Maureen O’Hara


  1. Joan Fontaine, Rebecca1939.
  2. Lucille Ball, A Girl, a Guy and a Gob, 1940.    Silent clown turned producer Harold Lloyd liked O’Hara but felt Ball’s comedic gifts better suited the Girl. Her Guy and Gob (a Navy man)  were Edmond O’Brien and George Murphy.
  3. Frances Farmer, Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake, 1941.    Fourth choice! Another example of how badly Hollywood treated poor Frances. What happened next was worse… Farmer’s friend, Ida Lupino, was first choice for Tyrone Power’s loving cousin. Ida was transferred to Moontide, and replaced by Maureen O’Hara, transferred to surgery with appendicitis, replaced by Cobina Wright Jr, who developed a “a serious throat infection” when Fox found it could borrow  the shining Frances from Paramount.  The night she finished shooting she was arrested for drunken driving. (She took amphetamines as diet pills). Her career was toast  leading  to a series of arrests, jaili and psychiatric confinements until 1950. She, alas, ever made another movie until The Party Crashers in 1958.  Jessica Lange played her tragic life in Frances, 1981.
  4. Priscilla Lane, The Meanest Man in the World, 1942.    (Hmm? Oh, Jack Benny, Who else?) Ill-health forced a change in director but have no idea why poor Maureen was bounced out and Lane was loaned from Warner Bros to play Janie Brown.
  5. Ann Rutherford, Orchestra Wives, 1942.    Both O’Hara and Linda Darnell were passed over for the Connie marrying into the Gene Morrison band… played by… the Glenn Miller band.
  6. 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!”
  7. Anne Baxter, The Eve of St Mark, 1943. After what Fox called “exhaustive tests,” Doropthy McGuire won the role of Janet Feller in the screen take on Maxwell Anderson’s Broadyway hit. When she later proved unavailable, O’Hara stepped in – and out. The luckier third Janet was Baxter.
  8. Hedy Lamarr, Experiment Perilous, 1944. As  French directors changed from Leonide Moguy to Jacques Tourneur, the principal couple were switchbacked (and forth) from Cary Grant  (or  Gregory Peck)  and Laraine Day or Maureen O’Hara to, finally,  George  Brent and Hedy Lamarr. Blame Hippocrates for the terrible title: “Life is short, art is long, decision difficult, and experiment perilous.”

  9. 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 Grayson 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. Hollywierd!

  10. Ruth Warrick, China Sky, 1944.      Maureen, Claudette Colbert, Ellen Drew, Margo, Luise Rainert  were early choices to fight over Pearl Buck’s medical hero –  Paul Henreid or Randolph Scott. Finally. Warrick and Scott melo-ed.  But New York Times critic Bosley Crowther was adament:  “This is a case where 10,000 words would have been better than one picturen.”
  11. 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.
  12. 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. 
  13. 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.”
  14. 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!  
  15. 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.  (Paramount publicist turned producer David F Friedman made a hardcore version, Alexandra, with Rachel Summers (aka Ashley) in 1983).
  16. Celeste Holm, Chicken Every Sunday, 1948.  Cast changed completely as the comedy moved from Warner to Fox. Henry Fonda, Maureen O’Hara, Jeanne Crain, John Payne became Dan Dailey, Celeste Holm,  Colleen Townsend and Alan Young. York Times critic Bosley Crowther said the movie‘s menu was good, substantial cooking in the Hollywood sentimental style, larded with wholesome portions of Ma-Loves-Pa, seasoned with generous sprinklings of standard bucolic farce.

  17. Hedy Lamarr, Samson and Delilah, 1949. 
    Cinemperor Cecil B DeMille’s 1935 plan been Henry Wilcoxon with Joan Crawford, Larraine Day, Dolores Del Rio, Paulette Goddard, Jane Greer or Miriam Hopkins….  Next in line, producer David O Selznick envisaged Kirk Douglas and Marlene DietrichBy ’48, CB got serious.  He sought a mix of Vivien Leigh, Jean Simmons and “a generous touch of Lana Turner”  from among … Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Rhonda Fleming (the Queen of Babylon, 1954), Ava Gardner, Greer Garson (Mrs Miniver!!), Susan Hayward  (1951’s Bathsheba), Rita Hayworth (the future Salome),  Jennifer Jones (St Bernadette in 1943), Patricia Neal, Maureen O’Hara, Nancy Olson (too demure), Jean Peters, Ruth Roman, Gail Russell, Ann Sheridan, Gene Tierney… even such surprises as comical Lucille Ball (!)and song ‘n’ dancer Betty Hutton.  Plus the Dominican Maria Montez (perfect!), Italian Alida Valli and two Swedes: Viveca Lindfors and Marta Toren.  But CB had already fancied Lamarr for his unmade epic about the Jewish queen Esther (played by Joan Collins in 1960).  Here’s a Samson review signed Groucho Marx: “No picture can hold my interest where the leading man’s bust is larger than the leading lady’s!”

  18. Faith Domergue, Where Danger Lives, 1949.  As O’Hara was subbed by Domergue and Laraine Day’s nurse was passed to Maureen O’Sullivan, poor ER doc Robert Mitchum had to be careful where he put his hands. Domergue was his boss Howard Hughes’ latest, er, find and O’Sullivan was wed to his director, John Farrow.
  19. Ann Blyth, I’ll Never Forget You (akaThe House in the Square),1950.    The 18th Century beauty falling for a transmigratingatomic research physicist (is there any other kind) went fromO’Hara-Gregory Peck to Jean Simon-Tyrone Power to Micheline Presle-Power before becoming  Blyth-Power.
  20. Marilyn Monroe, All About Eve, 1950.

  21. Constance Smith, The Thirteenth Letter, 1951. For director-ogre Otto Preminger’s take on Henri-Georges Clouzot’s French classic, Le corbeau, “Dr” Charles Boyer’s wife changed from O’Hara to Smith. So did her name – to Cora from… oh no!… Laura.  Otto  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.
  22. Jane Russell, Son of Paleface, 1948.  With her second marriage already leaning to its 1953 divorce, O’Hara was in no mood to handle comedy. Therefore, Bob Hoperto his 1948 Paleface partner… and writer Frank Tashlin directed because he did not appreciate the way Norman Z McLeod helmed the first one. 
  23. 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).
  24. 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. 
  25. 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.
  26. Elizabeth Taylor, Giant, 1955.
  27. 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.”
  28. 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. 
  29. Katharine Hepburn, Rooster Cogburn, 1974.John Wayne fretted that co-starring two wrinklies would kill the sequel to his Oscar-winning True Grit at the box-office. He had first suggested Ingrid Bergman (65), and wanted to go younger with Mary Tyler Moore (44). Paramount, which should have chosen a better director than Stuart Miller (he never made a third cinema film), switched away from Bette Davis, Maureen O’Hara (Duke’s co-star five times) and Loretta Young and looked at a British trio of Oscar-winners: Glenda Jackson, Vanessa’ Redgrave, Maggie Smith.  Then, someone suggested Kate and Miss Eula Goodnight became a Rose Sawyer reprise. The African Queen Goes West.
  30. 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.”

 Birth year: 1920Death year: 2015Other name: Casting Calls:  30