolyn Murphy’s no longer my personal assistant.”
Murphy replied “I have done nothing wrong . . . I didn’t take any money” and she strongly denied allegations of elder abuse. ”
The 92-year-old screen legend has revealed her contentment in her new home in a moving interview with the Idaho Statesman.
And even now, as she relaxes in the company of her great-grandchildren, O’Hara finds time for some self critique as ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ fills the seasonal screens again.
As they watched the 1947 classic, she told Bill Roberts from the paper: “How did I do that? Why didn’t I pay attention? Oh, I did a good job with that scene.”
O’Hara is now living in a purpose built new home in Idaho after her only grandson Conor FitzSimons brought her back from Ireland.
She is reticent to talk about the dispute with her former PA but plans to write a book on the experience.
Her New York based lawyer Ed Fickess explained: “Maureen took steps to discharge the power of attorney, then fended off a second power of attorney and took steps to be reunited with her family, especially her grandson.”
The report says that her recently built Boise home is dotted with memorabilia from her more than a half-century in film including a poster from 1955’s ‘The Magnificent Matador’ co-starring Anthony Quinn, and a photo of John Wayne, with whom she made five movies.
Roberts reports that when O’Hara talks about her new hometown, she sometimes uses both city and state: Boise, Idaho. “Funny thing,” she said, “when you are in the picture business, you don’t learn a thing by the one name.
“Scripts must tell the audience exactly what location you are talking about. People say, ‘Oh, this is my town ... and they tell their neighbors you better go see that movie because we get credit for our town. The most important part of showing a movie is to please the public.”
Recalling her childhood in ‘Dirty’ Dublin, O’Hara admitted she sees similarities between the city of her birth and her new home.
“I see cows and sheep along the roadside in the Treasure Valley and it reminds me of home,” she told Roberts.
She said she is cautious about talking a lot about Boise, lest she offend Dubliners. “Then the dirty Dubs will say, ‘Why the hell didn’t she say anything about Dublin?’” she added.
Roberts reports that O’Hara rises late in the morning, usually about 10 a.m. She has breakfast, reads the newspaper and does about an hour of memory exercises, focusing on items such as the date and the name of the president of the United States.
“It’s terrible when you’re getting old and starting to forget,” O’Hara said. “It will happen to you.”
Most days she will listen to one of the three albums she cut in her career and a favorite features Irish songs.
“Our mother was a beautiful contralto,” O’Hara said, adding that her sister, Peggy, was a soprano. “If she had not entered the convent she would have become an opera singer.”
Not that O’Hara, a soprano, was known for her singing voice in the movies.
“They never wanted me to be singing,” she said of the studios. “They wanted me to be a stuntwoman and do fighting.”
Visited daily by her great-grandchildren, BayLee and Everest, O’Hara is happy in her new surroundings.
The screen goddess also reminisced about her working relationship with John Wayne.
She added: “We were two tough, don’t-give-in, keep-at-it people that enjoyed working together. We enjoyed working together because we knew how to be tough but not hateful.”
The author says that Wayne once called O’Hara the best guy he ever knew, to which she responds, “He was one of the best guys I ever knew.”
The Wayne/O’Hara connection is still alive and vibrant says Roberts, three decades after Wayne’s death.
He reports that O’Hara will travel to Wayne’s hometown of Winterset, Iowa, in May to attend Wayne’s 106th birthday celebration. The gathering will pay tribute to O’Hara by showing movies the two made together.
“It will be as good as having John Wayne here,” said Brian Downes, a former newspaper reporter who is now director of the John Wayne Birthplace Museum.
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