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A True Irish Lass....
on August 21, 2006
After reading "Tis Herself," I have more respect for Maureen O'Hara than ever before. I realize now why John Wayne held her in the very high regard that he did for over 39 years and how she came to be his very best friend during that period. John Wayne was part Irish and they both had a tremendous work ethic; likewise, during filming - it was strictly business while the cameras were rolling and they always knew their lines.
Throughout the book, I kept waiting; kept expecting to encounter signs of personal ego and pettiness in Maureen O'Hara that a few reviewers have described here. I found their criticisms to be so unjust. Frankly, I'm wondering if they read the book at all or had their own personal agendas! For Maureen O'Hara was anything but petty! The book is an honest and revealing account of many events that went on in Hollywood, but in many instances - she did not "name names." And think of how she could have destroyed some of these careers if she had spoken while they were still alive?! She was generosity in itself. At the height of Hollywood's Golden Age, she was a huge star - and she remained surprisingly down to earth.
I had always presumed that Maureen O'Hara had been this beautiful Irish lass that was discovered by a Hollywood agent, traveling in Ireland, and that she became an overnight star. Actually, she was discovered by Charles Laughton of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame fame;" she came from a theatrical family; and she took music, dance, and drama lessons six days a week from the time she decided that she wanted to be an actress at the age of six. She trained herself to be very disciplined from a very early age.
Likewise, I don't believe many readers can understand what it was like in the late 30's and 40's for a young, inexperienced Irish woman, who had been protected all her life. There weren't any televisions in Ireland at that time to expose her to the sophistications of Hollywood and how some men can often be deceitful before marriage. She spent her youth either taking drama, music or dancing lessons or else was with her family. She was raised in a catholic school (with probably lots of guilt encouraged by the nuns daily) and she was rushed into an unconsummated marriage by an older man when she was about 18.
Maureen O'Hara had the marriage annulled - only to discover that her next husband was an alcoholic. So is it any wonder that in an age where divorce was still somewhat frowned upon, she was expecting a child, and image was everything in Hollywood, that she held off on the second divorce? Plus, I imagine that with the very long hours and back to back movies and promotions that she was required to do, that she didn't have to endure her husband's company that often.
I am glad that she found happiness with Charles Blair. Ironically, we purchased an albatross from her after his death. I never met her, but I probably would have just ended up talking about John Wayne anyhow! LOL We restored the plane and I know that her husband would have loved to see how the plane was outfitted with jet skis. In the book, she mentions that her husband was killed due to certain knowledge that he had from working with the CIA. Given what I personally know about the organization during that period, I wouldn't be surprised one bit.
She endured such maliciousness from John Ford that I was appalled. In our present times, his behavior would have landed him in a lawsuit! And yet, she forgave John Ford in the end as well. He was a creative genius and yet - so often I feel that it isn't good for anyone to have that much power as they begin to push people more and more in an attempt to have boundaries set. And it made me wish that Duke had knocked Mr. Ford on his can just once when he berated Maureen! I'm sure that he would have liked to!
I think if Maureen O'Hara had one fault - it was that she was too trusting. She allowed her financial manager to continue handling her money - even after he handled it so badly when she was married to her second husband. (However John Wayne fell victim to allowing his funds to be mismanaged as well, so I suspect that many actors were prey to this at that time.)
And did you know that it was Maureen O'Hara who first pitched the idea of Mary Poppins to Walt Disney? Again, I would have had everything in writing! (Disney probably made the movie just to get back at her!) Walt Disney was a genius in many ways, but he was noted for disregarding contracts and paying his employees very poorly. If her contract stipulated that she receive top billing in "The Parent Trap," it was only right that Disney do so. Good grief, it had nothing to do with her relationship with Hayley Mills - she liked her, but it had everything to do with business. Do you think that Julia Roberts wouldn't expect the same thing today?
I honestly could not put the book down and read it in about 4 hours. I literally wept when I read about her final days with John Wayne. I remember watching her on television when she petitioned Congress to award him the "John Wayne - American" Congressional Medal of Honor. What wonderful words! She knew that those three words would mean more to the Duke - than any flowery speech. In fact, I would bet that those three words inscribed on it meant as much to him as the medal itself. I was so in love with John Wayne - a little girl as a 6th grader with a huge crush on a man 50 years older, but throughout my life he has remained the image of what a true man represents.
I came away from "Tis Herself" knowing exactly why the Duke considered Maureen O'Hara his best friend. She was beautiful and feisty and down-to-earth....and still a lady. Is it any wonder that Charles Blair, John Wayne, Charles Laughton and so many others have worshipped the ground she walks on?