The Daughters Of Erin Go To Hollywood

Irish women actors in Hollywood:
Maureen O’Sullivan (1911-1998; film career: 1930-1992)
Maureen O’Hara (1920 – ; film career: 1938-1997)
Constance Smith (1928?-2003; film career: 1947[?]- 1958)

Ubiquitous Irish:
And now there’s been a change of policy at the top. We are only making healthy films this year to please the League of Decency. So poor Juanita has to start at the beginning again as an Irish colleen. They’ve bleached her hair and dyed it vermilion. I told them colleens were dark but the technicolor men insisted. She’s working ten hours a day learning the brogue and to make it harder for the poor girl they’ve pulled all her teeth out. She never had to smile before and her own set was good enough for a snarl. Now she’ll have to laugh roguishly all the time. That means dentures.
I’ve spent three days trying to find a name to please her. She’s turned everything down. Maureen - there are two here already; Deirdre – no one could pronounce it; Oonagh – sounds Chinese; Bridget – too common. The truth is she’s in a thoroughly nasty temper. (Evelyn Waugh,2000 [first published 1948], The Loved One, London: Penguin. P. 11)

‘first, the activity of production (the province of political economy); second, the structure of the produced thing itself (the province, in the case of actors, of image-analysis, iconographic analysis, textual analysis, semiological commutation tests, and so on); third, the reception/consumption of the produced thing.’ D. Polan, ‘Methodological reflections on the study of the émigré actor’, Screen 43, 2, (Summer 2002), pp. 178-186, p. 179.

Class - family support
Expat support
Mobility – ability to return ‘home’
Stereotyping: Maureen O’Sullivan found herself described as ‘a poverty stricken little Irish girl just kicked out of the bogs, that I had never before had the shawl off my back nor shoes on my feet, that I was a “Mick” and “Shanty Irish” – two expressions that I never heard of until I came to America. (M. O’Sullivan, ‘My Life in Hollywood’, Woman’s Life, 9 January 1937, pp. 5-6, p.6.)
‘We [her mother accompanied her] were, I may say, miserable. We were homesick. We were lonely for our own people and the familiar sights and sounds of our own beloved Ireland. Our eyes smarted from the bright glare of the California sun. It was dreadfully hot.’ (ibid.: 5)
Feisty colleen – expected to be difficult
Religious/cultural inhibitions:
‘She is her own Hays office. She balked at taking a bath in a tub for a movie scene because “my folks in Dublin would think I had turned out all bad”. She has kept a strict promise to her mother never to pose for leg art. She is strict about the negligees she wears for the movies.’ Production Notes for The Black Swan (Maureen O’Hara file, AMPAS).

Reception (back ‘home’)
Validation of career (success in Hollywood)

More general issues:
National acting styles?
Acting training/other professional training at home?
Fashions in skin colour; changing concepts of beauty
National bodies …(whatever happened to J-Lo?)

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License