Actress Maureen O'Hara will be receiving an Honorary this year along with the great actor/singer/activist Harry Belafonte. Neither were ever nominated for competitive Oscars despite rich and enduring showbiz careers and, you know, that's exactly the type of performer that Honorarys should go to. Joining them are two previous Oscar winners because the Academy loves to double up for some reason. Still it's hard to complain about honors for animation genius Hayao Miyazaki and screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere. Jean-Claude, who is most famous for his work with Luis Buñuel has worked in multiple countries and for a very long time and semi-recently he co-wrote the super-brilliant movie Birth (2004) that we like to obsess on here. All four are amazing talents so congratulations to them!
But mostly I couldn't be filled with more joy about O'Hara. We've been pushing for an Honorary as long as The Film Experience has been around. I'd like to claim credit for the Academy finally waking up and going "duh. no brainer: Maureen O'Hara!" but I suspect it was her recent tribute at the AFI that did it. O'Hara is 94 years old so there's no time like RIGHT NOW.
I gradually fell in love with Maureen O'Hara because of The Parent Trap (1961). When I was a wee bairne, before movies became my grand obsession, that movie was it for me, The Best One Ever. My mom liked Hayley Mills, I gather, whose big peak popularity years were in the early 60s before she had had any children. I assume this is how we came to know and love the various Mills movies as children but in truth I don't remember. I just remember that it was always my favorite. I thought it was hilarious, sang along to "Let's Get Together", wanted desperately to have my own twin and to this day I still find stories about twins irresistible.
As I grew older and the movie gradually became "I loved that as a kid!" nostalgia, I still enjoyed revisiting it from time to time. I even watched this kiddie classic with a high school friend more than once because that is a cool thing for moody teenagers to do (shut up). When I was little the movie was all about Hayley Mills. It was only when I started to get older that I noticed how deftly its two movies at once, a family comedy for kids and a romantic comedy for adults. And Maureen O'Hara couldn't be more vivid in it, and I'm not just talking about The Queen of Technicolor's hair. Some actresses fear playing mothers because it ages them but O'Hara, who was in her early 40s at the time, is proof positive that you don't have to be remotely sexless onscreen once you've acknowledged that you've entered the "onscreen mom" years. She's so lively in the movie in a great comic turn that uses so many of her gifts: terrific sexual chemistry, feisty spirit, solid dramatic chops, and entrancing beauty among them.
I didn't know when I was a kid that Maureen O'Hara had been a big deal since the late 1930s so it was a joy to discover that she had such a rich film history with multiple classics on her resume. There's a couple very important titles that I somehow haven't seen (The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Quiet Man are moving to the top of my queue), but we've talked Black Swan (1942) and How Green Was My Valley (1941) in the past few years right here.