Maureen O’Hara: From Santa to St. Patrick
By June Parker Beck, Maureen O'Hara Magazine
December / January 2013
The movie Miracle on 34th Street won’t be the only place Maureen O’Hara will shine this Christmas season. Bean Ui Dhombnaill, a school-teacher from Donacarney National School in County Meath, decided to compile a series of children’s bilingual books and CDs of Irish folklore. These books will retell the great stories like those of Cuchulainn, Fionn Mac Cumhaill, and the Children of Lir.
Her first story is about St. Patrick and her idea blossomed further when she decided that Maureen O’Hara, legendary actress and native Dubliner, would be the perfect narrator. Much to Bean’s surprise, Ms. O’Hara cheerfully accepted the assignment. Bean said, “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house” as she recited St. Patrick’s Prayer. “She was wonderful!”
Maureen’s narration of the St. Patrick story for the CD is in English and the Irish version is narrated by Prof. Alan Titley of the University of College Cork. There are ten books in the series and along with the CDs will be published by Irish Folklore Publications. Bean Ui Dhombnaill is negotiating with other Irish acting legends to narrate the remaining nine stories. The books will be available in bookshops and from Amazon.
Even today, with the Internet, websites, and social networks Maureen O’Hara remains tremendously popular. Fans still love Miracle on 34th Street.” When we spoke recently, Maureen said, “I also love it!” After all, Maureen, herself is from a large family and very sentimental about Christmas. She has always embraced the warm values the movie portrayed. She also adored her costars in the film, and has special memories of all of them. John Payne, who played her romantic lead, was a frequent co-star and good friend, as well.
Edmund Gwenn, who played Kris Kringle, was “a sweetheart. By the end of the movie, I think he really believed he was Santa Claus and so did we!” Perhaps the fondest memory she has of Gwenn was that he was “always good to chat with.”
Maureen also loves talking about Natalie Wood, who during the making of Miracle on 34th Street bestowed on Miss O’Hara the endearing nickname “Mama Maureen.” Maureen describes young Natalie as a polite, normal, happy girl, “a real sweetheart,” with a very nice mother. She also revealed that during the making of the film little Natalie still believed in Santa Claus.
Another great Christmas holiday venture for Maureen was the made-for-TV movie A Christmas Box in 1998. Without question, Maureen can light up a frame of film like no one else at any age, and The Christmas Box is no exception. She was then 78 years old. There are many things that bring us the spirit of Christmas, but Maureen O’Hara’s presence in this film remains a very special gift to her fans.
Whether reading Irish folklore, starring in Christmas classics or enjoying a Christmas phone call from her family, the Christmas holiday is clearly very close to Maureen’s heart. When asked what her favorite Christmas food is, she replied, “All of them!”
Maureen has now returned to the U.S., and resides near her grandson, Conor FitzSimons, his wife and two children in Boise, Idaho. She is a strong believer in family, hard work, and simple kindness. Clearly, with these values as her guide, the warmth she has displayed in all her films is no surprise. No wonder she’s one of the world’s favorites during the Holidays.
When she appeared on the Johnny Carson show in 1991, Johnny asked what it was like to be in all these timeless classics. The always feisty O’Hara quipped, “When I’m nailed into the box and long gone, you’ll still be seeing [Miracle on 34th Street] every Christmas and The Quiet Man on St. Paddy’s Day.”
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