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
image
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
image
image

image

Follow me on Twitter @suesueapplegate
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christy.putnam.5?ref=tn_tnmn
The Silver Screen Oasis: http://silverscreenoasis.com/oasis3/viewtopic.php?f=92&t=4260&start=840
KKES Radio Classic Film Expert, Sundays from 12-1p.m.: http://www.1027thehog.com
TCM Message Boards: http://forums.tcm.com/index.php?/topic/39646-sue-sue-ii/
The Examiner.com: http://www.examiner.com/classic-film-in-national/christy-putnam

Advertisements

Actress Debbie Reynolds’ online auction party…

TCM Film Festival Guest and TCM Cruise favorite Debbie Reynolds appeared onscreen last evening in another royal blue suit (not this one!) looking lovely. That shade is so complementary and illuminates how vibrant she still is…

The Debbie Reynolds Auction Preview Party was live-streamed on USTREAM for the Hollywood Motion Picture Experience last night from The Debbie Reynolds Studio in West Hollywood. Reynolds was being interviewed by host Steven Sorrentino, with comments from time to time from her son, Todd Fisher, who was wearing a cap and t-shirt, and running around organizing guests and comments. Reynolds discussed the “Gone With The Wind” furniture, Charlie Chaplin’s hats, a carved, wooden buffet used in several Tyrone Power swashbucklers, posters, and dresses. Reynolds, remarking she had fallen earlier in the week and hit her head, even did her impression of Mae West (It’s still spot on!) Son Todd arrived with water for Reynolds, and his wife, actress Catherine Hickland, came to visit with play-by-play host Sorrentino about the collection while Reynolds took her break and did interviews with other media representatives. An open bar helped insure all the patrons were happy, and viewers were able to watch it for free online by following this link: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/hollywood-motion-picture-experience-presents

Fisher chatted with Stan Freburg, recording artist, comedian, and author, and right before the break, he reminded viewers that Reynolds had to leave to take a break and do a few interviews. Later on in the evening, an online drawing, entered by more than 1500 auction bidders, afforded one lucky participant an extra $1000 to use for bidding on the item of his or her choice. (Colleen from Minnesota was the winner. Two soft-cover catalogs were also awarded as 2nd and 3rd prizes.) Reynolds picked the winning slip out of a silver punch bowl.

After one of the interviews, the online audience was treated to a live-streaming of the “action” as patrons mulled around the exhibit in view of a stationary camera. A pianist was playing “Somewhere in Time” and helped everyone feel in a more expansive mood so that preparing a bid on a favored item wasn’t such a stressful activity. The live feed camera then settled on the “Gone With The Wind” chairs, and the cherubs on the mirrors that were so lovingly restored by Reynolds’ father were readily visible.

Sorrentino, who also offered his Sammy Davis impression while extolling the virtues of the Rat Pack suit colllection, and Reynolds also chatted about two lovely wooden/gilt mirrors that her father helped restore. She purchased them at the MGM auction, and they had been in several Judy Garland movies. Reynolds said it took her father about a year to completely restore them. After her interview, the live feed camera settled on the “Gone With The Wind” chairs, and the cherubs on the mirrors that were so lovingly restored by Reynolds’ father were readily visible.

All of these items were professionally well-preserved. Reynolds explained that Fisher carefully inventoried many of the costumes, and removed the labels which kept the clothing acid free, and she also stated that they consulted the experts at The Smithsonian about proper storage and restorations.

Also during the interview, I think I saw the portrait of Greer Garson from “Mrs. Parkington,” and then I saw the Norma Shearer dress from “Romeo and Juliet.” While they had some tech problems with the live feed sound, and Sorrentino kept trying to locate which camera to pitch to, Reynolds kept chatting and posing for photos with visitors. Laugh-In’s Joanne Worley, Dick Van Patten, and Reynold’s Thalians pal Ruta Lee were reported to be in attendance, but I never saw them onscreen.

Cameraman Roy Wagner, a good friend of Fisher’s, discussed some of the historic cameras featured in the auction with Todd. The Aikley camera Oscar-winning Cameraman Linwood Dunn owned was used on “King Kong,” “Citizen Kane,” and was used for many RKO films. The Vista Vision camera in the auction is one of the few remaining working Vista Vision cameras, and filmed special effects for the “Star Trek” television series, and many classic films like “Funny Face” with Audrey Hepburn. Wagner discussed the “six-foot” rule during filming (a safety zone which allowed only the Director of Photography within the 6 foot perimeter circling the camera while in use). Wagner also discussed the magic of the box and what each camera had experienced in its varied history.

Daughter Carrie Fisher supposedly made a quick appearance early in the evening.

The last of the lots go on the block this weekend.

Don’t forget to have some fun!

©