Behind the Camera: Maureen O’Hara

Maureen was probably one of Hollywood’s great beauties

When discussing classic Hollywood cinema, there are usually several different actors and actresses that come to mind as you murmur the words, “golden age.”

Greta GarboFred AstaireHumphrey BogartBette DavisJames Dean, and Audrey Hepburn, are just a couple of many names on the endless list of legendary classic movie performers.

A woman that doesn’t nearly get enough recognition on these lists is Ireland’s very own ‘Queen of Technicolor’, Maureen O’Hara. 


Born on August 17th, 1920 in Ranelagh, Ireland, O’Hara‘s career lasted 61 years, triumphantly ending in 1991 with the romantic-comedy Only the Lonely starring alongside John Candy. During those six decades, she co-starred with some of the most admired actors in film history.

From Tyrone Power to John Wayne and even Charles LaughtonMaureen O’Hara’s film roles were just an extension of who she was as a woman. 

Whether it be sword fighting with Errol Flynn, planning a summer vacation with Jimmy Stewart, or falling madly in love with John Wayne on the mountainous terrain of rural Ireland, Maureen O’Hara’s filmography is perhaps one of the most underappreciated in classic Hollywood history.

Humble Beginnings

source: Republic Pictures

Strikingly beautiful and blessed with an aura that the camera naturally gravitated too, O’Hara was raised in the sleepy Dublin neighborhood of Ranelagh.

Born to Charlie and Marguerite (née Lilburn) FitzSimonsMaureen has said that her adolescence was “the most remarkable and eccentric that she could’ve hoped for.”

Being the second oldest of six children (and the only red-head), O’Hara lived a relatively happy and carefree childhood. She would often describe her mother in a kind light, saying that she,”inherited [her] singing voice from [her] and that when her mother would leave the house, men would “leave their houses just to catch a glimpse of her on the street.”

O’Hara has also asserted in interviews that she was a rather “blunt child”, saying that she “didn’t take discipline very well.”

As an infant, she was given the nickname, “Baby Elephant” for having a stout physique. Her tomboyish nature had her take part in a number of physically strenuous activities like fishing, riding horses, judo and even Gaelic Football.

O’Hara with her mother, Marguerite FitzSimons in 1948

At the age of 5, she began dancing. O’Hara didn’t take the hobby seriously until a gypsy spotted her and prophesied that she would one day become well-known for her acting skills.

She initially scoffed at the idea, but her parents coaxed her into the thought. Her hunger quickly for fame quickly grew and by age 10 she was working for the Rathmines Theater Company, where she honed her skills in amateur theater productions.

It wasn’t until the age of 17 when O’Hara grew into her stunning looks that casting agents started giving her attention.

By 1937, O’Hara was a full-time actress, working at the Abbey Theatre where she swiftly caught the attention of singer/actor Harry Richman. Richman insisted that O’Hara should travel to London to have a screen test done.

She agreed, and when Maureen and her parents landed on the island she was immediately thrust into the limelight, making her screen debut in the 1938 film Kicking the Moon Around.

First Films

source: Kino International, Ltd 

Although O’Hara didn’t consider Kicking the Moon Around her screen debut, it’s still counted as the first film she’s starred in. However, the movie that she truly believed to be her screen debut was the Hitchcock thriller Jamaica Inn.

Co-starring alongside Charles Laughton, Jamaica Inn is a Hitchcock film through and through. Although it isn’t as recognizable as some of his later drama/thrillers, it holds it’s own as a standalone film.

O’Hara‘s performance received raved reviews, quickly cementing her place amongst Hollywood elite. She was then offered a seven-year contract off the back of her stand out performance.

At first, she and her family declined, citing that O’Hara was far too young to make such a momentous jump in her career. But, after a few drinks and coddling, they caved and Maureen signed a seven-year contract to Mayflower Pictures.

After that she was cast in The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1939. Boarding the ship liner from England to New York, then taking a train from NYC to Los Angeles, O’Hara‘s Hollywood journey truly began.

Because of her role in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, O’Hara‘s star in Hollywood continued to rise, starring in a number of films like How Green Was My Valley, Miracle on 34th Street and of course The Quiet Man.

She followed those up by starring in a series of John Ford films that, just maybe, cemented her legacy as “Hollywood’s toughest broad.

Later Years

As O’Hara got older, she continued to act and hold her own against some of the best in the business, even acting up until the early 1990s. Stand outs from that era include, The Parent Trap, Spencer’s Mountain, and the very funny Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation.

Unfortunately, after a very long life, Maureen O’ Hara would pass away on October 24th, 2015, leaving behind not only a fantastic filmography, but also and incredible legacy as a human being.

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My Obsession with…Linda Darnell

Linda Darnell 1
source: Life Magazine

I was recently listening to a You Must Remember This episode on Linda Darnell and I felt compelled to write something about it.

Linda Darnell was, perhaps, one of the most underrated actresses of her time. With her acting ability often downplayed, she managed to prove her doubters wrong, staring in films like Unfaithfully Yours, Anna and the King of Siam, and most famously, A Letter to Three Wives.

Unfortunately, her career would be plagued with personal conflicts, bad management, and poorly time marriages, eventually culminating with her tragic death on April 10 of 1965.

So, let’s take a trip back to the early 1950s and revisit the woefully overlooked career of, Linda Darnell.


Born Monetta Eloyse Darnell in Dallas, Texas on October, 16th 1923, ‘Linda’ as she would later be called by her Hollywood cohorts, she was pushed into show business at a young age.

Being thrust into the limelight by her mother, Pearl, Linda has more or less been groomed for stardom, becoming a model at 11 and a full-fledged actress at 13.

By 1937, Linda was scouted by a talent agent from 20th Century Fox. She and her family went to Hollywood to do some screen tests, but eventually, Mr. Zanuck caught wind of Darnell‘s actual age and sent her back to Texas.

Heartbroken yet determined, Linda honed her craft and continued acting locally, inevitably returning to Hollywood with a new attitude.

She appeared in several smaller films before landing her big break with 1940’s Brigham Young, co-starring alongside her frequent leading man, Tyrone Power. In the summer of that same year, Darnell worked on The Mark of Zorro where, once again, she worked with Power.

The film managed to be successful and further plunged Darnell into the spotlight. But, unfortunately after that ‘Zorro‘, the studio system didn’t allow her to go after the roles she craved, so, she was relegated to B films that typecasted her.

Luckily, she would bounce back with the wonderful Blood and Sand also starring alongside Power. According to Darnell herself, however, her career would take a sharp downturn after this.

“People got tired of seeing the sweet young things I was playing and I landed at the bottom of the roller coaster. The change and realization were very subtle. I’d had the fame and money every girl dreams about—and the romance. I’d crammed thirty years into ten, and while it was exciting and I would do it over again, I still know I missed out on my girlhood, the fun, little things that now seem important.”


Davis, Ronald L., Hollywood Beauty: Linda Darnell and the American Dream.

Several years, and subpar movies later, Darnell’s career would stall because she refused Daryl Zanuck‘s advances. Pulling herself up by her chinstraps and not letting this get to her, she focused on the war effort, raising money, and performing regularly at the Hollywood Canteen.

After that, Zanuck often overlooked her for many film roles, and her star started declining. Instead, she was cast in roles that didn’t fit her and slowly resented show business.

For the rest of her career, she starred in B-movies, forgettable blockbuster and the occasional hit, like A Letter to Three Wives and Unfaithfully Yours.


The unfortunate thing about Linda Darnell is that she never really had the chance to let her career flourish. Between her rushed childhood and her underwhelming adult career, Darnell never got the chance to settle into her acting.

It’s tragic, really.

Darnell wasn’t only absolutely gorgeous and wickedly talented, she also was quite the lady. Raised with southern charms and a witty personality, Linda Darnell will, hopefully, be remembered alongside other Hollywood greats of the era.

Thank You for 100 Followers, from AGAM!

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gif source: Doses of Grace Tumblr

Well, well, well….how time flies.

About a year ago, I started this blog. I wasn’t really expecting much to be honest with you. AGAM was more of a place to vent some inner thoughts I had about most of the classic films I’ve seen. Never have I imagined that it would grow to be this big. Even though 100 followers doesn’t seem like much, I very much appreciate the time all of you take to read through my writing.

So, I’m thanking you for all of this. The ups and the downs, and everything in between.

Here’s to 100 more!

Classic Film Reviews: Indiscreet (1958)

Indiscreet 1958

source: Warner Bros

Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant are a pair to be reckoned with.

From Notorious to the duo’s incredible friendship, Bergman and Grant have always been two of classic Hollywood’s greats.

So, when I viewed the film, Indiscreet, I was in absolute heaven.

It may very well be a simple romantic comedy, but, I believe there’s more to it.


At this point in Bergman‘s career, she was essentially blacklisted from Hollywood.

From being denounced by the Catholic Church for her affair with Roberto Rossellini, to having the majority of her foreign films flop at the box office, Bergman was treading on thin ice.

In walks her good friend Cary Grant.

Indiscreet1958 2

source: Warner Bros

Friends for decades, co-workers for several movies, and close confidants, Grant has always stood by her side, even accepting her Oscar Award for Anastasia in 1956 when she couldn’t attend.

In a way, Indiscreet makes for perfect a movie. The film has two very likable leads, and the plot has quite an acquired taste. Think of Indiscreet as an Americano, something you only drink when you’re desperate for coffee, except it’s sweeter and has a richer taste.

Directed by my favorite filmmaker, Stanley Donen, the movie tells the story of Anna Kalman, played by Ingrid Bergman, a London based actress who has given up on finding love.

Through her brother in law, played by Cecil Parker, she meets Phillip Adams, played by Grant, an economist with a taste for the theatre.

Anna and Phillip eventually start dating, and everything appears to go well until Phillip reveals his secret.

All the while the couple were in their “honeymoon” stage of their relationship Phillip conveniently forgot to tell Anna that he actually wasn’t a married man.  Anna believed that she was having an affair, so when Phillip told her the news, she didn’t take it too well.

Indiscreet1958 3

source: Warner Bros

The rest of the film sees Anna attempt to get back to Phillip, which she does with much hilarity and fanfare, inevitably deciding to get married in the end.


The movie isn’t too well known in the classic movie sphere, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t mean it fails to make a lasting impression. The coupling of Grant and Bergman not only made for a truly entertaining movie, it made sense.

If you were to look at the script and synopsis of the movie, it does have rather mature themes. I don’t think there could be another duo, besides Grant and Bergman, that could’ve taken these roles.

Donen did an incredible job with not only the script, but, the direction as well. The feel, mood, pacing and acting in this film, gives you a sense of real richness. Meaning, that it feels mature, this isn’t your typical classic Hollywood romance – it’s a romance for the older generation.

I suppose that’s what makes it so special.

Salvador Dali Questions Our Sanity in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945)

Dali Hitch

source: United Artists

When we think of Alfred Hitchcock, there are certain qualities and buzzwords that are synonymous with his name: brilliant, genius, crazy and a multitude of others.

What happens when you pair a crazy, pedantic genius, with a hairbrained painter with a mustache? A wildly fascinating dream sequence in 1945’s Spellbound.


In 1945, the acting talents of Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck joined forces with director Alfred Hitchcock to create a rather underrated movie in Hitchcock‘s filmography.

Spellbound is a peach of a movie, combining romance and psychology with the intrigue of forgotten memory.

Bergman and Peck play psychoanalysts Constance Peterson and Anthony Edwardes, respectively.

In classic Hollywood fashion, the pair ends up breaking every professional rule in the book and inevitably have an affair.

Naturally, when you fall in bed love with someone, especially as quickly and passionately as having an affair, you enter a “honeymoon phase” where you notice every single tiny detail of your object of affection.

spellbound 2

source: United Artists

This is where Constance picks up on Anthony’s strange habits. She finds out that not only does he have a fear of parallel lines on white backgrounds, he’s also not who he claims he is. Constance deduces that he might be an imposter, based on a number of things that Anthony has told her.

From killing the real Dr. Edwardes, having bouts of amnesia, to having a guilt complex, Constance overlooks these GLARING issue to get this poor man (one she doesn’t know very well, mind you) the help he needs.

When Edwardes sneaks away from Constance’s grasp, due to fear of, well, everything – she tracks him down and attempts to use her psychoanalytic techniques on him. These methods prove to be unsuccessful, and eventually, she takes him to upstate New York, where they meet two doctors who proceed to psychoanalyze his many stray thoughts.

DALI-SPELLBOUND2

source: United Artists

In steps Salvador Dali.

In 1945, Dail moved specifically to Hollywood to work on this film. Hitchcock wanted a scene that portrays the surrealness of Edwardes’ dreams and Dali was the only artist to bring Hitch‘s madcap imagination to life.

In order to capture this, accurately and as demented as possible, Hitchcock gave Dali free reign to shape, and mold this world to his liking. This is how we get a rather, disturbing, and incredibly unsettling dream scene smack dab in the middle of the film.

Dali and Hitchcock wanted us to feel that way, they wanted us to squirm in our seats and crane our necks away from the television (or movie screen in this case.) This 3-minute sequence, unfortunately, is probably the most memorable part of the film, however, it’s almost certainly the most important scene as well.

This dream sequence sets the tone for the rest of the movie. As an audience member, we get a feel for how “Edwardes” thinks, feels and acts. Thanks to the creativity and forward thinking of Hitchcock, and the expansive mind of Dali, we were blessed with perhaps the greatest dream sequence ever to be put on the silver screen.

The Best of M-G-M: North by Northwest (1959)

CARY RUNNING NBNW

source: MGM

North by Northwest has always been a strange film for me to watch.

I’ve seen it multiple times, but with each viewing, I can’t shake this nagging feeling of hate I have for a particular character. Of course, this is your typical Hitchcock where there’s a double meaning to everything, but, you’d think that if your son was being falsely accused of something he didn’t do, you would have a little bit more urgency in your step, right?

Right?

Wrong!

The person in question I’m talking about Jessie Royce Landis‘ character, Clara Thornhill.

NBNW JRL

source: MGM

Oh, boy. Where do I begin?

As you may know, NBNW is a story about a man who’s been falsely accused of being a government agent. Roger Thornhill played by Cary Grant, is your average New York City white-collar type of guy. Working in the advertising business, Roger is well versed in the topic of double meanings and false identities.

The story progress and he’s eventually framed for murder. Understandably panicked about the situation, Roger reaches out to anyone the could help with fix the predicament he’s found himself in – including his ‘uncaring’ mother Clara.

Here’s where my problem lies.

It was rather irritating to see her look very nonchalant about this entire ordeal. Even when there was a CLEAR look of panic on her son’s face, she scoffed and brushed him off. I understand this is purely a work of fiction, but it truly annoyed me that a mother would downplay her son’s life or death situation.

JRL NBNW 2

source: MGM

Maybe she was hesitant to believe in something as ‘absurd’ as this, but I don’t think she should’ve excused Roger’s legitimate concerns. Thankfully, she came around, and my complaints may have very well been in vain, but this is something that always stuck with me whenever I watched this film.

Fortunately, Alfred Hitchcock was a master of his craft.

What might’ve looked like a character flaw, could’ve been an important piece of the Hitchcockian puzzle; I suppose I should put aside my grievances and enjoy the movie for what it is: a rather underrated masterpiece in a long list of movies in Hitchcock‘s brilliant filmography.

 

 

 

The Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers Blogathon…

Monkey Business 1952

source: 20th Century Fox

I know this is the Ginger Rogers/ Fred Astaire blogathon, but I feel very compelled to write about this film.

Monkey Business is truly a peculiar picture.

It’s almost a knockoff of most comedies from the mid-30s, but it has its own unique flavor and flair. Thanks to the performances of Rogers and Grant, the movie takes on a different dimension

Directed by the legendary Howard Hawks, Monkey Business is a witty, charming, slapstick-filled comedy about a husband and wife duo who are just crazy for each other.

Dr. Barnaby Fulton (played by Grant) is a chemist who is a bit dowdy. His wife, Edwina (played by Rogers), a dutiful woman who cares for Barnaby, is doing her best to get by. One day, being the mad scientist that he is, Mr. Fulton decides to concoct a “youth exilier” that – you guessed it, keeps you young.

In typical classic Hollywood fashion, it all goes horribly, horribly, wrong.

Monkey Busniess 1952 2

source: 20th Century Fox 

When testing his new potion on his lab monkeys (horrible, I know) one them escapes and ends up knocking over several vials thus mixing concoctions that shouldn’t go together. Somehow this gets poured into the office’s water cooler, and all hell breaks loose.

Barnaby, wanting to see if his mix actually worked, he takes a few swigs of the water hoping to see the effects.

Lucky for him, it does. He spends the rest of the day roaming around downtown with his secretary Lois (played by Monroe), acting like a stuck-up, 20-year-old young man.

He changes his hair, his attitude and his clothes – even his wife doesn’t recognize him.

Edwina sees this behavior and drinks some of this elixir to spite her husband. With both husband and wife affected by this brew, the rest of the film sees the Fultons go through a number of different situations.

From befriending some school children to getting into fights with the locals and even having their in-laws worrying about the state of their marriage.

The movie ends, funnily enough with a quote that says, “you’re only old when you’re young,” perfectly summarizing the entire ordeal in six words.

Monkey Business 1952 3

source: 20th Century Fox

Lead by the direction of Howard HawksMonkey Business is your standard slapstick comedy, it isn’t the best and it certainly isn’t the worst.

It certainly is a funny movie.

It was one of the first pictures that I saw when I first got into classic films, I loved it, but now, looking back at it, it doesn’t have that same flair that it once did. Maybe my tastes have changed, I’m not sure, but I will say that this is a very solid picture.

If you haven’t seen it I suggest you do, if you haven’t and are dying to see it, please do. It isn’t the best comedy I’ve seen, but if you have a few hours to kill, I definitely suggest it. It’s funny, witty and a ton of fun, you definitely won’t regret it.

 

 

 

To read more pieces in this blogathon…click: here.

TCM’s ’50 States in 50 Movies’ Spotlight

MAP

……this is such a brilliant idea

The U.S is a great country, I don’t care what anyone says.

No country is a large and diverse as these 50 different states in the union.

From the golden coasts of California to the Rocky Mountains of the Appalachians, the United States is truly a sight to behold – especially when you have time to burn during the summer.

It’s only fitting that movies and traveling fit together. Turner Classic Movies, better known as ‘TCM’ has begun this fantastic new film spotlight that focuses on ’50 Movies from 50 different states.

Starting in New England, then making its way down to New York City, then with a quick stop down South, then onward toward Florida, going back up to the midwest, then down the Missippi River, all the way out to the Wild West, then eventually ending on the sun-kissed coasts of California.

Every Monday and Tuesday this July, you will be able to enjoy your favorite classic movies while exploring the great open roads of the United States.

monument-valley TCM

source: Lonely Planet

With films like Key Largo, The Philadelphia Story, and High Society to thrillers and dramas like Anatomy of a Murder and A Summer Place to westerns like the iconic Giant, this TCM spotlight has something for everyone.

If you’d like to clear the cobwebs when it comes to catching up on your favorite movies, there’s literally no better time to do this.

So, sit back grab a drink, pop some popcorn, put on your fuzzy slippers and take a tour around the United States – TCM style.

If you’d like to read more about the lineup, click: here

 

Thank You, TCM

TCM logo1

source: Turner Broadcasting Company

It’s been awhile.

Life continues on, whether you like it or not. Despite that, I want to take the time out to write about something that’s changed my life – for the better.

In 2013, I was fairly young, high school aged to be exact. I had no clue what I wanted to do with myself.

I didn’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer like my fellow classmates, I just wanted to coast through and enjoy life. I had no plans, I liked living, I liked watching soccer and generally being a nuisance.

This all changed when I was required to take a high school elective on cinema appreciation


It was in this class that I was exposed to numerous films that would influence me for the foreseeable future:

and yes…

LoA

source: Columbia Pictures

There were others, of course, but these were the ones that stood out in my mind the most. They formed me, they helped me understand that there’s more depth to movies that I had originally expected.

So, I started digging.

Thanks to TCM, I found a treasure trove of classic pictures that shaped who I am. From Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant to James Cagney and Ginger Rogers, I was absolutely enthralled with what I was seeing.

I discovered the magic of classic films, I immersed myself in this world. I loved them, breathed them, and dreamt of them.

Because of this, I started to carry myself with a lot more confidence, I dug into the past of these actors and actresses. I learned about the backgrounds of these people and I lived through them. It affected the way I looked at life.

I thought to myself, “if the glitz and glamour of Hollywood could cover up some of the trials and tribulations that these actors and actresses were going through why can’t I keep my chin up during hard times?”

In summation, my love for history and classic films had a direct correlation to how I saw myself.

Isn’t that what movies are about?

Whisking you away for a couple of hours to forget about life?

Thank you, TCM, I really mean it.

 

 

The Legend of James Dean

Jimothy

source: Photo by Richard Miller

A lot has been written about James Dean.

Whether it be about his sexuality, his legacy or his many, many many, adventures into method acting, people seem to be absolutely enthralled with the sandy-haired actor.

Is the public infatuation with James Dean similar to the reason why Marilyn Monroe is held in such regard? Did his early death cause the movie-going public to look at his 3 films with rose-tinted glasses?

If these things are true, is it possible that because of his death, Dean‘s acting ability is, dare I say, overblown?


Dean, born February 8th, 1931, was a shy boy, always getting into trouble with authority figures in some way or another. The only person who really understood him was his mother, saying that she was the only one who was, “capable of understanding him.”

After his mother died in 1938, Dean was sent to live with his grandparents in Fairmount, Indiana where he would live out the rest of his childhood.

Fast forward to July 1951.

Dean was finally getting his big break as an actor.

James Dean 2

source: Sanford Roth

Starring in a multitude of TV series, Dean honed his craft and eventually in 1953 got his ‘big break’ in the Elia Kazan drama East of Eden.

Inevitably, his performance as Cal Trask gained him attention, which led to other roles in films like Rebel Without a Cause and my personal favorite 1956’s Giant.

Sure, these are fantastic movies and while various critics sang his praises, were Dean’s performances any good?


I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with James Dean. I appreciate all that he’s done as an actor, but part of me believes that his acting ability was way overblown.

*gasp*

Yes, I will get some flack, but hear me out.

Dean was known for his method acting. He was very good at what he did, but he wasn’t the best at it. Compared to fellow actors Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, or even Paul Newman, Dean seemed to have a tendency to overdo it at times.

Take Rebel Without a Cause for example. Truth be told, Sal Mineo was the better actor in that film. I found Dean to be melodramatic and a bit too extra at times. Even Natalie Wood (a woman whose movie I don’t particularly care for) acted circles around him.

Take this scene for example. You catch my drift?

James Dean 3

….maybe next time, Jimmy.

This isn’t the case with all of Dean‘s movies.

I absolutely adore Giant, it’s one of his best roles. For some reason, he’s much more subdued in that role compared to his other films. Perhaps it has to do with him having a  director like George Stevens, or maybe it was Dean maturing into his acting.

Who knows?

But, the difference between these two films is staggering. Dean‘s quality in Giant makes me forgive him for overacting in RWaC.

No offense to Dean‘s legacy or his avid supporters, but maybe, just maybe, if he started out easing his way into his acting style instead of throwing all his chips on RWaC I would enjoy him a lot more.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.