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Robert Osborne - July 2014
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Maureen O'Hara

Robert Osborne on Maureen O'Hara

Of all the jaw-droppingly beautiful women who've become genuine movie stars (think Hedy Lamarr, Vivien Leigh, Merle Oberon, Rita Hayworth, Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner and others too numerous to mention), none has had a longer film career (62 years), has been filmed in Technicolor more often (34 times), has had a more versatile group of leading men (from John Wayne, John Payne and John Garfield to John Candy) or has spent more time held captive on a pirate ship--and furious about it, with her eyes flashing--than our TCM Star of the Month for July, the magnificent, red-headed Maureen O'Hara.

Irish to the core (she was born in County Dublin, Ireland), at age 18 she made two minor movies in England that brought her to the attention of the great Charles Laughton. He immediately saw in her the potential for a major international career. He also saw her as ideal for the leading female role in his next film, 1939's Jamaica Inn, which he was both co-producing and starring in, so he put her under personal contract and launched her into Big Time moviemaking. There was another lucky twist of fate attached: the film was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Quite a heady way to begin a film career: Laughton + Hitchcock + female lead. Immediately after, Laughton saw to it that she joined him in Hollywood to be his Esmeralda in the 1939 film version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Once in California she didn't leave for years, and moviegoers were always the richer for her being there. No question that the camera loved her. So did audiences, attracted not only by her beauty but also her Irish spunk, flashes of fire and lack of blarney. If there was a downside, it was the fact that when she made the 1942 swashbuckling adventure The Black Swan with Tyrone Power, she so neatly fit the image most moviegoers had of the kind of woman any pirate worth his salt would happily raise his sword for, she soon became the primary objective of all the first-tier scoundrels of the Seven Seas--a situation which caused her to be dismissed from consideration for several choice movie roles that would have suited her well. Case in point: The great composer Richard Rodgers refused to meet with her regarding the film version of The King and I, despite the fact she possessed a lovely singing voice, because, he said, "I won't have a pirate queen playing the role of Anna," (end of discussion).

But we'll be bringing you a wide variety of Maureen O'Hara movies every Tuesday this month, 26 in all, including five which will be TCM premieres, as well as John Ford's OscarĀ® winning best film of 1941, How Green Was My Valley, a film we showed in April at our TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, with the special treat of having Maureen O' join us in person at the screening. Now 93 (she turns 94 next month on August 17), she has lost none of her Irish spunk and good humor, and had particularly warm things to say about the importance of Charles Laughton, John Ford, John Wayne and God in her life and career. Beautiful, still, and a classy lady, still. You couldn't ask for better or more attractive company with whom to spend Tuesday nights this month on TCM.

by Robert Osborne

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