best film: Maureen O’Hara is most often remembered around Christmas with Miracle on 34th Street or around St. Patrick’s Day with The Quiet Man, but her best single film is John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley (1941).  Ford was a great director for decades, but the greatest single stretch during that long, distinguished career was from 1939-1941 with Stagecoach, The Grapes of Wrath and How Green Was My Valley. John Ford did not open up often to talk about his work but on occasion he would call this his favorite of his own films. How Green Was My Valley won five (nominated for ten) Academy Awards (including best picture and best director). It often gets brought up among cinephiles as the film that beat Citizen Kane and is seen in that context. But this is not Around the World in 80 Days (1956 over The Searchers), Oliver! (1968 over 2001: A Space Odyssey), Kramer vs. Kramer (1979 over Apocalypse Now) or The Artist (2011 over The Tree of Life). Ford’s film is an artistic behemoth in its own right, even if it falls short of Welles’ Kane. This is one of Ford’s most ambitious projects. Part of the talented crew assembled was art director Richard Day (winner of a whopping seven Oscars overall). Day helped build the massive coal mining set that took months of construction to build.  Thematically it makes a perfect twin billing with The Grapes of Wrath – the story of a family set against nearly unfathomable hardships.  This is more of an group effort than most of Ford’s films (Ford often uses the extras as a gorgeous choral gallery here), but O’Hara has a big part as Angharad.



A breathtaking frame early at the three-minute mark with Maureen O’Hara (21 years old here, and already a few archiveable films under her belt) in front of the coal stacks like Monica Vitti in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Red Desert (1964). This may seem like the only time you could compare Antonioni and Ford – but it holds – and Ford even went as far as painting the hillside black to make it look like an authentic with the coal mining. Painting a hillside is a move out of Antonioni’s playbook (he used the paint brush for landscapes in Red Desert) – though this comes decade before the Italian master. Ford shows a dedication to background as well as foreground throughout that frankly most of his work does not.



best performance:   The Quiet Man. O’Hara is a volcano here and goes toe to toe with the massive John Wayne (she was often paired with Wayne in her career) and Victor McLaglen (and Ward Bond and Barry Fitzgerald). Her iconic kiss with Wayne (a great homage to the scene in Steven Spielberg’s E.T.) justifiably lives on as a great scene in film history.



O’Hara’s trademark red hair captured in glorious technicolor in 1952’s The Quiet Man



stylistic innovations/traits:  Dublin-born Maureen O’Hara was a perfect pairing for John Ford (particularly when he wanted to recall his love for Ireland and the Irish) and John Wayne. She was tall in stature (hence the Wayne coupling) and was famous for the fire-red hair (used oh so well in The Quiet Man). She is known for playing spirited characters (to match that hair). She had nine (9) archiveable films getting her first archiveable film before the age of twenty (20) in an Alfred Hitchcock film (Jamaica Inn).



O’Hara as Doris Walker opposite Edmund Gwenn in one of the best Christmas films – Miracle on 34th Street



directors worked with:   John Ford (4), Alfred Hitchcock (1), Carol Reed (1)



top five performances:

  1. The Quiet Man
  2. Miracle on 34th Street
  3. How Green Was My Valley
  4. Rio Grande
  5. The Hunchback of Notre Dame



archiveable films

1939- Jamaica Inn
1939- The Hunchback of Notre Dame
1941- How Green Was My Valley
1942- The Black Swan
1947- Miracle on 34th Street
1950- Rio Grande
1952- The Quiet Man
1955- The Long Gray Line
1959- Our Man in Havana