'Tis Herself - A Memoir

Maureen O'Hara with John Nicoletti
Simon & Schuster/Townhouse. London. 2004.
Hbk. 325 pages.  Index.

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Maureen O'Hara is the prototypical fiery, Irish, red head with piercing green eyes. She has brought her strong character to the screen in a career spanning 60 years and has starred in nearly as many films including such classics as Rio Grande, Our Man in Havana, Jamaica Inn and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Having worked with some of the most legendary names in Hollywood and British cinema she provides fascinating reminiscences of Hollywood's  Golden Age.

She recounts how she appeared in her first low-budget movie, My Irish Molly, under her real name, Maureen FitzSimmons. She candidly confesses that she knew the film would be a flop as soon as she read the script, and she was right. This nearly put her off films for life, but her next project was the big budget production of Jamaica Inn. Under the directorship of Alfred Hitchcock she worked from 4am to 10pm, six days a week, all for the princely sum of 80 dollars, and no royalties!

When she moved to Hollywood she worked with John Wayne whom she describes as hating his legs, which he regarded as being like tree trunks. She found him to be hard working and intolerant to others who did not listen to the film director's instructions. She notes that the best thing he ever said about her was: 'She's big, lusty, absolutely marvellous...She's a great guy. I've had many friends, and I prefer the company of men. Except for Maureen O'Hara.'

Being regarded as strong and independent as a man meant that on screen Wayne and O'Hara worked so well together that most people thought they were married or at least romantically involved. Such speculation fuelled news stories and boosted ticket sales but she says she never saw him with his boots off!

As a major leading lady she has much to say about her films and those she worked with, and she gives us a candid insight into her family and private life. 'Tis Herself is an excellent glimpse behind the scenes that tells us a great deal about Maureen O'Hara and the film business.

Nigel Watson
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