The above lines are more than just the sentiments of G. W. McLintock in the western comedy "McLintock." (1963). They also represent the film experience of John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, one of the greatest on-screen teams in Hollywood history. They indeed "grew together" as life-long friends and together on the screen (and video) they have enchanted their audiences for almost 50 years. What happened between this particular man and woman together on the screen is extremely unique and special. Unfortunately most Hollywood historians tend to overlook their significance in archival recognition and retrospectives of great screen couples.
Their Beginning on the screen together…
The whole film industry should have cried "Eureka!" because gold was definitely discovered the very minute Maureen O'Hara, as Kathleen Yorke, came into that first frame of film with John Wayne in "Rio Grande." Republic studio mogul Herb Yates had agreed to produce John Ford's dream "The Quiet Man" but was convinced that this "silly little Irish story" would never make any money. Thus, Yates demanded that the same screen team (O'Hara, Wayne) first do a western Cavalry picture to make up for his anticipated financial loss in "The Quiet Man." Yates must have had to eat a lot of 'crow,' because not only was "Rio Grande" a success, but it was surpassed by "The Quiet Man" (the latter of which went on to become an all-time classic.)
In reality the deep bonding of Wayne and O'Hara began years before the filming of "Rio Grande" in 1951. Their meeting was through director John Ford when Maureen was barely 17. Ford had recruited Maureen for her second major role as Anghared in "How Green Was My Valley." Wayne was already a part of Ford's extended family, having worked his way into substantial movie parts as his mentor. It was inevitable that the beautiful colleen, Maureen O'Hara would command the attention of the very Irish John Ford. Another friend, Roddy McDowell, who worked with Maureen in "How Green Was My Valley" cited Maureen as being "...the ideal Fordean leading lady, and that's all there is to it. By the time they came to making those films I think Maureen's female influence was held in great respect by the Old Man so that much of Maureen's mature feistiness and bravery is inherent in those characters that she is playing and Ford is shrewd enough to be able to channel their personal relationships into that work." Thus, Maureen became a part of the select group, "Ford Stock Company."
After the success of "Rio Grande" and "The Quiet Man," Duke and Maureen managed to work into their busy star schedules three subsequent films together: "Wings of Eagles," "McLintock" and finally "Big Jake." Without question, Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne brought hours of entertainment and joy to their audience.
Of the five pictures O'Hara and Wayne made together, "McLintock" is right up there with "The Quiet Man" as a special favorite. "McLintock" was described as a western version of "The Taming of The Shrew." This rowdy western had what every good John Wayne film needed - cowboys, Indians, fisticuffs, and some pretty good brawling and clinches with O'Hara. The story was certainly uncomplicated - just a tremendous amount of fun. Although most critics didn't laud the film (one reviewed it as "A story about feuding husband and wife with a 127 minute erotic build-up."), it was a box-office smash - the fans LOVED it...and it remains one of the largest selling of all films on video. The famous "mud fight" with fisticuffs and townspeople sliding into a mud pit was the highlight of the film. This scene spared no one and included Maureen O'Hara executing her share of hat-pin jabs as well as the elegant lady herself sliding backwards into the muddy pit. Of course that was only one of many physical fetes Maureen accomplished in "McLintock" – including the famous public spanking in the film's finale.
Even today an occasional classic movie reviewer will take a few stabs at the "walkin' her back the whole long way" in "The Quiet Man" and spanking in "McLintock" as "unacceptable" in today's feminist mentality (which suggests it's a type of demeaning abuse to women). Another group of critics had still another take on these scenes. They saw as Maureen being allowed to have spirit but, in the end, forced to bend to the will of John Wayne.
These "sensitive new-age guys" in the guise of film reviewers are forgetting that from a woman's standpoint, (and that's the singularly most important view in this situation) it is very difficult to feel sorry for Maureen O'Hara. Here was this fantastically gorgeous woman who could parade about looking utterly feminine and this same lady would roll up her sleeves and scrub a floor, wield a sword, and/or belt any man who got in her way. If, indeed, John Wayne did take charge and throw her over his shoulder, I always had the impression it was when SHE decided. It wasn't just her lines and actions that put her in control…it was Maureen's persona, her stature…and her acting ability. In fact, first time I interviewed Maureen in Los Angeles when I commented on these rough and tumble scenes she quipped, "Oh I teased them a bit, and when I decided it was time, I'd let them carry me off."
In her film roles with Duke, Maureen's combination of femininity and strong independence made her a role model and actually a feminist in her own time. Her female audience began to realize that they too could stand up to their man, and command equality and respect for their ideas and dreams. Likewise, men could definitely appreciate a woman with O'Hara's spunk and determination on or off the big screen.
In each of their five films together they played man and wife, usually in conflict, but with reasonably happy endings. Although their characters were penned by the rich imagination of script writers, Maureen and Duke had a special talent of making those roles even more energetic, passionate and believable....oh yes... and FUN!
In these husband and wife roles Maureen and Duke fashioned a whole new concept of what couples could be - they could be themselves and still love and respect one another. Despite all of the problems their imaginary screen roles dictated, this couple projected a strong moral fiber and respect, and an ability to hold sacred the love that would always exist, no matter what.
Another unique skill possessed by this famous duo was their ability to say volumes in a single steady gaze. The air fairly crackled in the military tent in "Rio Grande" as Kirby and Kathleen finished dinner with a stare-down that let their audience know how intense and sensual their feelings were. This effect is more than just John Ford's genius in lighting and appreciation of the human emotion in what the eyes and facial expression can convey. It was two of the finest acting talents in the business demonstrating the way it should be done.
Wisely, their scripts seemed to be written to allow them the freedom for some major rebellion and intensity. This duo, however, was definitely not of fairy tale proportions. John Wayne was no Prince Charming whispering sweet nothings in his true love's ear while she swooned at his feet. In fact Duke and Maureen behaved more like a real-life couple in any given situation of conflict, with words and temper displayed, but not to a point where they ever stopped loving one another. That was the beauty of their chemistry – they were "real" – believable.
Charles FitzSimons, Maureen's brother, described their chemistry quite well in an interview in October, 1993: "The chemistry was unique for two reasons; that Wayne is the "n-a-t-u-r-a-l-l-y" (and I want to use a word I don't like to use) macho man. In movies today you have these artificial macho (showing his muscles and clenching his fists)…they are so tough…so macho! Wayne didn't have to do that! Wayne was a big man; he was physically powerful; he had no qualms about his abilities as a man or his masculinity and it came across. He came across as a BELIEVABLE MALE. Maureen was the female version of that. She didn't have to put on coquettish airs or she didn't have to try to be a sex pot. The same thing came through from her naturally as came through from Wayne naturally and when these two then inter-related you're got a fantastic situation, and that's why they were such an incredible team! Everything they did had that. And in real life they were incredible friends! John Wayne used to say that Maureen was the "greatest guy" he ever knew."
Author Graham Fuller described John Wayne as being…" quite accustomed to giving a girl a slap on the behind - and that girl was most often Maureen O'Hara." Though some may dispute his theory that O'Hara was the only female capable of bringing out the erotic in Wayne." His description was definitely accurate - "...caught bare-legged with him in a graveyard during a thunderstorm in 'The Quiet Man' she charges the air between them with sexual electricity."
Maureen herself describes their friendship as being like that of sister and brother. "Once we were doing a scene together; now when you respect somebody you give half and half, you don't try to steal, so I was playing half and half." Duke said "What the hell are you doing?" and I said, "OK Duke..50-50" and he says 'To hell with that, you try to get it, you try to steal it,' I said, 'Is that what you want? OK' and he walked away and turned around and said, 'That is...if you can', so boy, we went at it!"
In interviews throughout his career, Duke would frequently attest to the significance of Maureen as his friend and co-star. At one particular Hollywood banquet he remarked, "I've been in more uniforms than George Jessel, I've been in more battles than Napoleon, more wars than Germany and I've captured Bataan, Corrigador, Ft. Apache and Maureen O'Hara". Though in their personal lives they both went their separate ways, Maureen seemed ever present with him, and he with her. She remembered "The night we saw the first running of "The Quiet Man' he rushed over to me, picked me up, and said how great he thought I was."
My observation is that "AO" (After O'Hara) Duke's other leading ladies (fine and beautiful actresses that they were) just couldn't give Wayne that sexuality that was projected with Maureen. She wasn't just a 'tough act to follow' she was an "impossible act to follow." I think that is why Maureen's very brief appearance in "Big Jake" left fans rather deflated. They wanted to see more of her...of them... together. It had been 9 years since they had appeared together on the screen. However, when Big Jake said "Let's go home" at the end of the film to his sons and grandson, I think we all pictured Martha McCandles waiting in front of the ranch house for her men with open arms.
Together, John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara projected a new dimension of on-screen sexual chemistry – more like it might be in real life. They radiated a tremendous strength, respect and love, that was punctuated with a fantastic sensuality. Barbara Walters conducted an interview with Duke before his final hospitalization and in it she asked him if he considered himself a "sex symbol." He hesitated a moment and then shrugged stating that he wasn't a sex symbol, but acknowledged that certainly there may have been a feeling of sex in the minds of his audience conceding that he was not "milk toast" in any form. He then smiled and continued, "I enjoyed 'The Quiet Man' – the relationship with Maureen O'Hara because it was healthy and strong, but it was still sensual…not degrading…"
Maybe in the end, John Wayne himself said it best. "It was healthy, strong and sensual." One thing for sure – it definitely doesn't need continual analysis – just watch their movies together. "Rio Grande" – "The Quiet Man" – "Wings of Eagles" – "McLintock" and "Big Jake." Maybe someday the Hollywood historians will take another good long look at Duke and Maureen and place them where they belong – at the top of the greatest screen couples list.
Whatever magic that manifested on the screen with the coupling of Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne, it was unique and unsurpassed. A combination of love, mutual respect, and lusty personalities that bonded them for life. The words of John Wayne still echo: What about Maureen O'Hara? "The greatest guy I ever knew!"
Above Maureen visited Duke on set of his movie "War Wagon.
Below are my web pages on their films togetherby: June Parker Beck © 6-10-00Rio Grande
The Quiet Man
Wings of Eagles
"The Big Trail" has been a very special place in my heart.. Back in 1991 when I began all my research on Maureen O'Hara, Tim Lilley's wonderful group was where I first began my search. I made some wonderful lasting friendships and found endless resources. I have had such a wonderful adventure and I have many of the "Big Trail" members to thank for that. From the published articles, to the website , getting to know Ms. O'Hara, and even traveling to Ireland - none of this could have happened without the many friends I have made along the way. One can only conclude that O'Hara/Wayne fans are without question some of the greatest people in the world. When I was asked to assist as an archivist for the A & E Bio of Maureen O'Hara last year (which aired March 8th year) I was very honored. I think I am guided by a spirit and feeling that even my small contribution in the form of a website could jog a few memories, or even introduce those memories to a new generation, then I've accomplished something - sharing a little bit of one of the finest eras in film history…."The Duke and his Redhead." http://www.moharamagazine.htm
Essay copyright 6-11-2000, June Parker Beck©
Another page on Duke and Maureen
by June Parker Beck©
Maureen's testimony in Congress
on the minting of the commemorative coin honor John Wayne"Give me a man like Duke Wayne!"(From the archives: A narrative magazine article
from the 1950's by Maureen on one of her favorite subjects - Duke Wayne)
"What Makes John Wayne Hollywood's Favorite Lover?"
Another later article/ interview with Maureen about Duke - probably early 1970's
On to "McLintock"
On to "Big Jake"
Photo Bucket - People's Choice Award - 1970s - Clip 1 - Maureen O'Hara opening speech
Photo Bucket - People's Choice Award - Clip #2 - John Wayne accepting Award
C This is an original website page designed by June Parker Beck of "Maureen O'Hara Online Magazine" at http://www.moharamagazine.com. Maureen O'Hara herself, supports my efforts with consult and context. All information, artwork and design on this page is copyright material and to "borrow"or link any of the contents of the page, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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