directors, history, movies, oscars

Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne

It’s my pleasure to contribute a post to a virtual friend featuring a funny lady in film before 1970. Check out Gwen’s blog at:

I chose the feisty Maureen O’Hara.

The chemistry between O’Hara and The Duke was legendary. They were life long friends and grew into one of the best partnerships in film. They starred in five together, and it all began with the The Quiet Man (1952). John Ford won the Academy Award for Best Director.

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Set in the Emerald Isle, it was a charming, funny classic that romanticized everything Irish. How many years growing up did I watch it on television around St. Patrick’s Day? The film became more than just a whimsical story; It became a part of my collective memory. You’ve never seen it? Well, it’s worth your time. You’ll want to book a flight to Dublin for your holiday afterwards.

Their type of humor

Maureen O’Hara cultivated the stereotype of the hot-headed, redhead Irish woman on film. She was tall and strong and wouldn’t take sass from anyone, even tall, strong tough guy, John Wayne. This was the time when women were taught to be demure and submissive if they were to catch a man for marriage.  Maureen’s wide-set eyes and expressive face fought against cultural expectations. Her actions were tomboyish and passionate. O’Hara’s characters demanded respect, and John Wayne’s characters mocked her pride while submitting to her whims. This tug-of-war comradery was funny to watch when they swiped at each other or townsfolk followed them like a parade while they made spectacles of themselves. In the battle of the sexes, both sides were proud and both sides were loyal. There was never a doubt they loved each other.

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One minute Mary Kate Danaher looks shy and innocent, the next minute her passion consumes her and she’s the aggressor.

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Mary Kate stands up to any man who interferes with her goals.

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In 1939, Maureen O’Hara played in Alfred Hitchcock’s, Jamaica Inn, as well as the beautiful Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

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John Ford’s 1941 film How Green Is My Valley won Academy awards for Best Picture, Director, Supporting-Actor (young Roddy McDowall), Cinematography, and Art-Direction. In 1947, Maureen O’Hara starred in the super-classic, Miracle on 34th Street. 


McLintock! (1963) is John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara’s funniest pairing in the western version of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. The sympathy all goes to G.W., played by John Wayne who has to tame his wife, his daughter, and the politicians who aim to wrestle the land from G.W. McLintock, the wealthiest man in the area. There’s the John Wayne mystique in action.


Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne had fun in their films. Their characters took turns looking silly while maintaining their respectability in their provincial worlds. Ah, the folly of humanity–both genders. They took turns exposing their faults to others while protecting each other when things got out of hand and outsider’s threatened. That was their humor and charisma, and audiences ate it up.

Hail, Maureen! She will turn 92 on August 17.


23 thoughts on “Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne”

  1. Hi, Cindy:

    An excellent perspective

    Maureen O’Hara first caught my attention as Mary O’Donnell opposite Tyrone Power in John Ford’s ‘The Long Gray Line’. Where her performance gave an small idea of her strengths, depth and range standing out in an all male cast. And tempered her only slightly for her many roles opposite John Wayne.

    ‘The Quiet Man’ is where she absolutely rocks out loud in a lush, iconic film. And set the standards for later work. As a slightly louder and more brash alternate, peer and contemporary of another classic silky seductress, Myrna Loy.


    1. I’ve got ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’ on the list of films I must see. Myrna Loy — what a face! She was funny, too, wasn’t she? I wonder why she didn’t make it up there in popularity as Davis and Crawford? I’ve not seen enough of Myrna Loy films to make a judgement call.


  2. It’s the Irish in her for sure that makes her such a fighting spirit, and such a spitfire to watch. Maureen O’Hara did alot of dramatic roles but I’ve always appreciated her comedic roles best ( The Parent Trap, Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, Only the Lonely ). She was also one of those rare women who get more beautiful as they get older! Thank you for this spotlight on Mary Kate Danaher.


    1. It was my treat to play tribute! I forgot about ‘The Parent Trap’! Yes, she’s fun because her temperament set her up for the fall and endearing because you admired her strength. 🙂


    1. Thank you. Her type of humor was sassy and satirical–more amusing, I suppose than slap stick–but then, I remember her not minding looking ridiculous for the laugh, as well as Wayne, and I came to see she was funny. I liked her strength. 🙂


  3. Hey there! I wanted to drop back in on the blogathon weekend to say hello! Re-read your post (it was that good) and greatly enjoyed the pictures. I loved the way you were able to capture the essence of the comedic chemistry between the duo.


    1. I am glad you allowed me to participate in your blogathon. I wasn’t sure it was a good fit for your theme, because it was more of a dynamic duo chemistry, but I liked giving her a tribute and think she’s a marvelous, funny lady!


  4. Well done, Maureen O’Hara. Rest in peace. John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara are together again, at last. They are one of a kind.


  5. Rest in Peace, Maureen! You may start up a wonderful conversation with your dear, old friend in Heaven. John and Maureen were a great inspiration for Women’s liberation Mom is sitting here on her 87thbirthday, who used to have red hair and bright blue eyes, with spunk and sparks which captured my Dad’s heart. Today is November 1, 2015 and I thought it right to look a past post about legendary stars. Mom’s favorites are “The Quiet Man” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” Take care, Cindy! 🙂


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