A little while ago I watched The Parent Trap again after many years and during the movie Maureen O’Hara briefly sings to Hayley Mills a song written by the Sherman Brothers called “For Now, For Always.” Since I am a suspicious person, and because she actually sang well, I wasn’t initially sure if that was truly her singing. Perhaps I should have realized – after all she did some singing in The Quiet Man, too – but I honestly had no idea that Maureen O’Hara was a singer as well as an actor. She just never starred in a musical, as far as I knew (though it turns out that very early in her career she did do a musical called They Met in Argentina, with a score by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, that was supposed to cash in on Down Argentine Way). In her autobiography, she said that she loved singing even more than acting.
Not one of the Sherman Brothers’ (Robert B. and Richard M.) more celebrated or recognizable songs, “For Now, For Always” is still lovely song and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. This song, along with “Let’s Get Together” and the theme song, “The Parent Trap,” were the first songs they wrote for Disney and it allowed Maureen O’Hara to at least sing a little, though the movie still does not pass as a musical.
Maureen O’Hara also sang a few songs in The Quiet Man. Once again, I am embarrassed to say that all these years I have been assuming that it was not really her own voice I was hearing. So often, actors and actresses were dubbed during those years that unless I have some positive knowledge that the actor in question is a singer, I just assume it is not really them (perhaps an unfair assumption).
And what I did not know was that Maureen O’Hara almost got the part of Anna Leonowens in The King and I. Producer Darryl Zanuck wanted her for the role, since she could act, look beautiful and still sing beautifully. She sent Richard Rodgers a recording of her singing some of his songs and after he listened, he said that she did indeed have a nice voice, but that he would not have a pirate queen playing in his musical. Alas for Maureen O’Hara. The world never got to see her in a musical. I think Deborah Kerr did a wonderful job, had sizzling chemistry with Yul Brynner and that The King and I stands as the finest example of successful and believable dubbing (Marni Nixon dubbed for Kerr), but I now kind of wish I could have seen O’Hara in the role, too. After all, if you are making a musical, it always seems like the best thing is to get someone who can actually sing (though I would a thousand times prefer that you dub someone’s voice rather than allow an actor who can’t sing to unleash their sound upon the world).
In this tribute to O’Hara for her 90th birthday, the background vocals are sung by O”Hara herself, singing “Hello, Young Lovers” from “The King and I.”