TCM Summer Under the Stars: Day Seventeen — Maureen O’Hara

A tough Irish lass.

Maureen O’Hara was a green-eyed, titian-haired beauty whose personality and splendor practically leapt off of the silver screen. She starred in such beloved classics as The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), How Green Was My Valley (1941), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), and The Quiet Man (1952), and enjoyed a career that spanned from the 1930s to her final appearance in 2000.


Maureen FitzSimons was born near Dublin, Ireland, on August 17, 1920, one of six children born to Charles, a clothing merchant, and Marguerite, a former actress with the Abbey Theatre. A chubby tomboy as a child, Maureen took classes in ballet and acting, put on family shows with her brothers and sisters, and decided to become an actress after performing on a local radio show. She studied drama at the Apprentice School of the Abbey Theatre, and at the age of 15, she was the youngest student to complete the Guildhall School of Music’s drama course. She also excelled in academics, receiving a medal as the leading honor student for the entire British Isles in an annual scholarship competition.

In late 1937, Maureen was in attendance at a civic celebration in Dublin where American entertainer Harry Richman was the featured guest. Maureen’s beauty caught his eye and Richman mentioned her to his producers when he traveled to London a few days later. A short time later, Maureen was invited to London to do a screen test, and she was promptly cast in a small role as a secretary in Richman’s new picture, Kicking the Moon Around (1938). While still in London, Maureen was cast in the title role of My Irish Molly (made in 1938, but not released in the U.S. until two years later).

In The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Shortly before Maureen was scheduled to return to Dublin, she was invited to meet with German film producer Erich Pommer, who, along with actor Charles Laughton, had formed a production company called Mayflower Pictures. Sources differ as to whether it was Pommer or Laughton who first spotted Maureen (both claim to have discovered her), but the reality is that she was judged to be perfect for a role in Mayflower’s upcoming production of Jamaica Inn (1939), and she was cast in the Alfred Hitchcock-directed film. Before the release of the film, her stage name was changed to “O’Hara.” Later that year, she signed a contract with RKO Studios, moved to Hollywood, and made her American film debut as Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)


With husband, Capt. Charles Blair.

  • O’Hara was reportedly the first choice to play Anna in The King and I, but composer Richard Rogers put the kibosh on the plan because he didn’t want Anna played by a “pirate queen” (a reference to O’Hara’s many roles in swashbucklers).
  • O’Hara was having lunch with actress Lucille Ball when Ball met her future husband, Desi Arnaz, for the first time.
  • O’Hara’s daughter, Bronwyn, was named after the character played by Anna Lee in How Green Was My Valley (1941).
  • In 1978, O’Hara became the first woman to be president of an American airline with scheduled flights after the death of her third husband, aviation pioneer and pilot Charles Blair. The airline was Antilles Air Boats, located in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • In 2014, O’Hara – who never received a competitive Oscar nomination – was given an honorary Academy Award for her on-screen roles that “glowed with passion, warmth and strength.” The actress died in her sleep the following year at the age of 95.


See Sitting Pretty.

My Maureen O’Hara pick was surprisingly easy – Sitting Pretty (1948) is a delightful film starring O’Hara and Robert Young as a married couple with three lively sons. When the couple hires a woman, “Lynn” Belvedere, to serve as a housekeeper and nanny, they are stunned to learn that Lynn is a dapper older gentleman who winds up turning their household upside down. If you’ve never seen this one, do yourself a favor and check it out. I promise you’ll be glad you did.

And join me for Day 18 of Summer Under the Stars!

~ by shadowsandsatin on August 16, 2020.

3 Responses to “TCM Summer Under the Stars: Day Seventeen — Maureen O’Hara”

  1. What a coincidence! I was hawking Sitting Pretty on twitter this morning. We could all use a little bit of fun these days.

  2. […] Day 17: Maureen O’Hara […]

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