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Maureen O'Hara, born as Maureen FitzSimmons on August 17, 1920 in Dublin, Ireland, is probably the most famous Fiery Redhead (and only famous Irish) leading lady in film history. She was (more or less) "discovered" by Charles Laughton, who gave her an important part in Jamaica Inn and her first starring role as Esmeralda in 1939's The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

With her flaming red hair and deep green eyes, O'Hara (called at one time "The Queen of Technicolor") is considered one of the greatest beauties of the Golden Age of Hollywood. She was also one of Hollywood's earliest Action Girls, donning Pirate Girl garb and seizing a sword (though she was never a Hot Chick with a Sword), or sporting the flimsiest of veils in Hollywood's best Arabian Nights Days style, to appear as the strong-willed heroine of quite a few Swashbucklers.

O'Hara was a long time friend and collaborator with the legendary John Wayne. The two appeared in five movies together: Rio Grande, The Quiet Man, The Wings of Eagles, McLintock! and Big Jake. Like Wayne she worked extensively with iconic director John Ford.


This actress provided examples of:

  • Action Girl
  • Fiery Redhead: Look at that photo. It's not a dye job!
  • Green-Eyed Redhead: Probably popularized the Phenotype Stereotype of Irish being green-eyed redheads. Notably, she's one of the few famous actresses ever to naturally be a green-eyed redhead.
  • Hot Mom: In movies like The Parent Trap and McLintlock!
  • Oireland: Her fame probably helped foster the misleading view that the Irish are all redheads.
  • Plucky Girl
  • So Beautiful It's a Curse: She had trouble landing roles at times, because directors thought her too pretty. There was also a common attitude at the time that pretty actresses couldn't actually act, despite the fact that O'Hara had won numerous awards for it in Ireland.

Some notable films Maureen O'Hara appeared in include:

  • Kicking the Moon Around, as the Secretary (1938)
  • Little Miss Molly, as Eileen O'Shea (1938)
  • Jamaica Inn, as Mary, niece of Bad Baronet Sir Humphrey Pengallen (1938)
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame, as Esmeralda (1939)
  • A Bill of Divorcement, as Sydney Fairfield (1940) -- A remake of Katherine Hepburn's 1932 premiere movie.
  • Dance, Girl, Dance, as Judy O'Brien (1940)
  • How Green Was My Valley, as Angarad Morgan (1941)
  • To the Shores of Tripoli, as Mary Carter (1942)
  • Ten Gentlemen from West Point, Carolyn Bainbridge (1942)
  • Rafael Sabatini's The Black Swan, as Lady Margaret Denby (1942) -- She appears opposite Tyrone Power in her first Swashbuckler, in which she transforms at the end into a Pirate Girl
  • Immortal Sergeant, as Valentine Lee (1943) -- With Henry Fonda
  • This Land is Mine, as Louise Martin (1943) -- A moving drama of Occupied France, in which Charles Laughton is a reluctant saboteur.
  • Buffalo Bill, as Louisa Frederici Cody (1944) -- Opposite Joel McCrea as the eponymous William Frederick Cody. Her first Western.
  • The Spanish Main, as Contessa Francesca (1945) -- Another Swashbuckler film, very similar to The Black Swan, but with Paul Henried as the raffish (though in this case rather elderly) Pirate. Walter Slezak steals the show.
  • Sinbad the Sailor, as Shireen (1947) -- Her first Arabian Nights Days Swashbuckler, opposite Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., as the eponymous mariner. Walter Slezak doesn't quite steal the show.
  • Miracle on 34th Street, as Doris Walker (1947)
  • Sitting Pretty, as Tracey King (1948) -- The film that introduced Clifton Webb as Mr. Belvedere.
  • Bagdad, as Princess Marjan (1949) -- Another Arabian Nights Days Swashbuckler, with Paul Christian as Prince Hassan and Vincent Price as the Evil Vizier lusting after the princess.
  • Comanche Territory, as Katie Howard (1950) -- Another Western [1], opposite MacDonald Carey of Soap Opera fame.
  • Tripoli, as the Comtesse D'Arneau (1950) -- Yeah, a War Movie, Pirate movie, and Arabian Nights Days movie, featuring the U.S. Marines fighting Barbary Pirates and Maureen in the inevitable yashmak. Rather a dull affair.
  • Rio Grande, as Kathleen Yorke (1950) -- Maureen's first picture with John Wayne, her first with John Ford, and the last of Ford's great "Cavalry Trilogy".
  • Flame of Araby, as Princess Tanya (1951) -- Arabian Nights Days again, this time opposite Jeff Chandler.
  • At Sword's Point, as Claire, the Daughter of Athos (1952) -- Another Swashbuckler, in which the children of The Three Musketeers unite to oppose the evil Duc de Lavalle. Maureen is a full-blown sword-swinging Action Girl in this one, opposite Cornell Wilde as the Son of D'Artagnan.
  • The Quiet Man, as Mary Kate Danaher (1952) -- Her second with Ford and Wayne, Maureen is cast entirely against type as a Fiery Redhead from Oireland.
  • Against All Flags, as Prudence "Spitfire" Stephens (1952) -- Her last, and possibly best, Pirate Swashbuckler, fittingly opposite Errol Flynn.
  • The Long Gray Line, as Mary O'Donnell (1955) -- Her third with John Ford, this time opposite Tyrone Power.
  • Lady Godiva of Coventry, as Lady Godiva (1955) -- Maureen does indeed play the eponymous first nude tax-protestor, though her Godiva Hair ensures that she does not shock the sensibilities even of the nun who leads her horse.
  • Lisbon, as Sylvia Merrill (1956) -- Chiefly interesting for having been directed by her co-star, Ray Milland.
  • The Wings of Eagles, as Min Wead (1957) -- Her third with John Wayne and fourth with John Ford. A military Romantic Comedy.
  • The Parent Trap, as Maggie McKendrick (1961) -- The Disney comedy, with Maureen as the mother of Hayley Mills -- and Hayley Mills -- and estranged wife of Mitch Evers.
  • Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, as Peggy Hobbs (1962) -- Opposite Jimmy Stewart.
  • Spencer's Mountain, as Olivia Spencer (1963) -- Opposite Henry Fonda. The film that inspired The Waltons.
  • McClintock, as Katherine Gilhooley McLintock (1963) -- Her fourth with John Wayne, but no John Ford this time around.
  • The Rare Breed, as Martha Price (1966) -- A Western opposite Jimmy Stewart.
  • Big Jake, as Martha McCandles (1971) -- Her fifth and last film with John Wayne. [2]
  • The Red Pony, as Ruth Tiflin (1973) -- Opposite Henry Fonda.
  • Only the Lonely, as Rose Muldoon (1991) -- As John Candy's domineering mother. Her last cinematic film to date.

Notes

  1. Whaddya mean, you figured that out already?
  2. Eight years later, O'Hara initiated the petition to have Wayne awarded a Congressional Gold Medal inscribed "John Wayne -- American", which was awarded to him on May 26, 1979 -- 17 days before his death from cancer.
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