Maureen O’Hara died recently and was buried in Arlington Cemetery, as she was entitled to, next to her husband, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Blair. She was 95. She was born Maureen Fitzsimmons and was fellow classmate Ed Fitzsimmons’s aunt on his father’s side. Ed was at the funeral, seated at the place of honor with the other relatives from the old sod.
To mark her passing, Turner Classic Movies showed a recent interview with her. She looked remarkably good (for her age), seemed alert (for her age) and still had the recognizable smile (at her age). The interview was short, as it had to be (at her age).
Someone had plopped a hideous curly wig on her that seemed to be made of red fishing line. She was obviously gaunt under her baggy clothes. She looked like the end was near.
The interview was typical of old people: A question is asked, then a long pause as everyone holds their breath, tensely anticipating an off-the-wall, crazy, irrelevant reply, then sigh with relief when the response is rational.
She talked about her controversial line in The Quiet Man, “Aye, I think ye be shittin’ me with all your blarney, Sean Thornton.” It wasn’t in the script. She claims John Wayne dared her to say it. Barry Fitzgerald ad-libbed, “Here, here, now. Enough of that toilet talk when good Irish whiskey is being served, heh, heh.” They all broke up laughing.
(The Quiet Man is to the Irish—and Americans—as Stepin Fetchit is to blacks.)
Her interview confirmed my desire not to live into my 90s. Anyone would be lucky to be as healthy and alert as her at that age, but even that was not so good.
In the Japanese tradition, a person’s 88th birthday is a big one, and we all got together to celebrate my mother-in-law on hers. It has something to do with the characters for 88 resembling the character for rice, but it is a good time to have a big celebration, anyway. Also, a good time to check out, maybe a week or two after.
(I was only kidding about Maureen O’Hara being Ed’s aunt and his being at the funeral, but not about her name or burial in Arlington.)
(I was also kidding about her line in The Quiet Man, but you already knew that, didn’t you?)