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'TIS HERSELF, by Maureen O'Hara


TomJH
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For those who haven't read Maureen O'Hara's autobiography, which I just finished yesterday, it's a very good read. She had a life of great highs and lows and manages to squeeze a fair number of them into her book. She speaks with great affection and even admiration, at times, about some of the Hollywood luminaries that she knew, while being quite disparaging about a few others.

 

I was struck, though, by how much of this book must have served as a therapeutic basis for O'Hara in trying to come to terms with the love hate relationship that she had had with the legendary John Ford. As great a filmmaker as this director was, who helped her to achieve some of the greatest highs of her film career, he was also a complicated, deeply manipulative man who, at times, went out of his way to make her life miserable. O'Hara tries to rationalize exactly why he was that way.

 

I knew that Ford could be a bastard before reading this book, but it's apparent that he swung his great power within the Hollywood community, at times, ready to destroy an individual's career, and sometimes for a relatively petty reason (as was the case with O'Hara's brother). A nasty, vindictive man, if you got on his wrong side, which could happen without your even knowing why, at times.

 

For me, though, perhaps the most poignant passage in the book is when O'Hara describes her time in the hospital the day she awaited surgery for cancer of the womb in the spring of 1978:

 

They had given me some medication to make me groggy, and I sure was. I watched orthopedic oxfords shuffle by in slow motion while my IV dripped and imploded. I lay there alone for what seemed like hours and was scared half out of my wits. The phone rang and I fumbled for the receiver. It was Duke.

 

I don't know how he knew I was having surgery. Everyone had strict instructions to keep their mouths shut. But I was so relieved to hear Duke's voice. It put me at ease. We chatted for a while about simple things. It was all upbeat and positive. We laughed and got caught up on the kids, and then Duke grew silent. It caught me off guard and sobered me. Several moments passed, then he started to cry. It was soft and loving, like a little boy. Finally he whispered, "Why you? Why me?"

 

I felt a tidal wave of love roll over me. It was as if this powerful man had reached out through the phone and had wrapped his strong arms tightly around me. I started to cry, and we both remained there for a long while and wept. It was the only time I can remember Duke ever breaking down. I tried to lighten things up and sobbed, "Well, ****! What are you doing calling me up and doing this for? I'm about to go upstairs."

 

We laughed again and chatted for a few minutes. Then we hung up and I was wheeled off to wherever it was they took me. I have always believed Duke must have known that his cancer had come back.

 

I find this passage of her book extremely moving. Two old friends talking after a phone call of support from one of them before the other undergoes major surgery, reminiscing and laughing, but, at the same time, both afraid as they grapple with their own mortality. O'Hara would survive this operation, of course, while John Wayne would be dead a little more than a year later.

 

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Seconding TomJH's recommendation of "Tis' Herself".  Maureen O'Hara was much brighter than she was given credit for; she dissects the Hollywood scene accurately without ever being nasty or telling every secret anyone ever told her.  She tells the truth as she knew it and saw it, & attempts to make inexplicable behavior (I refer to John Ford) understandable to the reader, and as TomJH said, herself.  A fine book.

 

For me, the passages that were most poignant were the ones about how she fought Congress to get John Wayne honored before he died.  Maureen O'Hara was a rebel and a gallant lady; her book is a testament to that fact.  A wonderful read.  JMO.

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I first.read.this.some.10-12 years ago, when I checked it out of the Arroyo Seco branch of the LA library system. Some years later, I bought a copy for $2.00. It was used but in great condition. I agree, a thoroughly enjoyable book. I need to read it again.

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Thanks, Tom, for that passage. I'd read the book when it came out and enjoyed it, but I'd forgotten a lot of things that were in it (including that one) A good book! I'll never understand why RO never did a sitdown with her. I remember someone on the boards saying she was asked but turned them down. Wonder why?

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Thanks, Tom, for that passage. I'd read the book when it came out and enjoyed it, but I'd forgotten a lot of things that were in it (including that one) A good book! I'll never understand why RO never did a sitdown with her. I remember someone on the boards saying she was asked but turned them down. Wonder why?

Thanks, Hibi. You know it's a good book when you're sorry that it's ended.

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Thanks, Tom, for that passage. I'd read the book when it came out and enjoyed it, but I'd forgotten a lot of things that were in it (including that one) A good book! I'll never understand why RO never did a sitdown with her. I remember someone on the boards saying she was asked but turned them down. Wonder why?

She was at the TCM film festival in 2014 and did an interview with RO, part of which was shown last year.

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Yes, but it wasnt a full blown interview like Private Screenings...

It was quite a bit longer than what was shown but she said some things that I don't think they wanted to air. I won't repeat what I was told because I know many people here were fond of her and I was told by someone in attendance, so I didn't hear it first hand.

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It was quite a bit longer than what was shown but she said some things that I don't think they wanted to air. I won't repeat what I was told because I know many people here were fond of her and I was told by someone in attendance, so I didn't hear it first hand.

 

 

LMREO! Really? LOL. Can you pm me? :D Dying to know! :D

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