Saturday, October 24, 2015

R.I.P. Maureen O'Hara

Growing up, I always wanted to look like Mary Kate Danaher.

It's funny--I realized today that I've probably watched two of her movies every year since I was a kid--Miracle on 34th Street and The Quiet Man. And of course I grew up with The Parent Trap. Her performances are as much a part of my memories, my cultural grounding, as Monty Python or the Replacements.

O'Hara always seemed to play a woman who didn't need anyone's bullshit--you had to win her over. And I wanted to be that.

I've seen The Quiet Man probably 36 times, which is as long as I've been alive. My great-grandfather came from the area where they filmed it (though he left by 1904), and when the film came out, it became a family obsession, in part because of that, because we looked at it and said "we came from there"--and it's true, because we've met our family who still live near there, still have the family farm.

But not just my family--it was so popular in my neighborhood, that when I went to a funeral about ten years ago, I came across an old friend of my dad's, who, realizing he was one of the last of that crowd, sat there and told me about how he'd wished he'd moved away, and found his own White O'Morn. For some reason, it had a real hold on the men of my parents' generation, who grew up hearing about the Old Country from their fathers or grandfathers, treating the film like some sort of Irish-American Haggadah. I know people from Ireland hate this, because it can be patronizing--but it comes from a sincere place.

She had a good death, which is more than can be said for most people, famous or not. But it's hard not to feel a little sad--as others have already said, there's so little of Old Hollywood still living, I guess it's only Olivia de Havilland now.