A Fond Farewell to Maureen O’Hara, the Gypsy Soul Who Sparked my Love of Cinema

Maureen O'Hara

My photo tribute to Maureen O’Hara.

The charming and talented Hollywood icon Maureen O’Hara died today. If you’re already a fan of this redheaded jewel, you’re likely to be familiar with her more famous roles; and even if her name doesn’t sound familiar, you may recognize her from such legendary films as How Green Was My ValleyMiracle on 34th Street  or Disney’s The Parent Trap (1961).

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PicMonkey Collage

Maureen O’Hara in Miracle on 34th Street (1947) with co-stars Natalie Wood and William Frawley

The Parent Trap

Maureen O'Hara in The Parent Trap (1961) with co-stars Hayley Mills and Brian Keith

Maureen O’Hara in The Parent Trap (1961) with co-stars Hayley Mills and Brian Keith

I first fell in love with Ms. O’Hara when I was just a young girl. I happened to be watching late night television when I spotted the gorgeous actress as the charming gypsy Esmeralda in the 1939 production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In fact, I credit her and the movie with the birth of my affection for cinema, especially the tragedies.

Maureen O'Hara in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) with co-stars Charles Laughton and Edmond O'Brien

Maureen O’Hara in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) with co-stars Charles Laughton and Edmond O’Brien

I’ve since seen the movie at least three dozen times and to this day, Maureen’s performance still brings tears to my eyes. The storyline itself is incredibly touching [more so, I dare say, than Victor Hugo’s novel] and covers most of my favorite literary and cinematic themes: isolation, redemption, loss, and unrequited love. Most, including myself, would argue that the RKO production is the best adaptation of the novel because it focuses on the bizarre love triangle of Esmeralda, Quasimodo, and Frollo. That said, it is Maureen O’Hara and Charles Laughton who are the catalysts that make this version the masterpiece it is.

I loved the movie so much that, while I was studying for my Bachelors Degree in Literature, I forced myself to read the novel even though it was not required for my major. While I never fell in love with the French epic, Notre-Dame de Paris is legitimately an important piece of literature. Years after the fact, I can now confess that once I became an English teacher, I included the English translation of Victor Hugo’s novel in my curriculum mostly just so I could make my students watch the film! Thankfully, and to my great surprise, even my most contentious students were always moved by the RKO production. In fact, one year my class insisted that I replay the “Sanctuary” scene over and over while they heartily cheered in unison as Quasimodo rescued his heart’s desire. Now, if jaded and churlish high school students can fall in love with Maureen O’Hara’s Esmeralda, I know you can, too.

Thank you Maureen O’Hara. Because of your enormous talent and beauty in film, your light will shine through the ages. May the Light Perpetual now shine upon you.

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Get your copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame at YouTube, Amazon Prime, Vudu, or Google Play.

More information about Miracle on 34th Street (1947) and The Parent Trap (1961)

3 thoughts on “A Fond Farewell to Maureen O’Hara, the Gypsy Soul Who Sparked my Love of Cinema

  1. I watched “The Quiet Man” a dozen times with my mother; it was her favorite movie. Thank you for publishing these pictures. I’d almost forgotten how beautiful Maureen O’Hara was.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can honestly say that this article has moved me to watch the movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame again. The original was always my favorite, too. Although The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Miracle on 34th Street have been done by others, Maureen O’Hara’s version topped them all. Micki, thank you for this tribute to her.

    Liked by 1 person

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