The chemistry between John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara onscreen and their close bond behind the camera led many to believe that the two legendary actors were actually a couple. But were they?
Let’s take a phenomenal throwback to these late screen legends’ long relationship that spanned nearly four decades.
Maureen O’Hara – who was new to Hollywood to make her American film debut as a leading lady in the romantic drama film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1939 – met John Wayne through the renowned director John Ford. The two quickly became good friends, but their friendship grew deeper after Ford cast them in the 1950 romantic Western film Rio Grande. It was the first of five movies they would star in together. The Quiet Man, The Wings of Eagles, McLintock!, and Big Jake followed.
John Wayne has married three times, and his difficulty in remaining faithful has been known to many audiences. It was no surprise when many fans believed – even hoped for – that his onscreen love story with Maureen O’Hara continued behind the camera.
Well, sorry to disappoint, but they did not! It was something O’Hara and Wayne have consistently denied in many interviews over the years.
In 2000, O’Hara graced the Larry King Live, where she answered questions about The Duke. The actress revealed that Wayne described her as “one hell of a guy,” which she has always considered a compliment.
She also revealed that her husband, Charles F. Blair, was even good friends with Wayne for many years. Blair enjoyed playing chess with the actor, who would frequently visit their home.
John Wayne’s respect for Maureen O’Hara is beyond evident, and he often demonstrated it through his own words.
She has been his wife several times but a “fighting partner” in many cases. Still, Wayne argued that there’s no way you can make O’Hara “not look beautiful.” The legendary director John Ford even tried “to make her unattractive in a few scenes – and it was impossible,” Wayne said.
In 1979, Maureen O’Hara had flown in to speak before the House Banking, Finance, and Urban Affair Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs for a bittersweet mission. Her eyes were filled with tears knowing that her “dearest friend” for thirty-nine years was gravely ill. Still, she gathered all her courage and, in an emotionally riveting moment, gave her testimony for the President of the United States’ approval to strike a commemorative gold medal in John Wayne’s honor.
It was very important for the legendary actress for people to know what kind of man Wayne was – especially his love for his country, his loyalty to his friends, and how he helped those who were in need.
She went on recalling the many memories they made in their long friendship – those that are very dear to her. “I beg you to strike a medal for Duke,” she concluded her testimony. “And I feel that the medal should say just one thing: ‘John Wayne, American.’”
Maureen O’Hara Saying Goodbye To The Duke
In 1978, John Wayne graced the Oscars, and fans got the shock of their lives when he appeared looking shockingly thin. His team had to apply so much makeup on him that Wayne ended up complaining.
Sadly, Wayne was rushed to UCLA hospital just a few days later. His heavy cigarette habit had done what no outlaw could do, bring down The Duke. Of course, Maureen O’Hara, who was a major cancer survivor herself, was the first to visit.
She broke into tears with his skeletal appearance, which Wayne blamed on their “lousy luck.”
The actress stayed by Wayne’s side for the next three days, putting on a cheerful act each day, trying to raise his spirits. When she was about to leave, she put on her coat and turned to say goodbye. “That’s a gorgeous coat, it looks beautiful on you,” were the last words spoken to her by Wayne.
On the other hand, O’Hara passed away in 2015. The movie star died peacefully in her sleep of natural causes at her home in Idaho. She was surrounded by her loving family, who memorialized her life by listening to music from the movie closest to her heart, “The Quiet Man.”
Well, John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara may have never married, but they had their own version of a love affair – a strong friendship that’s beyond compare. Truly, one of the best screen partnerships in history.