Maureen O'Hara (1920-2015)
- Joan Fontaine, Rebecca, 1939.
- Frances Farmer, Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake, 1941. Isabel was a jinxed role in Tyrone Power’s thud ’n’ blunder romp. Lupino was chosen, then pushed into Moontide, replaced by Maureen O'Hara, hit by appendicitis, subbed by Cobina Wright, struck down with strep throat.. and this was Farmer’s last film before being wrongfully declared mentally incompetent and committed to various asylums and mental hospitals for seven years. She then tended the very parents who had committed her and came back, with six roles, mainly on TV, during 1958-1959. She died from throat cancer in 1970. Jessica Lange played her tragic life in Frances, 1981.
- Hedy Lamarr, Experiment Perilous, 1943. “Life is short,” said Hippocrates, “art is long, decision difficult, and experiment perilous.” So was the period thriller, although Jacques Tourneur fans adore it. When producer David Hempstead walked, so did Cary Grant. When Gregory Peck also passed, so did O’Hara.
- Laraine Day, The Story of Dr Wassell, 1943. Day was borrowed from MGM after O’Hara, Pamela Blake, Ruth Hussey and Marjorie Reynolds were seen by CB De Mille for Madeline in the true WWII story - attacked by New York Times critic Bosley Crowther as “hoopla warfare in a Technicolor blaze… True, such a thing did happen. But not this way, we’ll bet a hat!”
- Jeanne Crain, State Fair, 1944. O’Hara was never one to talk - much less, complain - about the films that got away. Maybe just one or two. Never heard a word from her, for instance, about this Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. Crain beat O’Hara to Margy Frake because she was under contract to Fox and O’Hara was not. Never mind the fact that Maureen could sing and Jeanne had to be dubbed. By Louanne Hogan. Despite his early opera training, co-star Dana Andrews was also dubbed. Hollyweird!
- Jacqueline De Witt, Saratoga Trunk, 1946. Shooting was already 20 days late when Miss Forosini was put back in the script. Producer Hal Wallis wanted Faye Emerson, director Sam Wood fancied O’Hara... hardly keen on a role of four lines. O’Hara’s Irish red hair, crystal-green eyes and porcelain skin were just made for Technicolor. So much so that Dr Herbert Kalmus, who invented it, dubbed her: The Queen of Technicolor.
- Gene Tierney, The Razor’s Edge, 1946. Katharine Hepburn passed on being Tyrone Power’s socialite fiancée in order to support her lover Spencer Tracy’s 1945 return to Broadway in The Rugged Path. Author W Somerset Maugham then suggested Tierney as Isabel Bradley. Head Fox Darryl Zanuck preferred O’Hara. He told her not to tell anyone and she immediately told Linda Darnell. Zanuck found out paf! he sacked O’Hara and signed Tierney.
- Laraine Day, Tycoon, 1946. John Wayne had two favourite leading ladies. So when one, O’Hara, was switched to Sinbad The Sailor, the other, Day, took her pace. The film, however, is best remembered for critic James Agee's riposte: “Several tons of dynamite are set off in this film, none of it under the right people.”
- Katharine Hepburn, State of the Union, 1948. Director Frank Capra wanted to reunite his 1934 Oscar-winning duo from It Happened One Night MGM refused to loan him Gable. Gary Cooper was unavailable. Capra then dropped Colbert and went for Cooper-O’Hara. Maureen said No (on September 11, 1947, if you must know!). Capra had to make do - poor chap! - with Hepburn and Spencer Tracy!
- Ann Sothern, A Letter To Three Wives, 1948. Originally Four Wives… Too long, snapped head Fox Darryl Zanuck. Kill one wife! (So Anne Baxter’s Martha never got Addie’s letter about running off with one of their spouses). Other potential wives were O’Hara, Alice Faye, Dorothy McGuire, Gene Tierney.
- Hedy Lamarr, Samson and Delilah, 1949. Producer-director Cecil B DeMille also mused on an alternative redhead: Rita Hayworth.
- Ann Blyth, I’ll Never Forget You (aka The House in the Square), 1950. The 18th Century beauty falling for a transmigrating atomic research physicist (is there any other kind) went from O’Hara-Gregory Peck to Jean Simon-Tyrone Power to Micheline Presle-Power before becoming Blyth-Power.
- Constance Smith, The Thirteenth Letter, 1951. Fox was soon sorry about signing Smith, replacing her with Ann Blyth in her next one, I'll Never Forget You, while Maureen became The Queen of Technicolor.
- Mari Blanchard, The Veils Of Bagdad, 1952. The Thief of… was way better… In this transference of Sherwood to the1560 Ottoman Empire, pudgy Victor Mature’s secret agent is the meat in the sandwhich of Blanchard and Valerie French… while the entire enterprise is stolen by Guy Rolfe as Prince John , er, no… Kasseim. (The poster had the Mature’s head stuck on Tony Curtis’ body from The Prince Who Was a Thief).
- Ava Gardner, Mogambo, 1953. Clark Gable hated the way director John Ford treated Gardner - just because he didn’t get his own way about his Maureen, his sole female friend, for Honey Bear Kelly. (Also in the frame: Lauren Bacall, Lana Turner). Having enough of his intimidation tactics, she told him to take the fetishistic dirty hanky he was always chewing like an infant and stick it up his ass. He improved immediately. “Meanest man on earth,” said Ava. “Thoroughly evil. Adored him.”Ava split for London, at one point, suffering, said MGM, from “a tropical illness. ” In fact, she had an abortion without the father, husband Frank Sinatra, knowing.
- Vera Ralston, Jubilee Trail, 1953. For a six figures and a (still) rare points deal, Republic boss Herbert J Yates bought Gwen Bristow’s book for Duke and his often Duchess. They passed. Imagine O’Hara’s disbelief when Yates then gave his "Greatest American Drama Since Gone With The Wind" (hah!) to the missus, Hollywood’s most infamous non-actress actress. Substituting John Wayne? Forrest Tucker. Famously big - except where it counted. At the box-office.
- Elizabeth Taylor, Giant, 1955.
- Deborah Kerr, The King and I, 1955. “I always sang but I never did a role in which I was a singer,” she told Roddy McDowall in 1991. “Darryl Zanuck cast me. The #2 man at Fox, Lou Schreiber, took a record of me singing back East to Rodgers and Hammerstein. And Rodgers threw his hands up in the air and said: ‘What? A pirate queen to play my Anna? No!’ They never even listened to my recording. And I was heartbroken.”
- Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins, 1963. The feisty redhead said she was the first to talk to Walt Disney about making a film together of the PL Travers’ books. He passed, she recalled in her 2004 autobiography, ’Tis Herself. Next thing she knew, Uncle Walt snapped up the rights for himself. He said he promised his daughters, he’d make a Poppins movie. It was another 20 years before Travers let him.
- Katharine Hepburn, Rooster Cogburn, 1974. If well enough to reprise his Oscar-winning True Grit marshal, John Wayne wanted Ingrid Bergman as Eula Goodnight, no less. Hal Wallis shortlisted O’Hara (of course!) and Bette Davis. Plus true Brits Glenda Jackson, Vanessa Redgrave, Maggie Smith. But he rejected any comeback for Loretta Young (his prodcuer son Mike Wayne’s godmother) which is when, trying to avoid two wrinkly co-stars, Duke suggested Mary Tyler Moore. Hepburn won because the script was by ex-Duke co-star Martha Hyer (Mrs Wallis, credited as Martin Julien) was a flagrant rehash of Kate’s African Queen - and as pathetic as director Stuart Miller. It was his second feature. The “6ft 6ins somafabitch no-talent, ” as Duke termed him, never made a third.
- Lauren Bacall, The Shootist, 1976. Oddly enough, for what proved John Wayne’s finale - with room for such Duke stalwarts as Jimmy Stewart - director Don Siegel felt Maureen was all wrong for her usual role of Wayne’s gal. Duke suggested Bacall, with fond memories of their Blood Alley pairing, 1955. Maureen and Wayne were friends until his death. Part of her St Croix home was called The John Wayne Wing. Presented with an honorary Oscar at the 2014 Governors Awards ceremony in November, O’Hara - who made eight films with Duke (five for John Ford) - “passed peacefully,” according to a family statement in October 2015, “surrounded by her loving family as they celebrated her life listening to music from her favorite movie, The Quiet Man.”