Maureen O’Hara, the flame-haired Irish movie star who appeared in classics ranging from the grim “How Green Was My Valley” to the uplifting “Miracle on 34th Street” and bantered unforgettably with John Wayne in several films has died. She was 95.
Maureen O’Hara died in her sleep at her home in Boise, Idaho, said Johnny Nicoletti, her longtime manager.
“She passed peacefully surrounded by her loving family as they celebrated her life listening to music from her favorite movie, ‘The Quiet Man,'” said a statement from her family.
“As an actress, Maureen O’Hara brought unyielding strength and sudden sensitivity to every role she played. Her characters were feisty and fearless, just as she was in real life. She was also proudly Irish and spent her entire lifetime sharing her heritage and the wonderful culture of the Emerald Isle with the world,” said a family biography.
O’Hara came to Hollywood to star in the 1939 “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and went on to a long career.
During her movie heyday, she became known as the Queen of Technicolor because of the camera’s love affair with her vivid hair, pale complexion and fiery nature.
After her start in Hollywood with “Hunchback” and some minor films at RKO, she was borrowed by 20th Century Fox to play the beautiful young daughter in the 1941 saga of a coal-mining family, “How Green Was My Valley.”
“How Green Was My Valley” went on to win five Oscars including best picture and best director for John Ford, beating out Orson Welles and “Citizen Kane” among others.
It was the first of several films she made under the direction of Ford, whose grouchy nature seemed to melt in her presence.
The popularity of “How Green Was My Valley” confirmed O’Hara’s status as a Hollywood star.
RKO and Fox shared her contract, and her most successful films were made at Fox.
They included “Miracle on 34th Street,” the classic 1947 Christmas story in which O’Hara was little Natalie Wood’s skeptical mother and among those charmed by Edmund Gwenn as a man who believed he was Santa Claus.
Other films included the costume drama “The Foxes of Harrow” (Rex Harrison, 1947); the comedy “Sitting Pretty” (Clifton Webb, 1948); and the sports comedy “Father Was a Fullback” (Fred MacMurray, 1949).
Often she sailed the high seas in colorful pirate adventures such as “The Black Swan” with Tyrone Power, “The Spanish Main” with Paul Henreid, “Sinbad the Sailor” with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and “Against All Flags” with Errol Flynn.