With brilliant auburn hair and emerald green eyes, it’s no wonder Maureen O’Hara was nicknamed the “Queen of Technicolor.” But the Ireland-born actress, who would have turned 100 on Aug. 17, was more than the sum of her pretty parts. Maureen specialized in playing strong-willed women who, like herself, were ahead of their time. “She had to be tough to survive what life threw at her,” says Aubrey Malone, author of the newly updated Maureen O’Hara: The Biography.
When she began making moves in 1939, the athletic 5-foot-8 beauty fell naturally into adventurous roles. “I acted, punched, swashbuckled and shot my way through an absurdly masculine profession,” said Maureen, who is often best remembered for her pairing with John Wayne. “I prefer the company of men, except for Maureen O’Hara,” the Duke once said. “She is a great guy.”
A Life Well-Lived
Maureen proved to be just as feisty in her private life. After two failed marriages, she wed Gen. Charles F. Blair Jr., an AirForce aviator, in 1968. The couple moved to the U.S. Virgin Islands where they operated an airboat company and a tourist magazine. But their happy existence ended when Charles was killed in an aviation accident in 1978.
“I didn’t have time to sit in a corner and cry, I was left with an airline to be run,” she said. In time, Maureen returned to acting and continued to work until the age of 80. She died in 2015 at her home in Boise, Idaho. “I would love to have sung just one opera,” she said looking back, “but I wouldn’t change my life.”
—Louise A. Barile, with reporting by Lexi Ciccone