Valentine lovers on screen: John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara
In actor Harry (Dobe) Carey Jr.’s autobiography, “Company of Heroes – My Life as an Actor in the John Ford Stock Company,” Carey described what it was like to co-star in a Western movie with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. He had a part in “Rio Grande,” filmed and directed by John Ford in three weeks at the old George White ranch in Moab, Utah, and one week back at Republic Studios in Hollywood.
Carey wrote, “The old man (Ford) enjoyed directing Duke in this role and of course Maureen was with us to make it all the more beautiful. She was so gorgeous it took your breath away to see her every morning. I wished I was a leading man and could do a love scene with her, like Duke did. Uncle Jack put that scene off until the last day of shooting.” The entire cast stood around watching that scene. Even in person, they could feel the dynamics between the two stars.
Between 1948 and 1970, Maureen and “the Duke” made five movies together: “Rio Grande,” “McLintock,” “The Wings of Eagles,” “The Quiet Man” and finally “Big Jake,” their last picture together, which was filmed in Durango, Mexico.
She co-starred with other famous leading men, like Errol Flynn, Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, Joel McCrea and Anthony Quinn, but there was a certain magic when beautiful, red-headed Maureen was in a John Wayne movie.
Many audiences truly believed that their onscreen love scenes continued into real life. They did not, as she has said many times in many interviews over the years. In a Larry King interview done in October 2000, that is available on YouTube, she answered questions about John Wayne:
“He had described me as ‘one hell of a guy,’ and I considered that a compliment, because I grew up being a tomboy,” she laughed. “He was gentle and wonderful, tough and strong. His only fault was that he was too loyal to his friends. My husband and I were good friends of his for many, many years.”
She talked about some of her leading men. “Errol Flynn was an Irishman from Australia. Anthony Quinn’s father was an Irishman who emigrated from the western part of Ireland to America, then down to Mexico where he met his wife. He acts like a fisherman from the Aran Islands and he was the same in real life as they are.”
She described her marriage to Charlie Blair, a former military man, an adventurer, a commercial pilot and an airlines owner who died when his plane exploded, as “very special” and said Charlie treated her “heavenly,” sometimes surprising her by bringing her breakfast in bed while living in their newly-built St. Croix home in the Virgin Islands. “I became complete for the first time in my life when I was married to Charlie, so it was later very easy to walk away from acting, movie stardom, and Hollywood,” Maureen stated.
Her husband, Charlie, and John Wayne liked to play chess together and Wayne visited their home many times. When they filmed “The Quiet Man” in Ireland during the summer of 1951, Maureen and some of the cast stayed at Ashford Castle in County Mayo. John Wayne brought his four older children along with him on the trip to watch John Ford direct this classic film about an Irishman returning to his hometown to find a wife to take to America. He wanted them to see Ireland and meet Maureen’s family, the Fitzsimmons.
Maureen was born in Ireland on Aug. 17, 1920, and continues to live there from June through October, before returning to the states to visit friends and family. While in Ireland, she sponsors two annual golf matches during those months, both dedicated to her husband, Charles Blair.
Walking onstage today with the help of a cane, this Irish beauty makes many public appearances in Ireland. She still possesses that wonderful spirit that filmgoers have admired onscreen over the years. The Irish, like the entire world, have always adored Maureen O’Hara for her independence, her talent and her beauty.
In the forward to her book, “‘Tis Herself,” she writes the following:
“Being an Irishwoman means many things to me. An Irishwoman is strong and feisty. She has guts and stands up for what she believes in. She believes she is the best at whatever she does and proceeds through life with that knowledge. She can face any hazard that life throws her way and stay with it until she wins. She is loyal to her kinsmen and accepting of others. She is only on her knees before God. Yes, I am most definitely an Irishwoman.”
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