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Maureen O’Hara receives an Honorary Oscar
08 Nov 2014 :
Almost a decade to the day since her 2004 recognition in Ireland, by the Irish Film & Television Academy (IFTA), Maureen O'Hara is being given a prestigious Honorary Oscar Award this weekend, an honour she so richly deserves - from the American Academy - a fitting tribute to a screen legend and an extraordinary Irish woman.

The Award will be presented at the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ annual Governor’s Ball in Hollywood on November 8th 2014. This Oscar will be welcomed as acknowledgement of a lifetime body of work by an extraordinary Irish woman.

In 2004, the then-newly established Irish Film & Television Academy (IFTA) honoured Maureen O'Hara with the Lifetime Achievement Award in Dublin, led by video tributes from some of Maureen's many admirers, peers and collaborators throughout the years including directors Steven Spielberg and Chris Columbus and actors Milo O'Shea & Hayley Mills, with the Academy paying tribute to Ms O’Hara’s great screen presence as well as her unwavering love of her homeland.

O’Hara gave an entertaining acceptance speech to an enthralled audience of her peers in Dublin and also gave some words of wisdom

“All of you in the theatrical profession, television or movies, never forget you represent to the whole world this small, great, fabulous country. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this Award, it’s just a wonderful gift from Ireland to an Irish woman.” See 2004 Award presentation here.

Maureen O'Hara has enjoyed a career through the golden age of Hollywood, spanning sixty-five years, over 60 films and defining Irishness for a generation of cinemagoers. As one of the silver screen's leading ladies alongside Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe, O'Hara has undoubtedly enjoyed a level of success that few Irish actors have matched.

Maureen was one of six children born in a South Dublin house and committed to her goal of becoming an actress. She made many sacrifices in her teenage years, pursuing rigorous acting lessons & joining the Abbey Theatre in 1934. She was cast as a lead in the Abbey’s new play but she never got to play the role as a chance meeting in Dublin led to a screen test in London where she was introduced to Charles Laughton. Laughton lined her up for a key role in the big-budget picture, Jamaica Inn, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, in which Charles also starred. Maureen immediately set sail for America to star alongside Laughton’s Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Maureen’s delivery of her role as Esmarelda earned her huge respect and the film became a major box-office success.

Maureen was soon signed up by MCA, the largest talent agency in Hollywood. It was her subsequent casting opposite Walter Pidgeon in How Green Was My Valley, directed by John Ford, that began an artistic collaboration with Ford that would span twenty years of her life. The film was the biggest budgeted picture in 20th Century Fox’s history but under the directorial chaperon of Ford, its success was meteoric as it won five Academy Awards. In the years that followed, Maureen’s career success was unrelenting with leading roles opposite Hollywood’s major leading men such as Tyrone Power, Anthony Quinn, Henry Fonda, Douglas Fairbanks Jnr. and Errol Flynn.

Maureen returned to Ireland to make The Quiet Man in 1951 - a project dear to her heart which she and Ford had worked on for years). Maureen gave the performance of her lifetime as Mary Kate Danaher opposite John Wayne as Sean Thornton. The film was critically acclaimed. In all she made five pictures with John Wayne, the man she claims made a “profound difference” in her life.

Maureen starred in many more popular films throughout the 1960’s including The Parent Trap and opposite Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation. However after the filming of The Red Pony in 1973, Maureen took time to tend to her personal life and loved ones and retired from making pictures for twenty years.

At the beginning of the 90’s, director Chris Columbus convinced Maureen to come back to the screen after he wrote Only The Lonely with her in mind. Starring alongside John Candy, the film had blockbuster success in 1991 and it renewed her interest in acting. Maureen’s last screen appearance was the 2000 television film The Last Dance.

See Irish Academy 2004 Award presentation here

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