The parallel in Maureen and Katharine is primarily demonstrated by their independent and courageous spirit. This is true of their screen persona as well as some of their real life experiences. In the above photo of Maureen from "The Christmas Box" she is made-up to look like an aging widow, complete with gray wig. The photo on the right of Katharine is from "On Golden Pond" - another story of an aging lady. One actress portrays a widow - the other a wife - although throughout their careers they have convincingly portrayed many a daughter, lover, wife, sweetheart, and mother. In real life they both had only one true love and that love, though now gone, still sustains them.
Both of these women are a glowing example of unique beauty that with each growing year has rendered them tremendous character and depth. They are from an era where outer- beauty was the key to opening doors - but both realized early on that it takes more than beauty and talent to survive in the movie business. Both Maureen and Katharine were blessed with a strength of character, discipline, and an enduring and ever blossoming talent. (Kate was born with red hair and freckles as was Maureen).
Maureen and Katharine were also from families who encouraged them to pursue their dreams and yet remain rugged and practical. They were both physically strong and athletic. They both spoke their minds and worked hard at their craft. They both dominated every frame of film in which they appeared.
Golden? Glowing? What keeps that sparkle? The glamor shots are well and good, but it is the un-retouched images of the "real" actress that makes the heart smile.
I am going to use this webpage to publish photos of Kate and Maureen that I feel make them "sisters of the cinema" So stay tuned and we'll see what develops.
June Parker BecK© 1-20-01
Kate Hepburn has a few years on Maureen - She was born on May 12, 1907 (according to Ronald Bergan - author of "An Independent Woman" - some books report November as her birth month) in Hartford, Connecticut ( John Wayne was born May 26th of that same year in the village of Winterset, Iowa). Thirteen years later, across the sea in Ireland, the FitzSimons clan welcomed Maureen. Different ages - different cultures, but all gifted and all destined to make an indelible mark in the film industry.
Kate's mother, Kit, had a masters degree in art from Radcliffe, and her father was a physician. Maureen's mother, Marguerita Lilburn, was a renowned opera singer in Europe, and her father, Charles FitzSimons, was a businessman in Dublin.
Both families had six children. Kate is the second child, as is Maureen. From the age of 4, Kate was taken by her mother to suffragette meetings, which had a tremendous impact on her. Later in life Kate, herself, would work for planned parenthood organizations and gender equality causes. Maureen's culture was typically Irish Catholic which stressed family and church. However, later, Maureen's film persona would make her an icon of male-female equality. She did it without speeches or marching in feminist protests. O'Hara did it simply by being herself - with her beauty, stature and physical prowess - easily mastering fencing, wielding a bull whip - and any athletic fete presented. She did it by being feminine and commanding respect simultaneously. Of course Kate and Maureen were decidedly different in stature. Although both stood 5 ft. 8 inches tall, Maureen was voluptuous and lusty, and Kate had an almost frail, and delicate appearance.
It would be a matter of opinion as to Kate not being quite as lucky in love as Maureen. Maureen met and married her hero, pilot General Charles F. Blair, and they had 10 glorious years of life together before his tragic death in a plane crash. Although Kate had a wonderful love which she enjoyed for many years with Spencer Tracy, it was not unconditional. Tracy was married and although the affair with Hepburn was an accepted fact in Hollywood, Tracy would not divorce his wife because of his young son. Maureen was a little luckier in that she was able to marry and enjoy her love away from the prying eyes of Hollywood, living in the Caribbean, and traveling the world with him. Hollywood did and will historically always glamorize the pairing of Tracy and Hepburn. It was obviously a romantic and equally very precious time of Kate's life also.
Both of these ladies were quite athletic. I believe Hepburn was a swimmer and tennis player, and Maureen also swam, fenced, played golf, camogie (an Irish type of field hockey for girls) - and did many of her own stunts in movies.
The publicity stills of these beautiful movie stars must number in the hundreds of thousands. Perhaps we could entitled the photos below "Stars with Stripes Forever"...eww...bad play on words.
- Casual was the watch-word for Kate Hepburn - the lady who dared to make women
- in slacks a fashion trend. Maureen had her share of casual attire for those precious moments
- away from the glamor of Hollywood. Here she's the captain of her own ship as she rows in
- Bantry Bay at her summer home in Ireland.
- Kate and Maureen matured and maintained that independence and inner glow possessed
- only by the "Great Ones"... Photo above right is of Maureen in "Only the Lonely" in 1991 when she was 69. Kate has the freckles and red hair and special charisma shared by Maureen. They even
- shared leading men -
- Kate at long last with Duke Wayne in "Rooster Cogburn" and Maureen, of course, in her 5th, and last film with beloved friend, John Wayne. In her autobiography "Me" Kate describes John Wayne..."From head to toe he is all of a piece. Big head. Wide blue eyes, Sandy hair. Rugged skin - lined by living and fun and character. Not by just rotting away. A nose not too big, not too small. Good teeth. A face alive with humor. Good humor I should say..and a sharp wit. Dangerous when roused. His shoulders are broad - very. His chest is massive very. When I leaned against him (which I did as often as possible, I must confess - I am reduced to such innocent pleasures), thrilling. It was like leaning against a great tree. His hand so big. Mine, which are big too, seemed to disappear. Good legs. No seat. A real man's body."
- It was different for Maureen, of course. She met John Wayne when she was about 18 or so, and for years they had enjoyed the distinction of being John Ford's favorite actors. They became a part of his extended family and although it wasn't always easy, Maureen and Duke were able to deal with Ford's sometimes bizarre eccentricities. John Ford was a great director, and Duke and Maureen, under his direction, made some of their finest films. However, it wasn't all John Ford. Maureen and Duke were singularly fine, trained actors and stars in their own right. It was because of this talent that they were able to deliver the kind of performances Ford's genius required. They also had the strength and savvy required to be part of the John Ford team. You had be tough. Maureen and Duke were all of that...and more - with Ford and with one another. They were like sister and brother and I am comfortable in stating that he had to be one of the most important men in her life.
- John Ford wanted expressions....concentration on the eyes and emotions mirrored therein. He deliberately paired down the dialogue so he could evoke this depth of emotion from his players. It gave the audience the opportunity to imagine in their own mind what thoughts were racing through the actor's head..what was that character feeling? Kate Hepburn, however, had a more vocal approach to her acting - lots of emoting and articulate dialogue. A voice that usually had an accent with a "rathurrrrr" flair. I personally began enjoying Kate more as she matured in films like "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." For Maureen, "Rio Grande" was the film that best displayed Ford's philosophy of more emotions and less dialogue.
- Anthony Quinn was another actor who was in films with both Maureen and Kate Hepburn. This photo with Kate is from the TV movie "This Can't Be Love" in 1993. For Maureen, however, only two films "The Magnificent Matador" and "Only the Lonely" did Quinn actually co-star with her as a love interest. The other films, "Sinbad the Sailor," "Black Swan," "Buffalo Bill" and "Against All Flags", Quinn just played a supporting player - usually a villain. In "Buffalo Bill" he played an Indian.
- Both of these fine actresses have a legacy of which they can be most proud.
- Will there ever again be this kind of enduring golden glow that we enjoy from Maureen O'Hara and Kate Hepburn? I seriously doubt it. It is indeed a tough act to follow.
- June Parker Beck©