Our new contributor Diana D Drumm reporting on the TCM Festival which recently concluded
Even at 93, Maureen O’Hara is still sublime, crossing the threshold of everyday stunning into moment-stopping magnificence. Peering at you, you can’t help but feel wonder. Whether she’s speaking on the beauty of a life well-lived or correcting someone’s Spanglish pronunciation of “Rio Grande” (the actress is fluent in Spanish), she transcends her surroundings, even on the red carpet in front of Grauman’s or in front of a brimmingly packed house at El Capitan Theatre. She may not be as full-bodied as her Wayne-pairing prime (that was over 60 years ago, people), but she continues to exemplify a certain Old Hollywood quality unmatched by any contemporary equivalents and envied by her compatriots at the time (including close friend and fellow famous redhead Lucille Ball).
Considering O’Hara’s filmography (The Hunchback of Notre Dame, How Green Was My Valley, and The Quiet Man, to name just a few), it’s confounding that the Academy has yet to present her with an Honorary Oscar. As one of the last of a staggeringly bygone era, it was a true honor and privilege for TCM Classic Film Festival crowds to appreciate her live, though not nearly as much as she and her body of work deserves (yes, The Film Experience will keep nudging until the Academy announces something of import. She's 93! What are they waiting for?). [More...]
At the 2014 festival this past weekend, Miss O’Hara was onhand to introduce How Green Was My Valley with the ever-gracious Robert Osborne. They also had a public conversation at the Roosevelt Hotel. Prior to the movie, TCM screened an appreciative overview of O’Hara’s career. The series of clips and stills ranged from her discovery at the tender age of 18 (by none other than Charles Laughton) and first big Hollywood role in the iconic 1939 classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame to her “Queen of Technicolor”/“Pirate Queen” years (which supposedly lead Richard Rodgers to refusing to cast her as Anna in The King & I) to her onscreen pairings with the likes of John Wayne and Tyrone Power to her fan-favorite screen mother roles in Miracle on 34th Street and The Parent Trap. Her fiery wit, and hair to match, kept her co-stars and directors on their toes. With those black cherry eyes, she melted the hearts of millions.
Coming out on stage, O’Hara had tears in her eyes and was clearly touched deeply, not only by the tribute but by the sight of a full house at the El Capitan. Next to Osborne (who himself looked rather moved), she reflected on how meaningful life is and how we must cherish each and every moment. As an Irish Catholic lass to her core, she emphasized that God is looking down on us and we’d better watch ourselves under His gaze.
Don’t worry, in spite of this show of sentimentality, her sharp tongue hasn’t dulled much with the years. When Osborne asked her about working with the legendary director John Ford, she incredulously threw back “I thought we were going to talk about me.” As the film began to roll and the crowds began to roar with applause at the opening credits, you know it must have brought that glint to her eye and that soft all-telling smile generations of fans have come to love (you know the one, think Miracle on 34th Street when Natalie Wood admits to finally believing in Santa Claus).
In her discussion later that weekend with Osborne, O’Hara got to talk more about herself. She spoke about soccer, one of her favorite topics, and yes, she did say soccer rather than football (being the dual Irish-American citizen that she is). Prior to her Hollywood career, her father owned the Shamrock Rovers and she has remained a lifelong fan. She touched a bit on how Charles Laughton signed her to his production company and brought her over to the U.S. after shooting the little known My Irish Molly (which acted more-or-less as a screen test) and co-starring with him in Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn. When asked about her favorite leading men, she answered, “John Wayne, John Payne and Tyrone Power.” (For Power, his first name is apparently meant to be pronounced like County Tyrone in Ireland rather than the Americanized “Tie-rone.”) She assured the crowd that you could not have found a better, nicer man than John Wayne. After the official discussion with Osborne ended, she welcomed questions from the audience (which mostly consisted of well-wishes) and for photographs to be taken (which can be found on more than a few instagram, facebook and twitter accounts of attendees).
After a few days in the dazzling lights of her former stomping grounds, she will have returned by now to her current home on the outskirts of Boise, Idaho. We can see her, drinking Irish tea and listening to her record of “Do You Love Me” (the Harry James song from the 1946 film of the same name in which she starred), and smiling from knowing the answer. That's thanks to the legions of fans who came out in droves to meet her. Take a pointer from TCM, AMPAS - it's well past time for that Honorary Oscar.