Maureen O’Hara

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August 17, 1920 – October 24, 2015

Maureen O’Hara is perhaps the most famous Irish actress of all time. Her expressive face and flaming auburn hair earned her the nickname “The Queen of Technicolor.” Bitten by the performing bug at a very young age, Maureen (born FitzSimons) studied drama, music and dance in Ireland throughout her youth. At 17, she was discovered in a stage production and invited to screen test in London by actor/director Charles Laughton. Despite her youth and her unhappiness with the screen test process, she signed a contract with Laughton and his new Mayflower Pictures. O’Hara’s career in London started slowly. Her most notable early appearance was in Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn alongside Laughton. Her performance drew attention, though, and soon she was on a ship across the Atlantic with Laughton and her mother to begin filming with RKO Pictures on The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

O’Hara’s trip to Hollywood turned out to be more or less a permanent move thanks to two things: 1) World War II broke out and filming in London became impossible. And 2) She started finding a LOT of success.

By 1941, O’Hara had landed a role in John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley. The film was a massive success, earned a ton of Oscar nominations and made O’Hara a star. It began a 20 year collaboration with Ford that helped define her career. She starred in the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street in 1947 and, in 1950, filmed her first movie with John Wayne. Rio Bravo was a hit and led to a half dozen more classics featuring the duo including The Quiet Man and McLintock!.

The better part of her career found her in big-budget action/adventure films opposite a who’s-who of Hollywood leading men. She often performed her own stunts and typically stood toe-to-toe with even the most scene-chewing partners. She retired from the industry abruptly in 1971, but returned 20 years later to appear in the John Candy comedy Only the Lonely.

In her “retirement”, O’Hara helped her third husband, Charles Blair (who was an Air Force Brigadier General and aviation pioneer,) run his airline based in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Following his death in 1978, she took over as CEO and president of the airline, where she served for 3 years. Despite a number of health issues and a couple of cancer diagnoses, Maureen O’Hara lived to the ripe-old age of 95. She died in her sleep at her grandson’s home in Idaho.

Burial

Arlington National Cemetery – Arlington, VA

Specific Location

Section 2, Grave 4966; Maureen and her husband are buried 4 rows west of the intersection of Roosevelt Dr. and Grant Dr. (across from the John Dill Memorial).

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