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.


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