The Hollywood actress’ grandson tells Brian Moore there may have been more to the letters than a simple case of unrequited love
UNREQUITED love is the infinite curse of a lonely heart, so the saying goes, and if this is indeed the case then John Ford, the director of The Quiet Man, had a very lonely heart indeed.
Ford was famous for his cinematic brilliance and his long friendship with Hollywood legends John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart and of course ... Maureen O’Hara.
It now appears that Ford may have been madly in love with the red haired beauty and long time Glengarriff resident.
‘John Ford sent Maureen a Valentine’s card and several love letters,’ Conor FitzSimons, Maureen O’Hara’s grandson told The Southern Star.
‘Maureen found the letters confusing. They started out innocently as correspondence between her and Ford as friends – based on the time he was spending with her and her family to prep for making The Quiet Man. Since they were both travelling and working on location, the letters were his way of staying in touch and briefing her on his progress.’
These love letters and the Valentine’s card, which has a hand-drawn cartoon depicting Ford as the ideal Irishman, complete with clay pipe and green hat, surrounded by shamrocks and addressing a red haired cailín, were put up for auction at Bonhams in New York before Christmas.
‘John Ford was an Irish American who always had a special place in his heart for his ancestral homeland,’ a spokesperson for Bonhams said. ‘Maureen O’Hara was, it seems, his ideal Irish women.’
While Ford and O’Hara worked together on many films, it was a relationship which was far from easy. In fact O’Hara often spoke of John Ford’s verbal assaults towards her. ‘Over time, they (the letters) became more personal and were laced with his affection for her and innuendo, wishing that her feelings for him were the same. They were not, and that confused Maureen and made her wonder what was going on with John Ford,’ Conor continued.
‘In time my grandmother came to believe that it was part of Ford’s creative process as he prepared to make The Quiet Man, and that his affection for her were his affections for Mary Kate,’ explained Conor, from his home in Idaho. ‘Maureen viewed Ford as part of the family and as a friend when not working. Ford was all business when working and he was different and tougher on set.
‘But she respected him always, and his talent. She loved him as a friend and colleague. I think she found the Valentine’s Day card as part of his creative process for Mary Kate, she was his ideal of what that character would be in real life,’ Conor said.
Maureen herself told a television interviewer some years ago that she truly believed that the letters – written while Ford was writing The Quiet Man script – were his way of connecting with the main character Mary Kate Danaher.
And she wouldn’t have been surprised if John Wayne had received letters for his character, Sean Thornton. ‘But I never asked him,’ she admitted.
The Valentine’s card from John Ford to Maureen O’Hara was purchased at auction by a private collector for €1,051.