Thursday, March 15, 2012
'TIS HERSELF Maureen O'Hara
Extremely well-written by Nicoletti, this memoir of the red-headed Irish actress describes her journey from Good Catholic Girl in Dublin from a well-heeled, cultured family, to life in Hollywood as a movie star, most famously associated with Johns Ford and Wayne. As O'Hara describes the making of such films as How Green Was My Valley and The Quiet Man, as well as the turmoil of her private life and disastrous early marriages, the book almost reads more like a page-turning novel than non-fiction. While the last sections of the book are not quite as absorbing, there is still some interesting stuff surrounding the mysterious death of her last husband, and some readers may enjoy her inside tales of her long friendship with "Duke" Wayne. The most fascinating material has to do with the contrary character of director John Ford, who used her more than any other actress, but snapped that she couldn't act when asked about her by a student. Ford's love/hate for O'Hara went on for decades, and she observes that he was probably conflicted about his sexuality -- she saw him smooching with a guy -- and imagined he was in love with her [or the character she played in The Quiet Man]. Her religiosity isn't too oppressive, and thankfully she doesn't go much into her presumably conservative politics [although Roddy McDowell tried to explain to her why she would probably never be honored in liberal Hollywood]. Although O'Hara styles herself as feisty and independent, one can't imagine Davis, Crawford or Stanwyck putting up with Ford's nasty, almost insane behavior for as long as she did [I mean, the man tried to have her arrested, had her thrown out of a film she wanted to do for another director behind her back, destroyed her brother's career, prevented her from getting an Oscar nomination and on and on]. She also stayed married to her alcoholic, unloving, abusive, parasitical second husband for way too long. [Marrying "for better or worse," she married for worse!] One wonders how she would have behaved had she wound up in today's Hollywood or wasn't such a Good Catholic Girl? Anyway, this is a frank and interesting memoir.
Verdict: A damn good read for most of its length. ***1/2.