Hollywood Star Maureen O’Hara and Her Connection to Foynes
Thanks to the generosity of Maureen O’Hara’s grandson Conor Beau Fitzsimons, who donated an extensive collection of the Hollywood legend’s personal belongings, we now feature the Maureen O’Hara Exhibition. Plans are in place to significantly expand this exhibit as well, so that we can display the entire collection.
The O’Hara-Foynes Connection
In 1968, Maureen O’Hara married famed aviator Brigadier General Charles Blair, who was a friend of her family’s for many years. Among other highlights of his distinguished careers in the U.S. Air Force, as a senior pilot for Pan American, and as a seaplane pilot for Antilles Airboats, Blair flew flying boats into Foynes between the years of 1942 and 1945.
Blair died tragically in a plane crash in 1978, but his widow always remained strongly connected to his legacy. Just a little more than a decade after her husband’s untimely death, O’Hara cut the ribbon at the opening of the Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum on 8th July 1989.
O’Hara would remain a dedicated patron of the museum up until her own death in 2015, attending all our major functions and celebrating her birthday with us every year.
A Bit About Maureen O’Hara
Born Maureen Fitzsimons in 1920 in Ranelagh, Dublin, Maureen O’Hara is one of the most celebrated Hollywood leading ladies of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. She was also a gifted singer and athlete. Her enormous acting talent—evident from a young age—and her striking beauty helped her land starring roles from her second film. Her lead role as Esmerelda in her fourth film, 1939’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, catapulted her to stardom.
A sampling of other classic movies O’Hara lent her talents to include How Green Was My Valley (1941), This Land Is Mine (1943), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), Sitting Pretty (1948), Rio Grande (1950), The Quiet Man (1952), The Long Gray Line (1955), Our Man in Havana (1959), The Parent Trap (1961) and McLintock! (1963).
The actress worked with some of the greatest directors from the Golden Age of Hollywood, such as John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, William Dieterle, Henry Hathaway, Henry King, Jean Renoir, John M. Stahl, William A. Wellman, Frank Borzage, Walter Lang, George Seaton, George Sherman, Carol Reed, Delmer Daves, David Swift, Andrew V. McLaglen and Chris Columbus.
O’Hara also starred opposite some of the most celebrated leading men of the era, including five famous pairings with John Wayne, as well as roles alongside Tyrone Power, John Payne, Rex Harrison, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Brian Keith, Sir Alec Guinness and others.
In 1973, O’Hara decided to retire from acting, taking only a few roles throughout the rest of her life, primarily in made-for-TV movies. She happily managed Antilles Airboats, a company providing commuter seaplane services around the Caribbean, with her husband. She and Blair also traveled the world, and she published a magazine called The Virgin Islander, penning her own column titled “Maureen O’Hara Says.”
A long-overdue Oscar was finally awarded to O’Hara in 2014 in the “Lifetime Achievement” category. This Oscar is on display in the museum’s Maureen O’Hara Exhibition. It can be seen along with some of the star’s costumes, designer dresses, accessories, other awards, passport, correspondences with movie stars and world leaders, and other prized personal belongings and memorabilia.