Maureen O’Hara appeared as Mary Kate Danaher in the 1952 romantic comedy ‘The Quiet Man’. The film was based on a 1933 Saturday Evening Post short story written by Irish novelist Maurice Walsh, and it would provide Maureen O’Hara with the most iconic role of her long career, writes CYRIL McHALE
Where should one start with Mary Kate Danaher? There are probably as many answers as there are fans of the lady who played her. I first encountered Mary Kate in 1952, when the movie ‘The Quiet Man’ burst into life, and she with it, as portrayed, of course, by the late, great Maureen O’Hara.
Maureen’s life has been well chronicled over the years, of course, and older movie fans like myself will readily recall many of the great cinematic contributions she made, depicting a variety of feisty, strong-willed heroines, who would never allow their dignity, or principles, to be compromised.
Born as Maureen FitzSimons on 17th of August, 1920, and reared in Ranelagh, Dublin to a Catholic household, she showed immense talent for acting and performing from a very young age, and won many Feis awards. She was also a talented soprano, and aspired to become an operatic performer.
Her achievements led to Abbey Theatre training at the age of fourteen. By chance, actor Charles Laughton saw a screen test she’d made and was so captivated by her beautiful eyes, contrived to land her the starring role opposite him in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Jamaica Inn,’ in 1939, aged nineteen.
The one condition was that she had to change her name to ‘O’Hara’, a concession she made reluctantly. In the same year, she played the young gypsy girl in ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame,’ again starring opposite Laughton, and gained a contract with RKO Pictures.