The word legend is often overused, but in the case of Maureen O’Hara it hardly does her justice.
Star or co-star of 60 Hollywood films, she conquered the silver screen more than any Irish person before or after her.
She passed away last weekend in Idaho at the home of her grandson with the music from The Quiet Man playing in the background. It was a fitting end to a remarkable life.
The Quiet Man was her singular triumph, mixing it up with John Wayne in a swashbuckling movie full of fight and passion and forever engraved in Irish American hearts.
It is remarkable how that movie continues to jump the generations in popularity, and there is no equal for it among other Irish films. It was ultimately about tragedy, love, loss and renewal, Wayne as the returned Yank and O'Hara as the local beauty, but boy, could they make sweet music together.
O’Hara was a wonderful actress. The scene with her and Wayne on their disastrous wedding night was as good as anything ever filmed by John Ford, the son of Irish parents who completed the triumvirate.
Ford, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, rated The Quiet Man at the very top of his canon of work along with Stagecoach.
It made Maureen O’Hara world famous forever. Yet when you trace her career she had no special inside track, a slip of a girl from Ireland who landed in Hollywood enticed by a letter from Charles Laughton who had loved her looks and acting skill.
Soon Maureen FitzSimons was no more, and Maureen O’Hara was born, acting with all the leading men of her day from Wayne to Laughton to Tyrone Power and many more besides.
The Hollywood studio system back then was equivalent in some way to indentured work. The star belonged to the studio and had no real choice in the roles they were given.
O’Hara became the hardest working woman in Hollywood, content to take what came her way.
There were some masterful gems. For those who failed to warm to The Quiet Man there was Miracle on 34th Street, the beautiful Christmas tale shot mostly in Macy’s store in New York at night when there were no customers around. O’Hara won legions of new fans for that too.
She began acting in the 1930s and continued into the 1990s, playing the smothering mother of cop John Candy in her last major film, Only the Lonely.
Then there was retirement in her beloved Co. Cork and eventually, after a sad episode involving her carer and her family embroiled in a legal spat, there came the move to Boise, Idaho where her grandson lived.
The greatest glory was still ahead, though, and it was only last year that Liam Neeson and Clint Eastwood presented O’Hara with an honorary Oscar and put right a wrong that should long ago have been acted upon.
Her parting wish was that “people visit Ireland and think of me.” It would be hard not too, especially out near Connemara and Mayo where The Quiet Man was filmed.
It is time a proper monument was built to her and Wayne in Connemara, and that the cottage at the center of the movie is restored.
When you think of all that Maureen O’Hara gave to Ireland and the millions who have visited because of her movies, it would be a very small price to pay.
Slan agus beannacht Maureen. You enriched every Irish and Irish Americans life.
May you rest in peace beside your beloved husband Charles Blair at Arlington National Cemetery.
Farewell to Maureen O'Hara - The life story of the legendary l...
Maureen O'Hara, who for decades reigned as Ireland's leading lady, passed away one week ago today. This video is a tribute to Maureen, her incredible life, and her legacy, which is sure to endure. Read more here: http://bit.ly/1XFIUUZPosted by IrishCentral.com on Saturday, October 31, 2015