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Charles B. Fitzsimons ...
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Lucille House ...
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9 March 2000 (USA)  »

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Maureen FitzSimons Confronts Life's Challenges Victoriously
16 May 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Peter Graves narrates this account of the life and career of Maureen FitzSimons, from her birth, near Dublin, Ireland, through her formative years, performing in school plays and Drama competitions, through her challenges and successes as the lovely film star Maureen O'Hara.

From a young age, Maureen aspires to act on stage and on screen, enrolling in Dublin's Abbey Theater to attempt for leading rolls. Her pragmatic Catholic father suggests that she study bookkeeping and typing at a business school, which Maureen does, while her Protestant-turned-Catholic mother encourages Maureen's creative ventures.

While in her teens, Maureen considers the advice of Harry Richmond, who suggests that she travel to London, U.K., for a screen test, on the eve of Maureen's receiving the lead roll in a play, which she considers her chance to shine in the theatre. From here, she accepts the challenge to test for a potential film role....

* Actor Charles Laughton notices Maureen's screen test and offers her a contract to his Mayflower Pictures, on the condition that she shorten her surname to fit upon a marquis; hence, she becomes Maureen O'Hara.

* 1939, nineteen-year-old Maureen elopes with film Production Assistant George Brown, a marriage of which her mother, Marguerita Lilburn FitzSimons, and her mentor, Charles Laughton, maintain would stifle her career. And so, Marguerita and Laughton intercept the bride immediately after the ceremony, place her upon a U.S.-bound ship, and have the marriage annulled.

* Upon her arrival in Hollywood, Director John Ford requests for Maureen to chauffeur a drunken John Wayne from a party, and the three become life-long friends.

* RKO-Radio Pictures purchases Maureen's contract from Laughton, casting both in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1939).

* When Darryl F. Zanuck sees "...Notre Dame," he quickly purchases Maureen's contract for the benefit of 20th Century Fox.

* Technicolor cameras are in limited supply during the WWII years, but 20th C. Fox reportedly guarantees the use of them when it is announced that Maureen O'Hara will star in a film.

* 1941, Maureen marries American Film Director Will Price, with whom she welcomes daughter, Bronwyn Brigid Price, in 1944. Her marriage with Price becomes unstable because of his alcohol abuse, but Maureen may not divorce him because of Catholic regulations.

* Brother Charles arrives in the States to counsel his sister regarding her failing marriage, suggesting that it would be fine with the Catholics for her to divorce an abusive husband.

* When "Confidential Magazine," a notorious scandal sheet tabloid, prints a false rumor that Maureen has been spotted in the back of Grauman's Chinese Theatre performing unscrupulous misdeeds with a purported exotic gentleman, Maureen sues in a high-profile court case, which she seems destined to lose until brother Charles takes the stand to present Maureen's passport, proving that she was not even in the country during the alleged incident. The O'Hara victory finally sets "Confidential Magazine" out of business, after destroying the lives and careers of many innocent celebrities.

* Under Catholic mandate, Maureen is not permitted to marry again unless her ex passes away, and so she must wait for a while to remarry, after meeting Aviator Charles F. Blair, whom many consider as the great love of Maureen's life, and whom she finally is able to marry, in 1968, as they settle in the Virgin Islands, to operate Antilles Airboats Airlines.

* Maureen's talents extend beyond acting, as she also records albums with her pleasant singing voice, and she puts her Business training to work, as she publishes a brochure plus the magazine "Virgin Islander."

* Tragedy strikes during the late 1970's when Mr. Blair loses his life in an aviation disaster, when Maureen learns about the terminal illness of her family friend John Wayne.

* Maureen enters the history books when she is elected CEO and President of Antilles Airboats, with the added distinction of being the first female president of a scheduled airline in the U.S.A.

* With Actress Elizabeth Taylor at her side, Maureen travels to Washington, D.C., to testify before a 1979 Congressional hearing regarding bestowing a Congressional Gold Medal to honor John Wayne, by minting a commemorative medallion, to which Congress agrees.

* Emerging from retirement to star in a 1990's film and three television movies, Maureen also serves as Grand Marshall of New York City's Saint Patrick's Day Parade, in 1999.

Maureen's marriages are with George H. Brown (1939–41), Will Price (1941–53), and Charles F. Blair (1968–78).

Interview Guests for this episode consist of Elaine Parkey (Friend), Lucille House (Stand-in/Friend), June Parker Beck (Archivist), Actresses Anna Lee and Hayley Mills, Actors Anthony Quinn and Roddy McDowall (1997 interview), Charlie FitzSimons (Brother), A.C. Lyles (Producer), Dan Ford (Grandson of John Ford), Chris Columbus (Director).

Archive footage includes Maureen O'Hara, Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power, John Payne, Peter Graves, Charles Laughton, G. Denver Warren, Robert Newton, John Wayne, Cedric Hardwicke, Walter Pidgeon, Roddy McDowall, Edmund Gwenn, Natalie Wood, Henry Fonda, Gene Tierney, Loretta Young, Brian Keith, Hayley Mills, James Stewart, Charles F. Blair, Ralph Edwards, Elizabeth Taylor and John Candy.

Film Clips include a screen glimpse of Maureen through the years, in scenes from "Kicking the Moon Around" (1938), "Jamaica Inn" (1939), "Stagecoach" (1939) (sans Maureen), "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1939), "How Green Was My Valley" (1941), "The Black Swan" (1942), "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947), "Rio Grande" (1950), "Against All Flags" (1952), "The Quiet Man" (1952), "The Long Gray Line" (1955), "The Parent Trap" (1961), "Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation" (1962), "McLintock!" (1963), "Big Jake" (1971), "Only the Lonely" (1991), as well as Television's "This Is Your Life: Maureen O'Hara" (1955), "Perry Como Show" (1958), as well as television news coverage of Maureen O'Hara's suing "Confidential Magazine" (1957), John Wayne Congressional Gold Medal Hearings (1979), and New York City "Saint Patrick's Day Parade" (1999).


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