Legendary Irish actress Maureen O’Hara died in her sleep today (October 24) at her home in Boise, Idaho at the age of 95. Born August 17, 1920 in Dublin, the fire redhead became known for playing fiercely passionate but “sensible” heroines in a wide range of classic films from “How Green Was My Valley” to the uplifting “Miracle on 34th Street” and bantered unforgettably with John Wayne, including her favorite movie, ‘The Quiet Man.” In fact her family stated that they had been listening to music from that movie when she passed.
“As an actress, Maureen O’Hara brought unyielding strength and sudden sensitivity to every role she played. Her characters were feisty and fearless, just as she was in real life. She was also proudly Irish and spent her entire lifetime sharing her heritage and the wonderful culture of the Emerald Isle with the world,” according to a family biography.
O’Hara was first educated at the John Street West Girls’ School near Thomas Street in Dublin’sLiberties Area. From the ages of 6 to 17 she trained in drama, music and dance, and at the age of 10 joined the Rathmines Theatre Company and worked in amateur theatre in the evenings after her lessons. While “How Green Was My Valley” went on to win five Oscars including best picture and best director for John Ford, beating out Orson Welles and “Citizen Kane” among others. O’Hara was never nominated for an Oscar.
However, she was was presented with an Honorary Academy Award in 1994, that bore the inscription “To Maureen O’Hara, one of Hollywood’s brightest stars, whose inspiring performances glowed with passion, warmth and strength”. After Myrna Loy, O’Hara was only the second actress to receive an Academy Award for acting without having been nominated previously.
Other films included “Miracle on 34th Street;” “The Foxes of Harrow;” the comedy “Sitting Pretty,” as well as and the sports comedy “Father Was a Fullback,” and pirate adventures such as “The Black Swan” with Tyrone Power, “The Spanish Main” with Paul Henreid, “Sinbad the Sailor” with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and “Against All Flags” with Errol Flynn. In addition, O’Hara was said to have been John Wayne’s favorite leading lady and they appeared in 5-films together, directed by John Ford. They also became good friends off-screen.
“We met through Ford, and we hit it right off,” she remarked in 1991. “I adored him, and he loved me. But we were never sweethearts. Never, ever.”
Maureen O’Hara was married 3-times, including to Brig. Gen. Charles Blair, whom she married in 1968. At that time she quit movies to live with him in the Virgin Islands, where he operated an airline, which she managed following his death in a plane crash ten years later. She eventually sold the business and returned to movies in 1991, playing John Candy’s mother in a sentimental drama, “Only the Lonely.”
She is survived by her daughter, Bronwyn FitzSimons of Glengarriff, Ireland; her grandson, Conor FitzSimons of Boise and two great-grandchildren.