Maureen O’Hara, 1920-2015

I was a bit taken aback by the opening of The Telegraph’s obituary of Maureen O’Hara:

Maureen O’Hara, who has died aged 95, appeared in more bad films than she cared to remember but nevertheless emerged as a Hollywood star on the strength of her extraordinary flame-haired beauty and a successful screen partnership with John Wayne.

It’s a backhanded slap or, at best, damning with faint praise. I’m curious. What “bad films” do they have in mind? I’ll name one: Jamaica Inn. It was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starred Charles Laughton, one of the finest movie actors of the day, and was based on a novel by one of the best-selling authors of the day, Daphne Du Maurier. It was her first starring role and they blame the weakness of the picture on her? Why not the director or the star or the story?

Let’s list some of the outstanding pictures she starred in (in chronological order):

The Hunchback of Notre Dame
How Green Was My Valley
The Black Swan
This Land Is Mine
The Spanish Main
Rio Grande
The Quiet Man
Our Man in Havana
The Parent Trap
Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation
Spencer’s Mountain
Big Jake

Any one of those pictures would have cemented her place in screen history. Did they not like them because they were entertaining? Sure, she made a few pictures that were below that standard. Everyone did under the studio system. That was the way it worked. For goodness sake, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford made many more worse pictures. Margot Grahame, Deborah Kerr, and Greer Garson all made worse pictures. I think you can put Maureen O’Hara’s record against any of her contemporaries.

I’m not a particular fan of Maureen O’Hara’s but fair is fair.

5 comments… add one
  • ... Link

    I saw Jamaica Inn for the first time, recently. I recorded it because of Laughton and noticed the other names later. It was a disappointing movie. There’s a reason I hadn’t seen it before!

    But what a weird way to start an obit.

  • I think the movie is proof positive that nobody can do everything well. Hitchcock just wasn’t much for historical romance.

  • Mary Link

    I’ll add Only the Lonely, with John Candy and Ali Sheedy, to her list of great films–you get to see what Mary Kate Danaher would be like as an old lady!

  • I like Only the Lonely. How could you not like elderly Maureen O’Hara pitted against elderly Anthony Quinn?

    However, I think that overall it’s just an okay picture not an outstanding one.

  • mike shupp Link

    My suspicion is that “more bad films than she cared to remember” was probably taken from some movie fan magazine interview with O’Hara 20 years ago, and viewed as a Memorable Quote rather than snark. Obituaries aren’t generally written from scratch after all; they get written and kept in files for years waiting for someone to come along and just add a date or two before finally publishing them.

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