The actress burns brighter still than her hair in this get-it-straight-before-I-go, easy-sipping memoir.
True to form, O’Hara comes out swinging: “I have acted, punched, swashbuckled, and shot my way through an absurdly masculine profession during the most extraordinary of times. As a woman, I’m proud to say that I stood toe-to-toe with the best of them.” Maybe so for her movies, but not for her love life, in which she got trapped by one loser after another. While she is refreshingly honest about her bad choices, her excuse—“I know many women who are wonderfully savvy about turning away men they aren’t interested in, but I’ve never been one of them”—is awfully lame, especially by the third time around. When it came to acting, O’Hara had a better head. She had her blockbusters and her bombs, but when she started getting background parts after big hits with Charles Laughton and Alfred Hitchcock, she identified the problem as casting executives (“I wasn’t a whore. . . . I was unwilling to make that kind of sacrifice to get a part in a movie”) and then took pains to dominate the scenes she was given. The actress comes across as tough and strong, on her knees only before her God, and comfortable in her own skin—enough so to voice unequivocally her critical assessments of Rex Harrison (“rude, vulgar, and arrogant”), Jeff Chandler (“a real sweetheart; but acting with him was like acting with a broomstick”), and Errol Flynn (serious decency issues). Nor does O’Hara make any bones about swashbucklers like At Sword’s Point: “Hollywood snobs might have sneered at these pictures, but audiences never did.” Perhaps most importantly, she provides heaps of material on her professional relationship with John Ford, its wild swings, and what she considers to be its root causes. “Above all else . . . I’m a tough Irishwoman.”
Not that the Technicolor hurt, but this feisty memoir shows there’s way more to O’Hara than red hair and green eyes.