Maureen O Hara Biography

Maureen O'Hara

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Born Maureen Fitzsimons, she was interested in show business at an early age and began to perform on the stage as well as local radio.

She was born on 17 August 1920 in the Dublin suburb of Ranelagh. She was the second eldest of the six children of Charles Stewart Parnell FitzSimons and Marguerita Lilburn Fitzsimons. Her father was in the clothing business while her mother was a former opera singer who became a successful woman's clothier. Since childhood Maureen has supported the Shamrock Rovers Football Club due to her father's influence. She was also raised a Roman Catholic, which she still is today.

Her dream was to become a stage actress. She was educated at John Street West Girls' School in Dublin until the age of six when she started learning drama, music and dance. By the time she was ten years old, she had joined the Rathmines Theatre Company and was working in amateur theatres after school in the evenings. By the time she was 14, Maureen was winning awards in drama contests.

O'Hara's father did not entirely support his daughter's ambitions and persuaded her to enroll in a business school to ensure she had a career to fall back on. She became a proficient bookkeeper and typist, which proved useful later in her career.

In 1938, at the age of 18, Maureen got a small part as a secretary in the film 'Kicking The Moon Around'. Later that year she appeared as Eileen O'Shea, in 'My Irish Molly'.

She then went for a screen test in London, which was deemed to be far from satisfactory. However, actor Charles Loughton later saw the test and overlooked her heavy make up and costume to see the potential she had. He took her to see his business partner Erich Pommer who agreed that she had talent. As a result, she was signed to his new company Mayflower Pictures for seven years.

After appearing in 'Jamaica Inn' in 1939, Maureen moved to Hollywood. Her name was also changed from Fitzsimon to O'Hara by Pommer as it was shorter for the credits. Her first film in the US was 'The Hunchback Of Notre Dame'(1939), with Charles Laughton. Maureen's next two films, 'A Bill Of Divorcement' and 'Dance, Girl, Dance', both in 1940, met with lukewarm reviews from the critics.

O'Hara married her first husband at the age of 19 years in 1939. She secretly wed Gerge H Brown, a film producer, production assistant and occasional scriptwriter. The marriage was later annulled in 1941. She wed American film director William Houston Price later that year. She gave birth to their daughter Bronwyn Fitzsimons Price in 1944 but later split with her husband in 1953 due to his alcohol abuse.

In 1941, she played Angharad in 'How Green Was My Valley'. In 1947, Maureen appeared in two big hits, 'Sinbad The Sailor' and 'Miracle On 34th Street'. The latter is now considered a Christmas classic, due to her performance.

She then acted in 'The Black Swan' (1942), 'This Land is Mine' (1943), 'Buffalo Bill' (1944), 'The Spanish Main' (1945), 'Do You Love Me' (1946),'Sinbad, The Sailor' (1947), 'Sitting Pretty' (1948), 'A Woman's Secret' (1949), 'Rio Grande' (1950) and 'Flame of Araby' in 1951.

1952 saw Maureen play Mary Kate Danaher, in John Ford's hit 'The Quiet Man'. This film garnered Ford an Oscar for Best Director, but it was the performance by Maureen that many observers said made the film great.

Maureen took a break from films, after 1957's 'The Wings Of Eagles', returning in 1960 in 'Our Man In Havana'. In 1961, she played Maggie McKendrick in the ever popular 'Parent Trap'. Two years later, she starred in the tearjerker, 'Spencer’s Mountain'.

Maureen married her third husband, Charles Blair, in 1968. Blair was a pioneer of transatlantic aviation, a former Brigadier General in the US Air Force and a former Chief Pilot at the Pan Am airline. Sadly, Blair died in 1978 when the engine of the aircraft he was flying from St. Croix to St. Thomas exploded.

A few years after her marriage to Blair, Maureen was beginning to make films at a lesser rate. After 'The Big Jake' in 1971, she wasn't seen on the silver screen for 18 years, although she appeared in one made for television movie. In 1991, she returned to film with 'Only The Lonely', and her last film to date was 'The Last Dance', in 2000.

For her contributions to the motion picture industry, Maureen O'Hara has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 2004, Maureen O'Hara released her autobiography ''Tis Herself'. In the same year she was also honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Irish Film and Television Academy in her native Dublin, Ireland.

She now spends her time between homes in County Cork, Arizona, and the Virgin Islands.

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