Thursday, May 1, 2014

Maureen O'Hara: The Biography by Aubrey Malone

Maureen O'Hara: The Biography
by Aubrey Malone
Hardcover - ISBN: 9780813142388
October 2013
304 pages
University Press of Kentucky

Barnes and Noble

I had received a copy of Aubrey Malone's biography of Maureen O'Hara from the publisher a while ago. In preparation for the TCM Classic Film Festival and seeing the actress in person, I picked it up to read because I didn't know very much about O'Hara's life and I was excited to learn more.

Malone's book is a practical biography of the legendary Irish actress. It's a no frills kind of book that doesn't seek out to reveal anything extraordinary but serves to tell the story of O'Hara's life with a firm focus on her career and her relationships with her husbands and with important figures in her life such as director John Ford and actors Charles Laughton, John Wayne and Brian Keith. If you are looking for juicy gossip, look elsewhere. If you want a basic primer on O'Hara, then this is a basic and readily available choice.

Besides a few attempts at being creative with language, the book is written in a very approachable style. O'Hara's life is fascinating and that coupled with very clear language made this book quite readable. The first few chapters felt a little awkward but the author gets into a good rhythm and the book progresses quite well. It follows O'Hara's life and career from her early days in Ireland up to 2013.

Reading the book you learn about the influence of several male figures in O'Hara's life. For example, actor Charles Laughton helped her get her start in Hollywood, she had a troubled relationship with director John Ford and she developed a close friendship with John Wayne and became a big support for him when he was dying. Her third husband Charles Blair was one of the most important person in O'Hara's life and his tragic death was a major loss for her.

I really enjoyed reading O'Hara's reflections on old age. There were several quotes in the book and they were from when she was younger and looking ahead to the future.

"Me? All I want is to live to be a hundred."
"I can't wait to grow old. I'm going to be the nastiest old lady you ever saw."

In fact, there were lots of great quotes from O'Hara but most of them are from her autobiography.

This book was a good starting point for someone like me who wanted to learn more about O'Hara and was pressed for time. But when I finished reading it I didn't feel satisfied. The backmatter reveals that much of the information in the book comes from archives, libraries, O'Hara's autobiography and various printed sources. O'Hara was not interviewed for the book and neither were her relatives or friends. A lot of research went into this biography but I felt like it could have been a lot richer if it were made longer with the addition of some interviews. What results from all of this is an informative yet mediocre book. After reading this, I immediately put O'Hara's autobiography Tis Herself, published in 2004, on my wishlist because I still felt there was still much more to learn about O'Hara as a person and an actress.

Maureen O'Hara: The Biography is part of the University Press of Kentucky's Screen Classics series. The publisher has a fantastic Newsletter and Blog both of which have regular classic film related articles.

1 comment:

  1. I've had her autobiography on my wishlist for a while now, but I won't buy it until I've finished reading all the other unread books on my shelf. Bummer. Glad you posted this review though because I was debating picking this one up too. Now, I don't think I will. I think I'll go straight for Tis Herself instead.


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