Irish actress Maureen O’Hara enchanted millions in a string of successful Hollywood movies such as Miracle on 34th Street and How Green Was My Valley.
She is perhaps best remembered for her starring role alongside John Wayne in The Quiet Man, a film that has acquired an army of fans on both sides of the Atlantic.
O’Hara was protective of her private life and rarely spoke about it, although she often gave the impression that she had a happy home life.
However, a controversial new biography claims that O’Hara’s personal life was often far from happy and that she was both bullied and beaten by her second husband Will Price.
‘Secretly gay and a drunken bully’
The book – Maureen O’Hara, The Biography – is written by Aubrey Malone and says that O’Hara was forced to live a double life in which she appeared happy on the outside to her public but was actually miserable because of the behaviour of Price who was secretly gay and a drunken bully.
O’Hara came to Hollywood from Ireland having been discovered by the actor and director Charles Lawton, who starred with her in the 1939 film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Malone describes how O’Hara was tricked into marrying a film production assistant called George Brown before she left Dublin. She is said to have described the wedding ceremony as being a surreal “out-of-body experience” for her.
The book says the marriage was never consummated and the couple divorced in 1941.
Only interested in O’Hara’s money
O’Hara then married Will Price, who was a dialogue director she had met when filming Hunchback. She described him as the perfect Irish man and husband. “I knew I had found a real friend. I had travelled halfway around the world to find the one man I could love.”
According to Malone, however, the relationship quickly turned sour. He describes Price as a brutal bully, a drunk and a closet gay who was only really interested in O’Hara’s money.
She was so desperate to make the marriage work that she was blinded to his “demonic behaviour”. His character may have been affected by his experiences during the Second World War because he returned as “a mean and nasty man”.
“When she refused, he smashed them and punched her in the belly, endangering their baby, daughter Bronwyn, born in 1945. Still, she kept silent because nights like this were too revolting to relate to the world or her family.”
O’Hara found genuine happiness with third husband
The book alleges that Price went on to plunder and waste the fortune O’Hara made from her films. She divorced him in 1953.
She eventually went on to find genuine happiness with her third husband Charles Blair, who she married in 1968. Tragically, he died in a plane crash 10 years later.
O’Hara is now 93 and remains one of the great Iconic stars from Hollywood’s golden age of the 1940s and 50s.
To the Irish and Irish Americans , she is probably best loved for her portrayal of the feisty redhead Mary Kate Danaher in the Quiet Man. The on screen chemistry between her and co-star John Wayne is the highlight of the film and something that still enchants audiences today.
Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling