Happy 95th birthday to Maureen O’Hara! The star of “The Quiet Man” and “Miracle on 34th Street” was born Maureen FitzSimons on August 17, 1920 in Dublin, Ireland. The ravishing redhead was known as “the Queen of Technicolor” in the ’40s and ’50s.
She made her film debut in 1938’s “My Irish Molly” and had her first breakout role as Esmeralda in 1939’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” opposite Charles Laughton. She became a favorite of director John Ford, starring as an unhappily married woman in a small mining town in “How Green Was My Valley” and in four films with John Wayne, including “Rio Grande” and the quintessentially Irish film “The Quiet Man.”
“I’ve always been a tough Irish lass,” she told The Telegraph in 2004, saying she was a tomboy growing up and boasting how she could throw a punch. John Wayne once called her “my kind of woman,” saying, “She’s a great guy. I’ve had many friends, and I prefer the company of men. Except for Maureen O’Hara.”
As she told the Telegraph, her first kiss came at 18 on a film set: “My first real kisses came from my leading men. Imagine how nervous I was when I suddenly found myself kissing men like Tyrone Power.”
Her other films include “A Bill of Divorcement” (in which she reprised the role originated by Katharine Hepburn), “The Black Swan,” “The Spanish Main,” and “At Sword’s Point.”
She’s also known for her role as the mother whose twin daughters try to reunite her with her ex-husband (Brian Keith) in the 1961 Disney film “The Parent Trap.” She played another memorable mother in 1991’s “Only the Lonely,” as John Candy’s overbearing Irish mother.
On the small screen, O’Hara starred in a 1973 TV movie “The Red Pony” with Henry Fonda and, in the ’90s, “Cab to Canada” with a young Haley Joel Osment, and the sentimental holiday classic “The Magic Box” with Richard Thomas.
O’Hara suffered a stroke in 2005 and now lives with her nephew in Idaho, according to the Irish Examiner.
In 2014, the wheelchair-bound actress received an Honorary Oscar, presented by Clint Eastwood and Liam Neeson. Neeson called her “one of the true legends of cinema” and “one of the most adventurous women who ever lived.”
She was only the the second actress, after Myrna Loy in 1991, to receive a Honorary Oscar without having previously been nominated for a competitive Oscar.
She accepted her Oscar by thanking Charles Laughton, John Wayne and “that old devil himself, the Great John Ford.”