Old Movie Teams

Weren’t they also in that other movie?

Maureen O’Hara & Charles Laughton

As a movie team, Maureen O’Hara and Charles Laughton collaborated in many more ways than their three appearances together in the following films would imply:

Jamaica Inn (1939)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
This Land Is Mine (1943)

Charles Laughton, an accomplished actor in films and on stage, as well as a noted director and producer for theater, first noticed Ms. O’Hara when she was still Ms. FitzSimons in a screen test she did for a London studio. She was 17 years old at the time. Although the screen test was only passable, Mr. Laughton saw promise in the expressiveness of her eyes, an expressiveness complemented later in her movie career by the advent and widespread use of Technicolor. Mr. Laughton recommended she be given a chance in a small role in Kicking the Moon Around (1938) (a.k.a. The Playboy or Millionaire Merry-Go-Round), a film that showcased the singing talent of Evelyn Dall. That same year, Charles Laughton also helped Ms. FitzSimons secure the role of friend and protector for the titular character in My Irish Molly (1938).

He further promoted Ms. FitzSimons career when, the following year, he was tapped to play the sinister lead in Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn. Owing to his recommendation, Ms. FitzSimons was summoned to play the ingenue opposite Mr. Laughton. It was Mr. Laughton, along with fellow producer Erich Pommer, who then also recommended Ms. FitzSimons change her name to something shorter, something that would easily fit on a theater marquee, something very important in those days to one’s movie career. As the story goes, Charles Laughton suggested either Ida Maureen O’Mara or Maureen O’Hara. When Ms. FitzSimons complained that she liked her name and would like to keep it, Mr. Laughton is reported to have said: “Very Well, you’re Maureen O’Hara.”

After the WWII drama This Land Is Mine, Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara appeared together on screen only one other time, but not on the silver screen. They appeared together on Ralph Edwards’ March 27, 1957, TV episode of This Is Your Life, which was honoring Ms. O’Hara. Mr. Laughton spoke glowingly of the woman he helped catapult to stardom, relating a story she told him in answer to his question about why she wanted to be an actress. She explained that, as a child, she used to talk to flowers in her family’s garden and to pretend she was a flower so that the flowers could talk to her. Mr. Laughton concluded his homage to Ms. O’Hara by saying to her and the audience watching that he then and there knew “she had to be a pretty nice girl and a pretty good actress, too. And heaven knows you’re both.”

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