Maureen O’Hara may have been the cool, clean heroine in many of her films, but a notorious sex scandal hurt her career
The online magazine, Slate, recently revisited, via podcast, the infamous 1957 Maureen O’Hara libel case she took against Confidential magazine, the National Enquirer of its day.
Confidential had claimed that she and a handsome Latino man had been seen making out in grand style at Grauman's Chinese Theater, in Hollywood.
The manager of the theater had seen the pair stretched out across three seats with the Latin lover on top, the magazine reported, and he had to ask them to leave.
They didn't, and he came back again to see O’Hara seated in the Latino man’s lap, so he threw them out.
The allegation was shocking, though it shouldn't have been. O’Hara had a pristine virginal reputation, a conservative Irish lass with no time for casting couch shenanigans.
It wasn't the truth actually.
Read more: When Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne got kinky
Maureen O'Hara's marriages
O'Hara already had two marriages to her credit. One with George Brown - amazingly the father of the famed magazine editor Tina Brown - who she met on her first film set, shortly before she set out for Hollywood from Ireland. They divorced.
Once in the United States, she fell in with one William Price, a legendary boozer when he wasn’t hooking up in whorehouses. In his spare time, he was an unemployed producer. This second marriage ended up very nastily as O’Hara began another affair.
O'Hara's affair with Enrique Parra Hernandez
Enter the Latin lover, Enrique Parra Hernandez, a dashing lawyer and politician who met O’Hara at a Mexico City film festival. O’Hara was truly smitten.
“I think at first I was just so happy to be included in his life and have him show a sincere interest in mine. When I was with Enrique, we were inseparable,” she said.
She was certainly dating Hernandez and passionately in love at the time she was said to have had an amorous evening at the movies.
It occurred in 1954, and by the 1957 trial, the usher, the assistant manager, and the manager all swore it was Maureen O'Hara who entered Grauman's Chinese Theater with a Latino man.
As the Confidential writer noted, “Maureen had entered Grauman’s wearing a white silk blouse neatly buttoned. Now it wasn’t. The guy had come in wearing a spruce blue suit. Now he wasn’t. The coat was off, his collar was open, and his tie was hanging limply at half-mast in the steam.”
The fact that Hernandez was Hispanic added to the scandal. In the atmosphere of the time, Hispanics were considered lower-class peasants. That angle would certainly not be lost on Confidential, notorious for using the race and anti-gay codes.
Strangely too, Grauman’s was known as a place where Hollywood stars having affairs arrived separately took seats in the back row and had it on, not risking being seen at a hotel.
Of course, Confidential knew this and paid handsomely for ushers or managers to report Hollywood star sighting. O’Hara was a big fish.
She was spread across three seats - with the happy Latin American in the middle seat. They stopped when the usher flashed his flashlight at them but Confidential reported, “The manager had hardly returned to the candy stand out front before the usher from aisle C was on his heels with the breathless announcement, ‘They’re at it again!’”
O’Hara, however, denied it flatly and set about suing Confidential.
The libel trial against Confidential
This was a magazine that had lost a libel suit to Liberace, the famed pianist, when they suggested his theme song be “Mad About the Boy.”
The State of California had wanted to shut down Confidential for some time and they sued it for libelous stories. O'Hara's case was one of those included.
O’Hara’s defense was clear. She was a nice Irish girl who would never do that. She even brought her sister, a nun, along as a character witness.
Triumphantly, she produced her passport saying it couldn't have been her as her travel document showed her in Spain at the time.
Except the defense pointed out, no one seemed to be certain of the exact date three years after it happened, and it could very well have been when O'Hara was in the country.
The jury deadlocked and the state reached a deal with Confidential about their prying coverage. O’Hara claimed vindication but the mystery remains - who was it if not her making out in seat 35C at the theater that night?