Maureen O’Hara and John Ford’s Way With Women

Maureen O'Hara at the Turner Classic Film Festival 2014 in April....

Maureen O’Hara at the Turner Classic Film Festival 2014 in April….


Maureen O’Hara, 93, and still as feisty as ever, travelled from Idaho this year where she lives with her grandson and his family to attend the TCMFF 2014, introduce How Green Was My Valley with Robert Osborne, and have a short interview with Osborne in the lobby of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
This image must be one of Maureen O'Hara's favorites as she chose it for the cove of her 2004 autobiography...

This image must be one of Maureen O’Hara’s favorites as she chose it for the cover of her 2004 autobiography…

Even though her career spans 62 years, Robert Osborne writes in this month’s Now Playing Guide for TCM that she has been filmed in Technicolor more than any other actress (34 times) and “she has lost none of her Irish spunk.” During her interview with Osborne prior to the screening of How Green Was My Valley at the Turner Classic Film Festival in 2014, Osborne asked her how it was working with director John Ford, and she proclaimed, “I thought we were here to talk about me!” She began her film career under contract to Charles Laughton and his production partner with the film Jamaica Inn, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

As Esmeralda in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" with Charles Laughton...

As Esmeralda in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” with Charles Laughton…


Her conversation with Osborne also revealed her devotion to Laughton for nurturing her career (she would appear as Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Laughton as part of her contract with him.) “What more can someone do for you,” she proudly stated, “than start you off in life.”
Fans crowd around O'Hara and TCM Host Robert Osborne in the lobby of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in April for her interview during the TCM Film Festival...

Fans crowd around O’Hara and TCM Host Robert Osborne in the lobby of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in April for her interview during the TCM Film Festival…

David Meuel’s new book, Women in the Films of John Ford, reveals how O’Hara’s development as an actress under the guidance of Ford paralleled some of the patterns of achievement that other actresses experienced under his astute on-set dictatorship. Mildred Natwick’s short, but pivotal scene in 3 Godfathers reveals how Ford could wield one shining moment into the fabric of the next half of a film.

Mildred Natwick and John Wayne in "3 Godfathers"

Mildred Natwick and John Wayne in “3 Godfathers”


As Natwick’s character lay dying after the birth of her son, she asks the three men gathered round her, “Will you save my baby?”
Honoring the request from the mother...

Honoring the request from the mother…


Then her final statement resonates throughout the rest of the film,” You tell him about his mother who so wanted to live…for him,” and her comments underscore all the ensuing motivations of the three godfathers.
Forming a plan...

Forming a plan…


Natwick’s comments in Meuel’s book reveal that “I’ve never forgotten that Ford seemed pleased with the scene and pleased that I’d done it.” She sensed from Ford how to play the role because ” you get things by osmosis from a wonderful director.”

Jane Darwell’s performance in The Grapes of Wrath also reveals how Ford inspired Darwell, already a well-known and well-respected performer, to greater acclaim.

Ma Joad facing yet another hardship...

Ma Joad facing yet another hardship…


Darwell’s career as a Hollywood character actress followed her many years as a devoted stage actress, but her most well-known role, besides that of being the bird lady in Mary Poppins, was that of Ma Joad in the successful screen adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. One reason of the enduring popularity of the character of Ma Joad, according to Meuel, is that Darwell’s characterization “has become a synonym for women who bear great hardship with great dignity.” Darwell also became “a favorite of Ford’s” as she appeared in My Darling Clementine, 3 Godfathers, and The Sun Shines Bright.

Initially, Ford wanted O’Hara for the role of Honey Bear Kelly in Mogambo, according to Meuel, and ended up with Ava Gardner, an actress “he didn’t think was all that good.” But in Mogambo, Gardner earned her first and only Academy Award nomination, and her performance is one of her best.

Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner in "Mogambo."

Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner in “Mogambo.”


According to the TCM Database article explaining why Mogambo is an ‘essential,’ “Ava Gardner turned out to be a much greater beneficiary of Ford’s instruction on Mogambo. Her work as Honey Bear Kelly is marked by an ease, even a playfulness, that would seldom if ever surface in her following projects.”

So Ford could wrench an effective performance from someone he deemed initially as less successful at her craft than O’Hara. He elicited those sterling screen seconds in his own way, and made Natwick, Darwell, Gardner, O’Hara, and others the better.

But O’Hara’s opinions and comments, revealed through the years in interviews and O’Hara’s own autobiography that her relationship with Ford alternated from rocky to smooth, and her comments vacillated from his admiring pupil to a woman who always staunchly defended his directing, but sometimes questioned his motives.

Like the time Ford slapped O’Hara for talking to another director. The event strained their relationship, and she never understood why Ford had acted that way, but she eventually went back to engaging in conversation with him and working for him.

'Tis her favorite scene in "How Green Was My Valley."

‘Tis her favorite scene in “How Green Was My Valley.”

The Ford/O’Hara relationship spanned 20 years and began on the set of 1941’s How Green Was My Valley, the film O’Hara introduced at the Turner Classic Film Festival on April 12 in the El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. Her favorite moment in the film, documented in her autobiography, occurs when her character of Angharad is “outside the church after Angharad gets married. As I make my way down the steps to the carriage waiting below, the wind catches my veil and fans it out in a perfect circle all the way around my face. Then it floats straight up above my head and points to the heavens. It’s breathtaking.” She was obviously impressed with the way she had been showcased in her career-making initial role with Ford.

The triumvirate...

The triumvirate…

Her collaboration with John Wayne in three of Ford’s films, Rio Grande, The Quiet Man, and The Wings of Eagles, also revealed that the romantic chemistry she had with Wayne was like “lightning in a bottle.”

"Lightning in a bottle...."

“Lightning in a bottle….”


But her fourth Ford collaboration, 1955’s The Long Gray Line, also starring Tyrone Power, had O’Hara revealing that “it was by far the most difficult” film she had made with Ford.
Tough...

Tough…


Not tough...she adored Tyrone Power's wicked sense of humor...

Not so tough…she adored Tyrone Power’s wicked sense of humor, and here they are together in “The Black Swan”…

Setting many of his films in the past often saddled Ford with the label of being “old-fashioned” but as O’Hara has claimed in interviews and her 2004 autobiography, ‘Tis Herself, Ford loved anything Irish, and any way he could maneuver more Irishness into his films or his own personal life was a way to reconnect or reconstruct his life to his own more idealized version of itself.

O’Hara’s relationships with men who lived large on life’s stage, like Che Guevara, whom she deemed a “freedom fighter,”surprised her when she found out how much he knew about Ireland. Her last husband, Charles Blair, whom she adored, was a record-setting aviator and Brigadier General in the Air Force. The legendary John Wayne, for whom she lobbied Congress to award him a Congressional Medal of Honor, was also one of those connections that paired O’Hara socially and/or professionally with some of the most daring or famous men of the 20th century.

On the Red Carpet at the Turner Classic Film Festival with her grandson, Conor Fitzsimons...

On the Red Carpet at the Turner Classic Film Festival with her grandson, Conor Fitzsimons…


During her one of her festival interviews with Osborne, she finally stated that “Ford loved being Irish, and was thrilled when he could do something involved with Ireland. Anybody who is very talented and very good at their job… 90 percent of the time will treat you well.” And 90 percent seems to be the magic number Maureen O’Hara has designated for John Ford.
'Tis all there is to say or write or think about the matter....

‘Tis all there is to say or write or think about the matter….

Sources, Links, and Websites:
David Meuel’s Women in the Films of John Ford:
http://www.amazon.com/Women-Films-John-David-Meuel/dp/078647789X

Maureen O’Hara’s ‘Tis Herself: http://www.amazon.com/Tis-Herself-Autobiography-Maureen-OHara/dp/0743269160

The fabulous “Direced By John Ford” Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Directedbyjohnfordcom/398684916875651?ref=ts&fref=ts

Moving tribute video by June Parker Beck with Robert Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”: http://t.co/er6MiUGoXY
IMDB Biography of Maureen O’Hara: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000058/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm
Maureen O’Hara’s Star of the Month Celebration on TCM, TUESDAYS IN JULY: http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/1008293|0/Maureen-O-Hara-Tuesdays-in-July.html
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Maureen-OHara-Magazine-Website/131269913567989?ref=ts&fref=ts
Fan Website: http://moharamagazine.com
Wikipedia:http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maureen_O’Hara
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I am so happy to be included in “The John Ford Blogathon” from July 7-13 hosted by Krell Laboratories: http://krelllabs.blogspot.com/2014_07_01_archive.html
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Follow me on Twitter @suesueapplegate
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Red Carpet Revelers at the Turner Classic Film Festival 2014

Top Red Carpet revelers at the Turner Classic Film Festival include an international group of pass holders and seasoned celebrities accustomed to the flashes and clicks of Nikons and iPhones on Thursday, April 10, at the Gala Premiere restoration of 1955’s “Oklahoma!” introduced by TCM Host Robert Osborne and Oscar-winning actress Shirley Jones at the TCL Chinese Theatre.

Special TCM Film Festival 2014 guest celebrities Shirley Jones, Maureen O’Hara, Margaret O’Brien, Kim Novak, Tippi Hedren, Bo Hopkins, Merrie Spaeth, Candy Clark, George Chakiris, Diane Baker, Richard Sherman, Leonard Maltin, Ben Mankiewicz, and Robert Osborne all paraded down the aisle at the popular event. Other stars attending the festival included Richard Dreyfuss and Alan Arkin.


Fancy fans and glitzy celebs posed, pitched, and paired for photo ops from seasoned media professionals and admiring patrons as they walked the gauntlet of onlookers and dedicated classic film lovers on Hollywood Boulevard.


Actress Tippi Hedren, “The Birds” and “Marnie,” and actress Kim Novak, “Vertigo” and “Bell, Book, and Candle,” host a media photo op frenzy as fans and photographers snap away as the gals do the red carpet rumba at the TCL Chinese Theatre prior to Shirley Jones’ introduction to 1955’s “Oklahoma!” Both ladies were patient, gracious, and appreciative of all the attention they received Thursday, April 10, at the TCMFF 2014.


(Photo courtesy of TCM)

Actress Margaret O’Brien attended the Turner Classic Film Festival 2014 to introduce “Meet Me in St. Louis” on Friday, April 11, and memorialize actor friend Mickey Rooney prior to a screening of “National Velvet” on Sunday. O’Brien visited with fans, signed autographs, and posed for photos with international fans and thrilled audiences during her multiple appearances.


Writer Debra Levine and Oscar-winner George Chakiris of “West Side Story” pose for journalists. Levine hopes “everyone will visit” her Arts Meme blog as Chakiris graces her with a warm hug. Chakiris is also a jewelry designer and lectures on classic Hollywood.


Media communications specialist and Dallas resident Merrie Spaeth attended the TCMFF 2014 to introduce her one and only film, “The World of Henry Orient,” with actress Paula Prentiss on Friday at the Chinese Multiplex to a packed audience of fans. According to a Dallas Morning News article by Nanette Light, Spaeth credited “serendipity for landing her a role at age 14 alongside actor Peter Sellers in the 1964 movie ‘The World of Henry Orient.’ A former Reagan aide who is now a public relations executive, Spaeth’s brief acting career is often overshadowed by her role as adviser to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which ran controversial TV ads opposing then Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential candidacy.”

“I thought things like this didn’t happen to people who lived in Philadelphia and went to Quaker school,” said Spaeth, 65.

Light’s article also stated that Spaeth was “absent from the Hollywood scene for more than four decades. Spaeth returned to the red carpet last week — accompanied by her daughter, 22-year-old Maverick Lezar — to celebrate the movie’s 50th anniversary at an April 11 screening during the Turner Classic Film Festival in Los Angeles.”

Spaeth was happy to be a movie star again if only for one day, and enjoyed her four days of fun at the festival.

Spaeth is CEO of Spaeth Communications.


(Photo Courtesy of TCM)
TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz emceed the special TCM/USPS commemorative stamp ceremony honoring former SAG/AFTRA president and actor Charlton Heston as well as poolside screenings and interviews with fans and celebrities at the popular festival. Actress, producer and director Illeana Douglas introduced Jerry Lewis at a screening of “The Nutty Professor” and interviewed Oscar-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss for fans in Club TCM. The granddaughter of classic film actor Melvyn Douglas, Illeana has a popular web series, and acts, directs, produces, and writes for the film and television industries.


Festival fans file in for film screening of 1955’s “Oklahoma!” as they greet media and gallery members. Pass holders came from Canada, the continental U.S, and several European countries to enjoy the festivities at the TCMFF 2014.


Flying in from Dallas, Texas, for the TCMFF 2014 fun, Dallas public relations executive Kelly Kitchens Wickersham and her husband Mark Wickersham enjoy attending screenings and panels. Wickersham administrates one of the most popular Facebook pages for TCM Film Festival fans.


Choreographer Miriam Nelson was a doll AND she was all dolled up!


TCM Ultimate Fan Video Contest winner Tiffany Vasquez from New York donned a lovely flamenco-inspired vintage gown.


Another fabulous gal donning vintage togs was Texan Theresa Madere, a wedding planner from Burnet, Texas. Her perky manner and her interested in classic films inspire her to blog as Butterscotch Greer on the TCM Message Boards Festivals Forum.


Actor Bo Hopkins appeared at the TCMFF 2014 to participate in a poolside screening and discussion of “American Graffiti” and also starred in such films as “Midnight Express,” “The Wild Bunch,” and “Monte Walsh.” Hopkins’ cool demeanor, willingness to chat with fans, and jovial nature made him a favorite on the walk of fame to the TCL Chinese screening. Hopkins has two films in post-production, “The Boys at the Bar” and “Of God and Kings.”


(Photo Courtesy of TCM)
Popular TCM Host Robert Osborne and actress pal Diane Baker on the Red Carpet at the Turner Classic Film Festival appear to cheers from the crowd. Baker is Director of Film and Television at San Francisco’s Academy of Art.


The people most responsible for the success of the Turner Classic Movies Film Festival 2014 (besides the loyal fans of the network) include Charles Tabesh (VP of Programming), Dennis Adamovich (VP of Digital), Jeff Gregor (General Manager of TCM), and Genevieve McGillicuddy (TCMFF Director). Oscar-winning actress Shirley Jones is front and center as she smiles prior to the Gala Premiere Restoration of “Oklahoma!”


Film critic and historian Leonard Maltin and TCM Senior Researcher Alexa Foreman smile for the cameras on Thursday evening before the screening of “Oklahoma!” Maltin hosted several panels and interviewed guests in Club TCM, and was always ready to sign autographs and to visit with fans of his books and articles. Foreman has conducted hundreds of interviews for the Turner Archives and is known as “The Keeper of the Flame” for classic film history at TCM because of her attention to accuracy and detail.


Composer Richard Sherman (“Mary Poppins,” “The Jungle Book,” Winnie The Pooh”) and his lovely wife Elizabeth stopped and chatted for several moments and revealed how happy they were to be part of the festival events.


Actress Maureen O’Hara elicited the most excitement, awe, comments, and applause when she appeared on the Red Carpet prior to the screening of “Oklahoma!” at the Turner Classic Film Festival Gala Premiere Restoration Thursday evening, April 10, at the TCL Chinese Theatre. O’Hara was the most popular star attending the premiere and the Vanity Fair party after the screening, and introduced John Ford’s “How Green Was My Valley,” filmed in 1941, and participated in several interviews with TCM Host Robert Osborne.
A few moments after this photograph was taken, O’Hara’s grandson, Connor Fitzsimons helped her move down the red carpet to my media station, and she reached out to grasp my hand. There was such love and admiration in her voice and her manner, and I knew how much she enjoyed being a part of the festival events. She told me “Thank you” twice, and as she was about to grasp my hand for her very firm handshake she had given to other media representatives along the corridor, someone called out to her grandson to move along, and she was whisked away.

But for a few shining moments, she looked right into my eyes and showered me with attention, and she made me feel like the luckiest gal on the red carpet. Of all the celebrities at the April festival, she was the one that garned the most “oohs” and “ahhs” from passholders and other celebrities wherever she went. Her spirit and her determined air was a great inspiration to me and everyone else she me. Her events at the festival were the most popular for any individual celebrity, and all were blessed with the indomitable spirit of a great Irish lass.

When a special airplane arrived for O’Hara in Idaho, she wasn’t able to climb up the steps because the initial staircase was too high, so TCM sent another plane for her. Her grandson wanted to cancel her appearance, but O’Hara told her grandson that she was going to wait in the executive lounge until the other plane arrived because she was going to the Turner Classic Film festival this year! (Darcy Hettrich, VP of Talent for TCM revealed this story at the initial Meet The TCM Panel on Thursday afternoon at the festival, and the audience loved it.)

Maureen O’Hara at the Vanity Fair party Thursday evening after the screening of “Oklahoma.” (Photo courtesy of TCM)

The excitement of photographing and interviewing celebrities is part of the allure of working a red carpet event. What surprised me most is that many of the credentialed media from established news outlets didn’t know who most of the celebrities were, and I found that one of my responsibilities at the event was to answer questions and explain who the celelbrities were, what their accomplishments entailed, and why they were at the festival. I am glad I was there!

All photos taken by the author unless otherwise noted. ©