Ferocious Facts About Maureen O’Hara, The Irish Rose Of Hollywood

Samantha Henman

With her vibrant red hair and rich green eyes, it seems like Maureen O’Hara was born to become the biggest star in old Hollywood—after all, she was known as “the Queen of Technicolor.” But behind the scenes, things weren’t always so bright for O’Hara. From a secret marriage to on-set feuds, darkness chased O’Hara throughout her career—but the fiery Irish actress always outran it. Here are ferocious facts about Maureen O’Hara.


Maureen O’Hara Facts

1. She Had A Lively Upbringing

Before she was “the Queen of Technicolor,” she was Maureen FitzSimmons. As one of the six Fitzsimmons children in 1920s Dublin, things were never boring in Maureen’s household. As Maureen herself said, her family was the “most remarkable and eccentric family I could have possibly hoped for.” Yeah, let’s definitely emphasize eccentric here

2. She Predicted It

Remember how O’Hara said her family was eccentric? Well, when she was just five years old, her family hosted a peculiar visitor. It was a woman who claimed to be able to foresee the future. This visitor had an eerie prediction for little Maureen. She told the young girl, “You will leave Ireland one day and become a very famous woman known all around the world.” But there was a dark side to her words. She continued, “But it will all slip through your fingers one day.” Spoiler: She was right on both counts.

3. She Had A Difficult Choice To Make

When she was 14, O’Hara joined the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and appeared in small stage roles. After three years of hard work, she finally won her first leading part—but then, a life-changing offer stopped her in her tracks. An American entertainer named Harry Richman felt convinced that she should leave the theater and work in film instead. So he showed up in Dublin, surprised O’Hara when she was at dinner with her parents, and pressured her to do a screen test.

4. It Wasn’t Her

Maureen O’Hara went ahead with the screen test—but when she arrived at the studio, it was an utter disaster. The make up artists put the natural beauty in a gaudy gold lame dress, plastered makeup on her face, and twisted her hair into an elaborate style. It made O’Hara look twice her age. Miserable and insecure, she became convinced that she shouldn’t have left the Abbey Theatre behind. Luckily, at least one person saw through the garish façade.

5. She Made A Sacrifice

English actor Charles Laughton saw O’Hara’s screen test and felt so impressed that he immediately offered her a valuable contract. But O’Hara had to make one sacrifice before hitting the big time. Though she wanted to be billed by her real name of Maureen Fitzsimmons, Laughton insisted that his protégée change her last name. Thus, “Maureen O’Hara” was born.

6. She Was Moving Up In The World

While filming her breakthrough role in Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn, O’Hara started dating a producer named George H. Brown. He fell madly in love with O’Hara—but O’Hara felt cooler about him. Brown, however, didn’t seem to be able to take a hint. When O’Hara told him that she had to go to Hollywood to film her next movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Brown went to disturbing lengths to keep a hold on his girlfriend.

7. She Did It Behind Their Backs

Just one day before O’Hara sailed off to America, she fielded dozens of distressed calls from Brown, who begged her to come see him one last time. O’Hara gave into his pleas—only to realize that he didn’t just want a fond farewell. Brown ambushed O’Hara with a surprise wedding. In a state of shock, 19-year-old O’Hara went through the marriage ceremony. Looking back, she would regret that decision tremendously.

8. The Studio Was Furious

After Maureen O’Hara arrived in Hollywood, her husband Brown quickly made their “secret” marriage a full-blown PR disaster. He proudly told the press that he was hitched to Ireland’s most famous young starlet—and when O’Hara’s Hollywood bosses found out about her surprise wedding, they were furious. Stuck in a tricky situation, O’Hara felt trapped and confused. Soon enough, she lashed out with a cruel act.

9. She Left Him Behind

Already looking for a way out of her hasty marriage, O’Hara was only too happy to follow her studio’s orders. As Brown waited for his blushing bride to return to Ireland, O’Hara stayed put in the USA. While there, she quietly had her marriage annulled. After her wedding day, O’Hara never saw Brown again. Ice cold, Maureen.

10. She Lived Dangerously

O’Hara later became known for doing her own stunts—nearly unheard of for an actress during the time—but on the set of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, she nearly lost her life. During a scene where her character stands at the gallows, O’Hara actually put a real noose around her neck and performed the sequence without any safety net underneath. When it came to her career, O’Hara was always up for a little challenge…and a lot of danger.

11. She Was Worried About What They Thought

Before studios even released The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the press hotly anticipated the Hollywood screen debut of Maureen O’Hara. She couldn’t understand why, and worried that they would see her as a novelty with no staying power. She couldn’t have been more wrong. The film was a hit, but there were some dark twists around the corner for O’Hara.

12. She Was Betrayed

O’Hara was just a few years into her contract with Charles Laughton’s film company when WWII broke out and caused everything in the world of show biz to grind to a screeching halt. Laughton and O’Hara were supposed to return to London—but after years of collaboration, Laughton dealt his “friend” an absolutely heartbreaking betrayal.

13. She Felt Alone

In need of some quick cash, Laughton coldly sold off O’Hara’s contract to RKO Pictures. This did more than blindside O’Hara and wound her pride. It also forced the young starlet to stay in Hollywood, far away from her family back in Ireland. A heartbroken O’Hara later said that Laughton’s betrayal made her feel “completely abandoned.”

14. He Wouldn’t Leave Her Alone

Next, RKO put her in a movie called A Bill of Divorcement. A remake of a popular film, it seemed like a guaranteed hit—but it quickly turned into a total nightmare. The film’s director, John Farrow, stalked O’Hara and harassed her. But hey, let’s not judge him too quickly—maybe he was just confused. After all, he was very much married to an Irish actress named Maureen O’Sullivan at the time (sorry, that’s the sound of my eyes rolling all the way back into my head).

O’Hara made it clear that she was never going to be interested in him, but his creepy interest took an even more chilling turn.

15. He Couldn’t Handle It

After Maureen O’Hara rejected him, director John Farrow began to bully her and make her on-set experience absolutely miserable—until one day, when she couldn’t take it anymore. At the end of her rope, O’Hara socked the director right in the jaw. He finally got the message and left her alone after that day. Don’t mess with Maureen!

16. She Nearly Called It Quits

O’Hara spent her first years in Hollywood on films that either had mediocre scripts, bad directors, or both. She was becoming increasingly hopeless and began to think about abandoning her contract and returning home. Feeling despondent, O’Hara made one final plea to her agent, hoping to get a part in famed Western director John Ford’s next film, How Green Was My Valley. They gave O’Hara the part—but it was a curse disguised as a blessing.

17. He Wouldn’t Leave Her Alone

O’Hara and Ford became frequent collaborators, and worked on five films together over the course of two decades—but there was a disturbing dark side to their relationship. The director was transfixed with O’Hara, and though she rejected him, but he didn’t seem to get the message. Instead, his feelings vacillated between obsession and outright violence.

Westerns FactsWikimedia Commons

18. Her Director Was Obsessed With Her

John Ford certainly had mixed feelings when it came to Maureen O’Hara. On the one hand, he’d write her long drunken love letters. One recently discovered missive reads, “God, I long for you. I dream of you. Your face is constantly in my dreams.” But on the other, he could be incredibly cruel, even going so far as to punch O’Hara in the face. And he didn’t do that in private either. He hit her while they were on a movie set.

Unfortunately for Maureen, Ford wasn’t her only experience with harassment, in or out of the workplace…

19. She Let Him Call The Shots

When O’Hara was still lonely and new to Hollywood, a director named William Houston Price kept the young ingenue company. Surprise, surprise: Like all the other directors in the city, he too fell for O’Hara. Once O’Hara’s annulment from Hubby Number One went through, Price immediately proposed to the starlet. Feeling timid and lonely, she accepted—but just like her regrettable first wedding, she’d regret her acquiescence.

20. She Hid The Truth

Here’s a sign of how unexcited O’Hara was about her own impending wedding. As Price planned a ceremony in his hometown of Mississippi, O’Hara seemed to slip into a state of denial. She didn’t even tell her own family that she was getting married until just a few minutes before the ceremony. And if that phone call was surprising to them, it was nothing compared to what came next.

21. She Finally Opened Her Eyes

This time should’ve been a honeymoon period for the newlyweds, but for Maureen O’Hara, it was a living nightmare. In the days after their marriage, she quickly realized that her new husband had a chilling dark side. Price was a huge drinker and an even bigger liar. O’Hara should have left him, but as a young actress with an image to protect, she felt like she had no choice but to stay. It was a humiliating situation for such a self-possessed woman…and it was about to get worse.

22. Those Years Brought Trouble

In early 1942, just before she was supposed to begin working with Tyrone Power, disaster struck. O’Hara fell ill, and doctors diagnosed her with both appendicitis and painful ovarian cysts. Despite her misfortunes, producer Daryl Zanuck’s reaction was unbelievably cruel.  He complained that O’Hara just wanted time off and recast another actress in her role. If that wasn’t bad enough, he then said that O’Hara’s health problems were “left over from an abortion.”

O’Hara, a lifelong Irish Catholic, was both appalled and heartbroken.

23. They Crowned Her Queen

After WWII, O’Hara finally came into her own as “The Queen of Technicolor.” With her red hair, green eyes, and pale skin, she was perfect for the new color process—but there was a painful side to her fame.  The bright, glaring lights caused O’Hara to suffer from horrible headaches and even a rare form of conjunctivitis. And that wasn’t all.

Once she became cinema’s newest star, the tabloids started looking for dirt on the screen queen—and boy oh boy, did they hit the jackpot with O’Hara.

24. She Became A Target

Maureen O’Hara was the Queen of Technicolor—but during the same period, she was also becoming the Queen of Tabloids. . First, another actress spread rumors that she had come onto her while they were in an elevator. O’Hara brushed off the allegation. She thought that the girl was just trying to get attention…but that wasn’t the only instance of vicious jealousy she had to deal with.

25. People Were Terrible To Her

Despite the difficulties in her marriage to Price, O’Hara was elated when she gave birth to daughter Bronwyn in 1944. Sadly, a vicious incident at her studio quick ruined her excitement. Another jealous actress told an RKO Pictures executive that O’Hara was “as big as a horse.” Unfortunately, the executive took her word for it and almost snubbed O’Hara for a role. Haters: not just a recent invention.

26. She Wasn’t Safe At Home

Understandably, O’Hara could use a break. She headed back to Ireland, hoping to get some R&R—but that didn’t happen. One night, a car arrived at O’Hara family home, saying they had to take her to an event. There was just one problem. O’Hara didn’t remember committing to anything that night. She sent the people away. The next day, she learned the horrifying truth.

Papers in both Ireland and the US ran the headline “Irish Report Plot to Kidnap Miss O’Hara.” She had survived a terrifyingly close call.

27. It Made Movie History

O’Hara was still under contract with 20th Century Fox while she was in Ireland. Mere days after almost being kidnapped, they took “tone deaf” to a whole other level and demanded that she come back to work on a Christmas film. At first, O’Hara was furious—but she didn’t realize that the film would change her entire life. The movie in question was the now-classic Miracle on 34th Street.

28. She Made A Comeback

Making Miracle completely redeemed Hollywood filmmaking for O’Hara. She was delighted to spend time with a young Natalie Wood, who played her daughter, and they all adored Edmund Gwenn, who played Kris Kringle. O’Hara said “By the time we were halfway through the shoot, we all believed Edmund really was Santa Claus.” If that doesn’t make you rewatch, I don’t know what will.

29. It Was All On Her

At this time, O’Hara’s professional life was great—but her personal life was a complete disaster. Back at home, she had to deal with her alcoholic husband. And as if his drinking problem wasn’t enough, O’Hara soon learned that he also had a spending problem. A spending her money problem, to be specific. Price even hired a “business manager” who took half of O’Hara’s paychecks and put them directly in another account just for him. Yikes.

30. She Had Her Own Fun

O’Hara and Price fell into a desperate routine. Price would go out drinking with his buddies every night, and in the morning when he was passed out, O’Hara would call an ambulance to take him to rehab. However, O’Hara might have been keeping herself occupied while her husband was out of commission. One of her frequent co-stars, Anthony Quinn, implied that he had an affair with her at this time.

31. They Finally Gave Up

At this point, O’Hara felt heartbroken and trapped. She didn’t want to file for divorce from Price because of her Catholicism and eventually, Price realized that if their miserable marriage was ever going to end, he would have to be the one to call time. In 1951, he filed for divorce and left their family home on the day that would have been their tenth wedding anniversary. Finally, O’Hara’s decade-long nightmare was over.

32. She Rebounded

After her divorce, O’Hara took a much-needed trip to Mexico to recover, and she came back with an unexpected souvenir—a new lover. While out at a restaurant one night, O’Hara had met an enchanting man by the name of Enrique Parra. The two embarked on a relationship, and it was one that was markedly different from her marriage to Price.

Not only was Parra kind and gentle, he was a prominent politician and banker in Mexico. He had his own wealth and didn’t have to rely on O’Hara. It seemed like a dream come true—but O’Hara was too jaded to believe in miracles by this point.

33. She Wanted To Be Sure

Maureen O’Hara fell hard for Parra, but men had burned her one too many times by this point—so she went to disturbing lengths to make sure he wasn’t playing her. Parra claimed that he had separated from his wife, so O’Hara hired a private investigator to follow Parra around and make sure they were really broken up. O’Hara must have liked what she heard, because she began spending more and more time with Parra—but their relationship was far from perfect.

34. He Changed Her Life

During the 50s, O’Hara finally found her niche in adventure films and Western movies, especially when she starred opposite John Wayne. Their onscreen chemistry was so fiery that people wondered if they were an item behind the scenes. O’Hara claims they were just close friends, though a recent biography of Wayne insisted that she wasn’t telling the whole truth.

35. They Were Too Close For Comfort

The book contends that Wayne and O’Hara had a secret romance for almost 20 years. It alleges that they began to see one another before Wayne’s third marriage and continued, on and off throughout the years, until Wayne’s death. According to a man who worked with both actors, Wayne was “truly in love” with O’Hara. However, he never asked her to marry him for a dark reason. According to this source, Wayne knew Maureen was strong, and he only “married women he thought he could control.” Yikes.

36. They Came Back To Haunt Her

Despite her standing in Hollywood and her new love, O’Hara was constantly torn between John Ford, the domineering director, and her ex-husband William Price, who was furious that she’d rebounded from their marriage so quickly. While Ford would hurl insults about Parra her way, Price was just as brutal. He took O’Hara to court in 1955 to attempt to get custody of their daughter, citing her “immoral” lifestyle—but it immediately blew up in his face.

37. She Was Confident In Her Case

Just before the court case began, a strange man approached O’Hara. He claimed that he had evidence that her ex-husband was actually gay and he even offered to testify for her. O’Hara felt weird about the whole situation and said no. She didn’t really feel like she needed any extra help anyway. After years of being strong-armed by Price, O’Hara had a newfound sense of strength. She sued him right back and won. However, it wouldn’t be the last time she was in a courtroom.

38. Everything Was Different

O’Hara threw herself into her relationship with Parra—but sadly, the couple was doomed to a painful end. Many people close to O’Hara disapproved of her “foreign” beau. Then, when Parra’s daughter passed in 1967, his intense grief caused him to drift away from O’Hara. Their relationship finally came to a close after more than 15 years. O’Hara was broken-hearted and alone again.

39. She’d Met Him Long Ago

O’Hara was as surprised as anyone when she found her next paramour. After all, he’d been under her nose the whole time! Back in 1946, when O’Hara flew to Ireland, a man named Charles F. Blair, Jr. piloted the plane. In the intervening years, he had become friends with her brothers. They had a plan to go out one night when her brother had to back out, and he sent Maureen in his place. Little did they know what a game-changer that night would be…

40. He Surprised Her

O’Hara and Blair were both going through break-ups at the time. They leaned on each other as friends—until one night, when Blair made a pragmatic, if somewhat unromantic, proposal. He told her that he was retiring and that he wanted to marry her. Surprisingly, considering her abysmal track record with quick proposals, O’Hara accepted. Despite the odds, O’Hara was deliriously happy with Blair. Unfortunately, her bliss wouldn’t last long.

41. She Stuck Up Her Nose At It

During the 1960s, Maureen O’Hara began to play more age-appropriate roles, including the mother in the original The Parent Trap. O’Hara wasn’t like many of her Hollywood contemporaries—she was much more conservative, and as the years went on, she regarded the film industry in an unflattering light. She had been been fine standing up to handsy directors and saying no to provocative photoshoots in her heyday, but the risqué content in movies bothered her more and more. Between this and her devotion to her marriage, she all but retired in the 70s.

42. She Lost Her Whole World

That’s not to say that she wasn’t busy—O’Hara ran a small airline with her husband in the Virgin Islands and she became editor of a local magazine. Everything was going well—until disaster struck. Blair was in the air when his plane experienced an engine failure, and he crashed between Saint Croix and St. Thomas. The crash took the lives of Blair and three passengers. O’Hara was utterly devastated—but the worst was yet to come.

43. It All Happened At Once

After her husband passed, O’Hara became the CEO and president of the airline they had owned together. She was the first woman president of a scheduled airline in the US—but behind the scenes, she was living a nightmare. Doctors diagnosed O’Hara with uterine cancer. She braved an operation and was poised to make a full recovery—only to receive a dire piece of news.

44. She Fought For Her Friend

O’Hara’s closest friend, John Wayne, was also battling cancer—and unfortunately, he was losing. To honor her ailing friend, O’Hara fought to make sure that Congress gave Wayne a Congressional Gold Medal before he passed. She succeeded: Wayne received his award and perished mere months later. While O’Hara was happy to see her greatest friend honored, losing Wayne was also a huge blow. The combined loss of Blair and Wayne sent her spiralling and she was depressed for years afterward.

45. She Played Favorites

When it came to the list of movies she’d appeared in, O’Hara had a definite favorite: 1952’s The Quiet One. In 1986, someone told O’Hara about a New York City officer who had been shot and paralyzed. Importantly, the man’s wife said that his favorite film was The Quiet One. This touched O’Hara, and she sprang into action. She visited the wounded man in the hospital, helped during his recovery, an even attended the christening of the couple’s baby. Guess she really had a soft spot!

46. She Watched It All Happen

After surviving cancer, O’Hara lived to the ripe old age of 95—which sadly meant that she outlived many of her family members and friends. This included her Miracle on 34th Street onscreen daughter, Natalie Wood. In 1981, Wood passed on in a mysterious and tragic accident. O’Hara was deeply hurt by the loss, and in her autobiography said: “The day she died, I cried shamelessly. It was such a horrible way to go for such a lovely, lovely girl.”

47. She Was Vulnerable

In 1989, a hurricane decimated the home that O’Hara had shared with her late husband in Saint Croix. She considered rebuilding, but a series of heart attacks made her slow down. Eventually, she spent most of her time in Glengarriff, Ireland, where a personal assistant helped her…at least, that was the case until her family came forward with chilling accusations.

They accused the PA, who had power of attorney over O’Hara, of elder mistreatment. Eventually, O’Hara’s family moved her to Idaho, where she could spend her final years with her grandson.

48. He Was Deeply Unwell

At some point after their divorce, O’Hara’s second husband, William Houston Price, passed on. His family told O’Hara that he’d had a heart attack—but they were actually hiding a dark secret. Price, who was the father of O’Hara’s daughter Bronwyn, had actually moved back to Mississippi and taken his own life. His family tried to conceal the truth from O’Hara and Bronwyn.

49. She Went Peacefully

In 2015, at the age of 95, Maureen O’Hara passed on peacefully in her sleep. Her family reported that they’d been with her at the end, and that they’d played the soundtrack to her favorite film, The Quiet Man, during her final moments. Her life had been immeasurably full, and as her memoir proved, she’d managed to keep some things hidden along the way…

50. They Went Low

In the mid-50s, O’Hara was at the height of her fame, while tabloid magazine Confidential was pushing the boundaries of what was fit to print. They were on a collision course, and only one would make it out unscathed. In 1957, Confidential published allegations that an usher at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre had caught O’Hara and her boyfriend, Enrique Parra, in the act during a screening.

O’Hara was furious, and she wasted no time defending herself.

51. She Went High

O’Hara wasn’t the only mad one. The state was also convening a grand jury against Confidential, and O’Hara was more than happy to testify against them. Confidential’s lawyers called upon the staff of the theatre, who stated that the accusations were true, but there was one thing they didn’t expect. O’Hara had an ace up her sleeve.

52. She Proved Them Wrong

She was able to prove that she hadn’t even been in Los Angeles on the night in question, as she’d been making a film in Spain. The case was a landmark one, as it was one of the first times that celebrities were able to stand up for themselves and take action against the tabloids—something that’s much more common nowadays.

53. She Didn’t Believe The Official Story

O’Hara was devastated when a plane crash took the life of her third husband, Charles Blair. Years later, she revealed her disturbing suspicions about what had really happened that day. O’Hara had been in Ireland at the time, and one of the people who called her that day mentioned some details that she found strange. She began to investigate, and what she found shocked her.

54. She Made A Disturbing Accusation

After talking to everyone involved, O’Hara came to believe that her husband’s plane crash hadn’t been an accident. She thinks that he was perhaps involved with the CIA or another government agency, or that he came under fire because he’d been part of operations involving thermonuclear arms. O’Hara suspected that the plane crash was just to take him out.

55. She Broke Her Silence

Her discoveries terrified her so greatly that she eventually stopped investigating, fearing for her own safety. However, for what it’s worth, O’Hara’s claims have never been proven. An official investigation found that the plane was not mechanically sound, and that maintenance logs had been fudged by the administrators. In a dark twist, one of those administrators was Blair himself.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19

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