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Maureen O'Hara: Roles She Missed That Other Actresses Made Famous

By    |   Monday, 26 Oct 2015 06:38 PM

Maureen O’Hara was an actress in the golden age of Hollywood, known for her red hair as well as her ability to sing. Though highly successful, there are a few notable roles she missed the opportunity to play that other actresses made famous.

1. Eliza Birdwell, in "Friendly Persuasion"

"Friendly Persuasion," released in 1956, was a story of an Indiana Quaker family during the Civil War and was adapted from the best-selling novel.

According to O’Hara
, she was hired for the role of Eliza Birdwell, but replaced with Dorothy McGuire when director John Ford sabotaged her pairing with Gary Cooper in the film.

2. Anna Leonowens, in "The King and I"

The role of Anna Leonowens in "The King and I," was one part that O’Hara regretted missing. Turner Classic Movies reported that mostly singers were considered for the film that was released in 1956.

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According to the actress, O’Hara was all but signed to play the "dream" role by producer Darryl Zanuck, but Rodgers and Hammerstein had final casting approval for the musical picture and they put the kibosh on the hire pretty quickly.

Before even listening to her audition tapes, they reportedly said "No pirate queen is going to play my Anna!" according to O'Hara, in her autobiography, "'Tis Herself."

At the urging of lead actor Yul Brynner, the producers hired Deborah Kerr, Ultimately, however, they overdubbed Kerr’s singing with Marni Nixon’s voice, but "The King and I" became one of Kerr’s most remembered films.

In a 2000 interview on "Larry King Live," O'Hara called the snub a "terrible disappointment."

3. Eliza Doolittle, in "My Fair Lady"

Yet another but much more famous Eliza that O'Hara missed out on. "My Fair Lady," released in 1964, focused on a phonetics professor who wagered he could take a flower girl and make her presentable to high society.

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According to O'Hara in the same Larry King interview, Columbia Pictures President Harry Cohn was going to cast her as the flower girl Eliza Doolittle in "My Fair Lady" but he lost out on the film rights in the bidding.

Instead, Warner Brothers tabbed Audrey Hepburn for the role of Eliza and her performance made the movie memorable for all time.

In a curious intersection of fates, Marni Nixon was again brought in to overdub the singing voice of an actress who was chosen over O'Hara, an accomplished singer in her own right. A

4. Mary Poppins, in "Mary Poppins"

O’Hara also wanted to play the title role in "Mary Poppins" as a gift to her daughter and pitched Walt Disney about making a movie version of the tale of the magical nanny that comes to the Banks household to care for their children.

Disney rebuffed her proposal but later acquired the rights to the movie. According to O'Hara biographer Aubrey Malone, past disagreements between the star actress and producer may instigated Disney's end-around.

Julie Andrews was selected to play the role of the nanny. The movie was released in 1964 and Andrews won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the title role of this children's classic.

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Maureen O’Hara was an actress in the golden age of Hollywood, known for her red hair as well as her ability to sing. Though highly successful, there are a few notable roles she missed the opportunity to play that other actresses made famous.
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