Born Maureen FitzSimons in Ranelagh (a suburb of Dublin), Ireland. Her mother was an accomplished contralto. Her father managed a business in Dublin and also owned part of the renowned Irish soccer team "The Shamrock Rovers".
Maureen loved playing rough athletic games as a child and excelled in sports. She combined this interest with an equally natural gift for performing. This was demonstrated by her winning Feis awards for drama and theatrical performing. By age 14 she was accepted to the prestigious Abbey Theatre and pursued her dream of classical theatre and operatic singing. This course was altered, however, when Charles Laughton, after seeing a screen test of Maureen, became mesmerised by her hauntingly beautiful eyes. Before casting her to star in Jamaica Inn (1939), Laughton and his partner, Erich Pommer, changed her name from Maureen FitzSimons to "Maureen O’Hara" .
Under contract to Laughton, Maureen's next picture was filmed in America (The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)) at RKO Pictures. The epic film was an extraordinary success and Maureen's contract was eventually bought from Laughton by RKO. At 19, Maureen had already starred in two major motion pictures with Laughton. Unlike most stars of her era, she started at the top, and remained there - with her skills and talents only getting better and better with the passing years.
She went on to make many films, including How Green Was My Valley (1941), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), Sitting Pretty (1948), The Quiet Man (1952), The Parent Trap (1961) and McLintock! (1963). She was also voted one of the five most beautiful women in the world.
She not only had a wonderful lyric soprano voice, but she could use her inherent athletic ability to perform physical feats that most actresses couldn't begin to attempt, from fencing to fisticuffs. She was a natural athlete.
In her career Maureen starred with some of Hollywood's most dashing leading men, including Tyrone Power, John Payne, Rex Harrison, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Brian Keith, Sir Alec Guinness and, of course, her famed pairings with "The Duke" himself, John Wayne. She starred in five films with Wayne, the most beloved being The Quiet Man (1952). She remained friends with John Wayne until his death.
In 1968 Maureen married her third husband Charles Blair. He was a famous aviator whom she had known as a friend of her family for many years. Maureen happily retired from films in 1973 after making the TV movie The Red Pony (1973) (TV) (which won the prestigious Peabody Award for Excellence) with Henry Fonda. With Blair, Maureen managed Antilles Airboats, a commuter sea plane service in the Caribbean. She not only made trips around the world with her pilot husband, but owned and published a magazine, "The Virgin Islander", writing a monthly column called "Maureen O'Hara Says".
Tragically, Charles Blair died in a plane crash in 1978. Though completely devastated, Maureen pulled herself together and, with memories of ten of the happiest years of her life, continued on. She was elected President and CEO of Antilles Airboats, which brought her the distinction of being the first woman president of a scheduled airline in the United States.
Maureen now lives quite happily in semi-retirement. Though her home is in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, she also spends time throughout the year in New York, Los Angeles and Ireland. She has been coaxed out of retirement several times for several TV productions and a couple of films.
Her trademark red hair contributed to her title of “Queen of Technicolor”.