Ford driven to woo Maureen O’Hara with ‘Irish’ Valentine card

Ford caricatured himself on Valentine card in Irish garb with trademark sunglasses and pipe

 

Amidst the clothes, antiques, jeweller and film memorabilia belonging to the late Maureen O’Hara – Ireland’s first great Hollywood star – that were auctioned last year by Bonhams in New York was a most unusual Valentine card.

O’Hara had starred in The Quiet Man which was filmed in Ireland in 1951 and directed by John Ford. According to Bonhams, “Ford was Irish-American, and had a romantic attachment to his family’s homeland” and “Maureen O’Hara personified [his] ideal Irish woman”.

The pair collaborated on various films – including The Long Gray Line which was released in January 1955.

A month later, according to Bonhams, “Ford sent O’Hara this affectionate Valentine. The film’s shoot had been troubled, with O’Hara singled out for Ford’s heavy verbal abuse. Ford frequently played up his Irish heritage, as in this hand-drawn Valentine. In it Ford caricatures himself in Irish garb with his trademark sunglasses and pipe, with O’Hara standing beside him, her back turned, surrounded by shamrocks. From Ford’s pipe smoke forms a red Valentine’s Day heart”.

The card is signed “Seán”. Bonhams said that in some correspondence with O’Hara he had used the “Gaelic version of his birth name, Seán Aloysius Kilmartin O’Feeney”.

O’Hara, evidently a woman of style and good taste, not surprisingly spurned this ghastly advance, but kept the card – perhaps to remind her how lucky she was to have escaped. It was bought by an unnamed bidder in the auction who paid $1,125 (€1,051).

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