Legendary actress Maureen O’Hara, turning 92, involved in legal dispute with former assistant over her Foundation
Saturday, August 11, 2012
She was the screen icon who put Ireland in the Hollywood limelight. But a battle over her legacy could take the shine off Maureen O’Hara’s glittering career. Investigative Correspondent Conor Ryan reports
HIS is a dispute that threatens to herald a very sorry end to a truly celebrated life. At its core is the question of control over the life’s work of a cinema icon and the legacy she has wanted to leave in her adopted home on the Cork-Kerry border.
Maureen O’Hara pioneered the success of Irish idols in Hollywood. The Ranelagh-born actress’ contribution is already projected through the generations of film stars with Irish accents that followed her. But she wanted more than that. She had a dream.
"Sometimes I ask myself what was the purpose of all those glorious years. The struggle? The uncompromising pursuit of excellence? How can we pass this on to future generations?" she told perspective donors in 2009.
In the same video address, Ms O’Hara went on to introduce plans for a school and museum that would carry her name long after she was gone. She celebrates her 92nd birthday on Friday with her legacy now seemingly at the mercy of the family courts.
Meanwhile, those she entrusted with realising her dream, the Maureen O’Hara Foundation, have been accused of distorting it.
Demands have been made by her new legal team to reveal what the foundation has done with its money and what of Ms O’Hara’s has it got control of. In Glengarriff, the fledgling foundation has been torn apart.
It is now in limbo, unsure of the continued support of its lead patron and unwilling to continue without her.
Suspicion first circulated through innuendo, but was articulated by Ms O’Hara herself, following the intervention of some of her family.
These developments have prompted the foundation’s chief executive, Glengarriff accountant Frank McCarthy, to open the books. He said the foundation is anxious to explain what it has done with the trust, goodwill and contributions from Maureen O’Hara, her international friends and her neighbours in West Cork.
Mr McCarthy has outlined the ambitious vision that the group had been preparing to unveil to the public.
He set out what it needed from Ms O’Hara’s estate. And he gave a detailed account of the money it has raised and spent since its inception.
He said far from the foundation distorting the actress’ legacy, he believed it was on the cusp of securing it.
"The foundation remains steadfast in its primary purpose of making the dream and creative legacy of Maureen O’Hara a reality," he said.
His words are echoed by Ms O’Hara’s stepson Chris Blair, who is a director of the American arm of the foundation and said in his conversations with the actress the dream espoused by the foundation was ambitious but it was what she wanted. Still, he said, that dream is in grave danger.
"The current difficulties are beyond distressing, and I certainly hope that all questions can be cleared up through independent review as quickly as possible.
"With so much uncertainty about the future, I think it is impossible to move the organisation and its mission forward until this is accomplished."
The reputation of the foundation, and that of those involved in it, has been swept up in a rancorous split between Maureen O’Hara’s friends, her family and her erstwhile team of advisors.
In May and early June, rumour wreaked havoc. Initially, Ms O’Hara was forced to come out and deny that she was the victim of elder abuse.
She had to confirm that the many events she attended had not been organised to tout her fame for money.
The elder abuse suggestion was dismissed after a visit from the Health Service Executive.
Around the same time, the High Court was asked to rule on who should take charge of her affairs.
The choice has effectively come down to her extended family or the friend she trusted to look after her estate during her old age.
That close friend is Carolyn Murphy, 71, who until recently was Ms O’Hara’s personal assistant. Originally from the US, Ms Murphy was trusted to act with power of attorney once the actress was too frail to manage her own affairs. The arrangement came about in 2005 after the two women had known each other for 30 years.
Ms Murphy is the chairman of the foundations in Ireland and America.
When allegations of elder abuse and maltreatment first surfaced, the aging actress energetically leapt to her friend’s defence.
But, Ms O’Hara’s tone changed when an accountant from the Caribbean, Pablo O’Neill, and a lawyer from America, Edward Fickess, arrived into West Cork with her grandson Conor Beau Fitzsimons and nephew Charles Fitzsimons.
Mr Fickess organised a press conference at Eccles Hotel in which Ms O’Hara said matters had been brought to her attention that caused her to question the role Ms Murphy had played. She sought to relinquish the power of attorney granted to her.
Mr Fickess also circulated a statement to newsrooms across the country that spelled out the whispered allegations that had been circulating around Glengarriff since the beginning of the summer.
At this conference the actress was flanked by Mr Beau Fitzsimons.
He is 42 and the son of her daughter Bronwyn Fitzsimons. She has not featured publicly in the dispute but Ms O’Hara has revealed that her family is back living with her.
Bronwyn’s cousin, Charles Fitzsimons, has spoken on the affair. He resigned as a director of the foundation and told the Sunday Independent it had outrageously misinterpreted her dream.
But her stepson, Mr Blair, contradicted him and maintained that the dream had to be ambitious or it would fail.
"The plans are certainly ambitious, but if there is to be an academy and legacy centre in Maureen’s name, the mission, the facility and its staffing must be of international stature.
"Otherwise what is the point? Another tourist bus stop in Glengarriff with movie curiosities and a shop selling reprint posters?
"The village is too far off the beaten path for the centre to have much of an impact on the economy and Irish culture unless it offers something essential and unique. The academy is that element in my view," he said.
For her part Ms Murphy has said the suggestion of impropriety had annihilated her reputation but was proud of the work of the foundation.
"I am deeply disappointed, heartbroken and hurt by the false allegations and rumours surrounding the Maureen O’Hara Foundation.
"I cherish Maureen’s vision and dream. Her legacy is the precious seeds and blueprint for her ultimate achievements. A thing that can not ever be stolen or taken.
"I am very honoured to work with a group of people whose shared spirit of giving, passion and commitment is an expression of the true love for Ireland’s greatest actress, a great lady and a real legend."
Ultimately the outcome will rest on whether Ms O’Hara still retains the mental competence to make the decision on who should manage her interests.
Reporters at her press conference noted that the actress appeared a little out of touch — she was asking about an Irish soccer match weeks after the conclusion of the European championships.
However, it is said that she has passed tests in hospital to confirm her state of mind.
There was one particularly pointed suggestion fingered at the foundation. This was contained in the statement released on behalf of Ms O’Hara.
The claim questioned the ownership rights to the valuable artifacts of Ms O’Hara’s career.
"I need answers to some disturbing questions because I feel like my trust has been violated. I want to know who holds the rights to my own name, image, likeness, movie memorabilia and signature," Ms O’Hara’s statement said.
Her new lawyer, Mr Fickess, and accountant, Mr O’Neill, have begun their own audit to satisfy themselves as to the state of the actress’ possessions.
In response, the foundation said it laid claim to nothing and it had no assets to its name.
"[The foundation] does not have, and never had, title to the name, image, likeness, signature or memorabilia of Ms O’Hara," a statement said.
And it said there were no transactions between the actress and the company that carried her name.
"The Maureen O’Hara Foundation has never received direct contributions, funds or assets at any time from Ms O’Hara," it said.
Prospective memorabilia has been restored. Material has been warehoused and itemised by Ms O’Hara and Ms Murphy. But the actress still owns them.
The foundation said if Ms O’Hara was supplied with information that cast doubt on its motivations, then that was "factually incorrect".
No complaint has been made to gardaí. But ultimately control of these assets is crucial to the future of the foundation and the outcome of the family dispute.
The idea underpinning the centre was that it would eventually get rights to these assets. This was to be organised by means of a long-term loan that would end if the foundation ever wound up.
This loan arrangement was considered essential for the proposed legacy centre if it were to attract tourists interested in the life’s work of Ms O’Hara.
The terms were with lawyers and were never finalised before relations became strained.
There have been suggestions that the foundation, and Ms Murphy, had taken direct control of responses to fans in exchange for contributions to the fund.
The foundation said it has received just €5,310 from this up to Dec 2011. The majority came anonymously but some was in return for signed photographs.
There has been a private contract entered into. But the foundation said it has not stolen money.
"Media suggestions and innuendo of financial appropriation and misappropriation is without merit and have hurt the foundation, its representatives and ultimately Ms O’Hara herself," its board of directors said.
[MORE AT LINK ABOVE]
[quote] The idea underpinning the centre was that it would eventually get rights to these assets. This was to be organised by means of a long-term loan that would end if the foundation ever wound up.
This loan arrangement was considered essential for the proposed legacy centre if it were to attract tourists interested in the life’s work of Ms O’Hara
I don't think it is going to attract a lot of tourists. It doesn't sound like the foundation took advantage of her or her estate. She didn't give them any money and they have only received €5,310 in contributions and from autographed picture sales. And it sounds like they can account for the €5,310. These people weren't being paid.
She is #3 on my "That bitch is still alive?" list after Olivia Dehavilland and Joan Fontaine.
I know this is not Twitter but it's also not Vanity Fair. It would be preferable to link to whole articles, I'll bet most DLers would agree.
However, I did enjoy the article. I would love to see a current photo of the lady.
Thanks, OP, for posting the whole article. Your thoughtfulness is appreciated.
R5, it has long been practice and policy on DL to post both the link (for verification that it is an actual story from a real source) and the entire article.
Move it along, toots.
I love Maureen O'Hara as much as the next guy but:
"....the generations of film stars with Irish accents who followed her"
If she really wants to get our attention, she'll finally reveal the male movie idol she walked in on making hanky-panky with John Ford.
R10, since she said the event took place during the filming of "The Long Gray Line", its clear by implication she was referring to famously bi-sexual Tyrone Power.
Why she chose to be so coy about it was not to protect Power but to out John Ford, who until that time had been considered a "man's man".
I'm thinking Ty put the moves on Ford and Ford couldn't resist...
Ugh, have you ever seen John Ford's long gray line?
I hope they are able to work this out so that she can spend her final years in peace.
BUMP for Maureen.
[R10] Since it took place at Columbia Studios in California, and it was not during the Long Gray Line, which was filmed at West Point, but before, and Tyrone Power was in New York at the time, I doubt it.
I love Datalounge as you get to read about celebrities no one has ever heard of, unless you're over 80
R16, Maureen O'Hara is not an obscure B-list actress from the 30's. She's a major movie star and I suspect a lot of people know who she is since millions of people watch 'Miracle on 34th Street' every Christmas.
So if it wasn't Tyrone with Ford, who was it, Maureen?
And don't forget "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "The Quiet Man" R17.
And....How Green Was My Valley!
Roddy, once again
She retired in the 1960s and she was nowhere near as iconic as someone like Bette Davis. She isn't that well known to most people unless they're old.
What about the fact that she's seen on t.v. every year when Miracle on 34th Street is shown, R21?
Is Maureen Sullivan dead? I always forget which one is Mia Farrow's mother.
Miracle on 34th St may be shown on TV every year around Xmas time but that doesn't mean anyone under 60 is watching it these days.
Seriously, The Parent Trap is on ABC Family or one of those networks all the time. We had a pretty long thread about it here not too long ago. I'm betting a lot of younger people know her from that.
I always loved her in The Quiet Man. She made some great movies with John Wayne.
She started back in the 1930's with Charles Laughton in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame".
I always confused her with either Arlene Dahl and Rhonda Fleming or, on the other hand, Maureen O'Sullivan.
Darling, I gave birth to white trash.
I like the film she made with John Candy.
[R10] He was in preparation for Mister Roberts at the time. Since he had an office at Columbia Studios, it could have been anyone filming at Columbia in LA at the time. He certainly knew enough people who could come by to say hello. His door was unlocked, she said.
She turns 92 in 3 days - Friday August 17th.
Actually the original star of the film was John Wayne. Tyrone Power was in New York and hired over the telephone. If O'Hara was looking at costume sketches, that was at the time Wayne was set to do the role.
Happy Birthday Maureen, you old flame haired bitch . Other than that twat Joan Fontaine, and my dear friend Olivia (not really), you survived us all.
She's in two of my favorite movies. The Parent Trap and Only the Lonely with John Candy.
She is coming to the US to appear at a festival honoring John Wayne, so she can't be too bad.
Omg, i had no idea that she is alive and kicking.
Those Irish knew and still know hot to be...indiscreet! Lol
'Charles Laughton and his wife, Elsa Lanchester, were never blessed with children. Years after he died, Elsa wrote her autobiography and claimed they never had children because Laughton was homosexual. That`s rubbish. Whether or nor Laughton was gay would never have stopped him from having children. He wanted them too badly. Laughton told me the reason they never had children was because Elsa couldn`t conceive, the result of a botched abortion she`d had during her earlier days in burlesque. Laughton told me many times that not being a father was his greatest disappointment in life.'
- Maureen O'Hara
Maureen O'Hara was never in her life a pussylicker?
Do you know who is the guy with her in this photo and from which movie this picture was taken?
I was kidding about Maureen O'Hara being a pussylicker. She has straight vibes all the time. Strange eh? Lol
Did you know that she was friends with John Wayne? I read that she and Wayne remained friends until his death. In her home on St. Croix, she had a wing she called the John Wayne Wing because he stayed there when visiting. It was badly damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, some ten years after Wayne's death.
[quote]I always confused her with either Arlene Dahl and Rhonda Fleming or, on the other hand, Maureen O'Sullivan
Telling Arlene Dahl and Rhonda Fleming apart if nearly impossible. In fact, they even played sisters in a movie.
She doesn't look a day over 55!She would have been wondeerful in THE KING AND I!If only Rodgers and Hammerstein hadn't been put off by her having played a pirate queen in her last film.Thosr stuffy old windbags.Rodgers wrote better music with Hart.Anyway,another reason Maureen would have been good in The King And I is because she could have done all the singing.She did actually impress Rodgers and Hammerstein years later into offering her the role onstage but she said "You turned me down.you don't get a second chance." She said it was a matter of integrity.I would have taken the part!
I'm surprised because a few years ago I read that she did not intend to travel back to America at her age and was going to live the rest of her life in Ireland.
Perhaps the controversy over her foundation in Ireland and the people there that tried to take advantage of her changed her mind.
Reading O'Hara's story about Laughton makes me wonder what do gay guys do to prime the pump before they fuck women. Was he really bisexual? Or are women so naturally alluring and the pussy so irresistible that they don't have to do anything at all?
She did "Christine" on Broadway which was essentially a poor rip off of "The King and I" in 1960, the soundtrack's on iTunes.
Maureen also claimed she pitched the idea of Mary Poppins to Walt Disney but he hated her or something; it's in her autobiography.
PunchyPlayers did an impersonation of her for their Mary Poppins video but it was cut:
Did the outspoken Maureen have anything juicy to say about her hot Miracle on 34th St. leading man John Payne in her autobiography (or elsewhere)?
R57, all she says about him in this interview is that he was very nice and a great guy to work with.
Btw, the Idaho Statesman is the newspaper that outed Former Senator Larry Craig by revealing the details of his arrest in the Minneapolis Airport bathroom.
She is absolutely gorgeous in that What's My Line? clip!
Wow, she looks terrific in that recent picture - and how nice her great-grandchildren seem with her! Thanks for posting that story R50, how did you find it? Do you live near her? I almost wish I could travel rom NY to Iowa to see her at that upcoming John Wayne Festival!
Will her great-grandson turn out to be a hottie one day?
She wrote about Natalie Wood "The day she died, I cried shamelessly. It was such a horrible way to go for such a lovely, lovely girl," Maureen remembered in her autobiography 'Tis Herself.
To her, Natalie had always been the little girl who played her skeptical daughter with such ease and charm in the classic Miracle on 34th Street (1947). The two became fast friends and, in between the late-night filming sessions in Macy's department store, they would walk together and admire the toys and clothes. For years, Maureen even cherished keepsakes from her little co-star.
"She loved making little ceramics on the weekends and used to bring me gifts of lovely painted animals and people. Unfortunately, Hurricane Hugo in St. Croix stole them all and I can't find even one,"
She had one failed marriage (if you can call that way the bond between a boy and a girl that said "yes, I do" and never see each other again), then another marriage that left only one good thing for her: her daughter. At this point, the image of Maureen the untouchable, the one you had seen in movies like Against all flags starts to succumb. And then her vulnerability strikes you.
This book contains one of the most violent episodes ever: her alcoholic second husband, the one that left their home and came back when he wanted, the one that hired prostitutes with her money because he didn't work, the same that decided to change houses every two minutes and pick every time a more expensive one, that same guy, drunk of course, kicks Maureen on her stomach. She was pregnant. Eight months pregnant. And then she continued living with him for years, before assuming that she was freaking scared of what he might do to their daughter.
It wasn't very easy to read things like that. It wasn't easy either to read the difficult/marvelous times she lived with John Ford. Pappy, as she called him, allowed her to live some of her greatest moments as a performer, but also feel utterly miserable. According to Miss O'Hara, he was a man that could praise you one moment and the next make fun of you or call you a bitch in front of a crowd. He did the craziest things -- including campaigning against her winning the Oscar
(Read the whole article in the link below)
O'Hara liked Hitchcock and wrote later that she "never experienced the strange feeling of detachment with Hitchcock that many other actors claimed to have felt while working with him."
"Working with Ty Power was exciting. In those days, he was the biggest romantic swashbuckler in the world. But what I loved most about working with Ty Power was his wicked sense of humor."
"Rex Harrison and I disliked each other from the outset. Hollywood might have called him the greatest perfectionist among actors, but I found him to be rude, vulgar, and arrogant." She recalled that when the camera was on her face and his back "he'd belch in my face."
About George Montgomery "I found him
Speaking about 'The Fallen Sparrow' "With John Garfield, (my shortest leading man, an outspoken Communist and a real sweetheart)..."
"Jeff (Chandler)was a real sweetheart, but acting with him was like acting with a broomstick."
"From our very first scenes together, working with John Wayne was comfortable for me."
"I have been mother to almost forty children in movies, but I always had a special place in my heart for little Natalie. She always called me Mamma Maureen and I called her Natasha... when Natalie and I shot the scenes in Macy's, we had to do them at night because the store was full of people doing their Christmas shopping during the day. Natalie loved this because it meant she was allowed to stay up late. I really enjoyed this time with Natalie. We loved to walk through the quiet, closed store and look at all the toys and girls' dresses and shoes. The day she died, I cried shamelessly."
About starring 'Lady Godiva of Coventry': "I was not in the nude, as the studio claimed to the press. I wore a full-length body leotard and underwear that was concealed by my long tresses. An unexpected pleasure on the film was watching a promising young actor named Clint Eastwood cut his teeth on it."
"Henry Fonda told me that he didn't know what he wanted to do with his life until Marlon Brando's mother persuaded him to try his hand at acting. Fonda was the gifted, tough, and classy kind of leading man that I most enjoyed working with."
" I discovered that in a Jimmy Stewart picture, every scene revolves around Jimmy Stewart. I was never allowed to really play out a single scene in the picture. He was a remarkable actor, but not a generous one."
Flynn was another story. She sat next to him at a war bond rally during World War II and noticed that he took regular sips from a whisky bottle he kept under the table. Then he began making lewd remarks to her until she threatened to expose him in her speech. He slipped under the table and made an exit on his hands and knees.
O'Hara got a better impression of Flynn when they starred in "Against All Flags."
"He was wonderful to work with," she said. "He came to work prepared, he knew his lines, he knew what he was supposed to do. Only one bad thing he did. By 4:30, 5 o'clock, his drinking would catch up with him. I did all my love scenes to a white chalk mark on a black flag, with the script woman reciting Errol's lines in a monotone." She also said, "I respected him professionally and was quite fond of him personally. Of course there was one glaring inconsistency with his professionalism. Errol also drank on the set, something I greatly disliked. You couldn't stop him; Errol did whatever he liked. If the director prohibited alcohol on the set, then Errol would inject oranges with booze and eat them during breaks."
Hahaha R65, right!
In 1941's "How Green Was My Valley," she began her association with the cantankerous Ford. She was asked why the four-time Academy Award-winning director was so hard on his actors and crew.
"I think he didn't achieve what he wanted in life," she replied. "He didn't become a great military hero, he wasn't a great Irish rebel leader. I don't think he got what he wanted."
Ford's major target was John Wayne, whom he made a star with "Stagecoach."
"I think Ford adored Duke, but maybe he was jealous," O'Hara said. "Duke had the physique and the strength that Pappy (Ford) hoped he would have but didn't have.
"Duke wouldn't have crossed him for anything. The only person whoever punched him in the nose was Henry Fonda on 'Mister Roberts.' And they changed directors."
O'Hara made five movies with Wayne, including "Rio Grande" and "The Quiet Man," and he gave her a compliment she cherishes to this day: "He said I was the greatest guy he ever knew."
Yet despite their many love scenes together, she maintained he never made a pass at her. "Why would he?" she asked. "I could have punched him out. I did judo, I fenced, I played soccer, football. I would've hauled off and hit him."
Can someone please find and reprint Maureen's infamous quote about catching John Ford in flagrante delicto with one of his leading men?
I think it might have been an anecdote more so than a quote.
And she pretty much all but said it was Tyrone Power.
The incident took place at Columbia studio and concerned Ms. O'Hara visiting Ford's office regarding costumes for The Long Gray Line . At no time does she state the name of the actor.
Larry King Live Weekend
Maureen O'Hara Discusses Her Life in Film
KING: But you didn't think you were beautiful?
O'HARA: No, not until I saw a closeup in "Jamaica Inn," and I thought, wow, I'm not bad looking. But before that, you've got to realize, my other love was sports. I was a soccer fan, a fight fan.
KING: Tom boy.
O'HARA: I was a tom boy.
O'HARA: And I loved punching all the boys. And they used to call me horrible names. They used to call -- I don't know why, they always called my Ginger.
KING: Do you still like sports?
KING: So if there's a sporting event on television, you'll watch it?
O'HARA: Particularly -- I'm not a wrestling fan, but oh, boy, I love the fights. I used to leave to watch Joe Louis. He was a boxer. He wasn't a slugger, he was a boxer.
KING: He could hit, too, though.
O'HARA: Oh, yes. Well, a boxer is -- has to hit if he's going to knock out his opponent.
KING: Did you like the attention? Did you like being famous?
O'HARA: No, not really. To be...
KING: I mean, life in the '40s for a major actress in this town must have been phenomenal.
O'HARA: When the town was phenomenal. And to be part of it was wonderful. It was the town. It was not the people in the town, it was the town that was wonderful.
KING: Hollywood and bright lights?
O'HARA: Yes, but to be famous is, if you like privacy, it invades your privacy and takes that away from you. And there are many times where you'd go out to go shopping in the supermarket or something and you think, oh, to hell with it, I'll just put a scarf on and go. And then always somebody spots you and says, oh, you're so and so. And you think, oh, why did I do that? Why didn't I take the time to dress properly and look properly. And that's what you lose.
KING: Another thing that always worked for you was that the wonderful Irish brogue, right? You didn't lose that.
O'HARA: Well, you know, I think that basically the accent in United States of America came from the Irish immigrants if you really listen to it. And then, of course, it's got a little touch of German and a little touch of French and a little touch of Spanish and everything.
>>> >>> >>
O'HARA: I worked with -- everybody asks me, did I have a relationship with John Wayne. No, no way.
KING: Well, it's natural to assume, because they associate the two of you together so much.
O'HARA: Oh, I used to have an old lady stop me in the street and say, I saw your children today, and they were all Duke's kids.
KING: Back to Duke.
KING: What was special about him? You mentioned his -- he was very political, right, very opinionated on things?
O'HARA: Yes, yes.
O'HARA: Oh, his greatest fault was his loyalty to people.
KING: Too loyal?
O'HARA: He was too loyal. He was loyal to a fault. But he was a wonderful person.
KING: Now he was...
O'HARA: He was a great friend of my husband's, Charlie Blair's. They used to play chess together all the time. And you would say, what would you like for dinner? Steak. Well what do you want with the it? Potatoes.
>> >> >>
KING: Tyrone Power?
O'HARA: A wonderful, wonderful performer. I loved him very much.
KING: Died suddenly, didn't he? Heart attack?
O'HARA: Heart attack while fencing.
KING: What was he, 40-something?
O'HARA: Something like that. It was very, very tragic.
O'HARA: Super handsome, and Irish, too.
KING: I saw him on Broadway in "John Brown's Body."
O'HARA: Yes; he was a great, great friend of mine. And when we first worked together I was very young and I didn't know little, off- color stories. I didn't really know what they meant; and he used to say to me, let me tell you a story and go tell it to the director, he'll love it. And me, like a fool, I would do it.
READ THE WHOLE INTERVIEW BELOW!