Maureen O’Hara, the spirited Irish-born actress who played strong-minded, tempestuous beauties opposite all manner of adventurers in escapist movies of the 1940s and ’50s, passed away on Saturday at her home in Boise, Idaho. She was 95.
Ms. O’Hara was called the Queen of Technicolor, because when that film process 1st came into use, nothing seemed to show off its brilliance better than her rich red hair, bright green eyes and perfect peaches-and-cream complexion. One critic praised her in an otherwise negative review of the 1950 film “Comanche Territory” with the sentiment “Framed in Technicolor, Miss O’Hara somehow seems more significant than a setting sun.” Even the creators of the process claimed her as its best advertisement.
Yet many of the films that made the young Ms. O’Hara a star were in black and white. They included her first Hollywood movie, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1939), in which she played the haunted Gypsy girl Esmeralda to Charles Laughton’s Quasimodo; the Oscar-winning “How Green Was My Valley” (1941), in which she was memorable as a Welsh mining family’s beautiful daughter who marries the wrong man; “This Land Is Mine” (1943), a war drama in which she was directed by Jean Renoir; and “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947), the holiday classic in which she played a cynical, modern Macy’s executive who tries to prevent her daughter from believing in Santa Claus.