Her comments still ring true today
The movie, music, comedy, and entertainment industries are under extreme scrutiny right now as bombastic allegations have come to light that several high-profile men who preyed on unsuspecting up-and-comers in the industry. Sexism and sexual harassment are nothing new, but it seems like it would be less likely to happen to someone who’s famous… Someone who has millions of fans that could expose a predator to everyone…
It turns out that this is not the case. While many people all over the world are assaulted every year, it appears that being a start doesn’t make it any less likely. It also is just as likely that these stars will suffer in silence like so many other as they fear of being blackballed from their industry or retaliated against in some other way. This fear has long stopped their voices from being heard. Finally, after years of silence, everything is coming out.
Then again, not everyone kept quiet. Musician and author James Rhodes dug up a 72-year-old interview with the Irish actress Maureen O’Hara, and it’s incredibly relevant to the events going on in Hollywood right now. Though Maureen has passed on, she’s being championed as an outspoken sexual harassment activist.
An Actress is Born
Maureen was brought to America in 1939 by the actor Charles Laughton because he thought that she was perfect to play Esmerelda opposite to his Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
By 1945, Maureen O’Hara had appeared in 15 films. She was especially celebrated for her role as Angharad in How Green Was My Valley. She was 25 years old when she was interviewed by The Mirror in New York, and she spoke out on the people that she had encountered during her career already.
She told the writer of the story that Hollywood producers and directors labeled her as a “cold potato without any sex appeal” simply because she refused to let them “make love” to her.
She continued about the sexist treatment:
“I am so upset with it that I am ready to quit Hollywood. It’s got so bad I hate to come to work in the morning. I’m a helpless victim of a Hollywood whispering campaign. Because I don’t let the producer and director kiss me every morning or let them paw me they have spread word around town that I am not a woman — that I am a cold piece of marble statuary.”
Ready to Quit
Maureen was married at the time and a mother, but she wouldn’t have bowed down to the studio executives anyway. She was there to work as an actress, not to give into the depraved whims of her bosses. She continued, “I guess Hollywood won’t consider me as anything except a cold hunk of marble until I divorce my husband, give my baby away and get my name and photograph in all the newspapers.”
All of this unwanted attention was leading Maureen to believe that being a famous actress wasn’t for her. She ended her statement, “If that’s Hollywood’s idea of being a woman I’m ready to quit now.”
Maureen didn’t quit; she starred in dozens of films throughout the fifties, sixties, and seventies. She played John Wayne’s strong-willed love interest in the 1952 hit The Quiet Man and the mother in the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street. She remained in Hollywood after her whistle-blowing interview because she was a “tough Irish lass.” She said in a 2004 interview with The Daily Telegraph, “I proved there was a bloody good actress in me. It wasn’t just my face. I gave bloody good performances.”
Maureen later married again. This time, Brig. Gen. Charles Blair in 1968 and quit making movies in the early 70s so that she could move out to the Virgin Islands with him where they operated their business Antilles Airboats. Charles sadly died in a plane crash in 1978, and she took over the company. She was the first woman president of a schedule airline in America. She sold the company after a few years, and went back to appearing in a few made-for-TV movies before passing away at her home in Idaho in 2015.
A Strong Woman
Maureen has been hailed as one of the earliest women in Hollywood to expose rampant sexual harassment. Twitter user @EB_McConigley commented, “I love the strength she showed but it’s so upsetting to think that 70 years later women are still forced to fight this same battle.”
Twitter user @LadyMissCarly explained that her family had been touched by the seedy nature of Hollywood as well, saying, “That is such a shame. She was BEAUTIFUL! My late grandmother was a contract dancer for MGM and never wanted to talk about her experiences.”
Some fans of Maureen now have a reason to appreciate her for a whole new reason. Twitter user @glasgowcathcart exclaimed, “My dad loved her and he’d love her even more after reading that. Time to bring this sense of entitlement to an end.”
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