The more things change, the more they stay the same. When The New York Times published an article in October implicating Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein in numerous cases of sexual harassment, the greater public was shocked.
The scandal quickly spread, engulfing household names such as Kevin Spacey, Ben Affleck, and Louis C.K. It even went beyond the world of movies, tarnishing the reputations of news anchors and politicians.
Given the hideousness and breadth of the accusations, it’s easy for us to think that we’re dealing with something new. But a snippet of a 72-year-old interview that recently surfaced showed that there’s nothing new under the sun — and that there are always brave souls willing to stand against evil.
On Nov. 4, pop-classical pianist James Rhodes posted on his Twitter feed an interview that the Irish newspaper The Mirror conducted with the legendary Maureen O’Hara. O’Hara’s starry career included films such as “How Green Was My Valley,” “The Parent Trap,” and “The Quiet Man.”
Despite being a mere seven sentences long, the snippet revealed that the moral rot we’re seeing now has been around for a long time. O’Hara complained to the paper that Tinsel Town power brokers viewed her as “a cold potato without sex appeal” because she refused to give in to unwanted advances.
“I am so upset with it that I am ready to quit Hollywood,” she said. “It’s got so bad I hate to come to work in the morning.
“I’m a helpless victim of a Hollywood whispering campaign. Because I don’t let the producer and director kiss me every morning or let them paw me they have spread word around town that I am not a woman — that I am a cold piece of marble statuary.”
O’Hara was only 25 at the time of the interview, and she wasn’t the only young starlet to face sexual coercion. According to Ranker, “The Wizard of Oz” star Judy Garland had to deal with even worse abuse.
When Garland married in her late teens, MGM (the studio she was signed to) strenuously objected, fearing that it would ruin her youthful image. She got pregnant soon after, and her mother conspired with studio heads to pressure her into aborting her unborn child.
Young starlet Loretta Young faced a similar fate after succumbing a single time to co-star Clark Gable’s pressures. After learning she was with child, she refused to abort, instead slipping away into seclusion to have the baby and then later “adopting” it as her own.
Indeed, numerous starlets from Hollywood’s so-called Golden Age fell into similar fates, names such as Jean Harlow, Dorothy Dandridge, Ava Gardner, and Lana Turner. Silent-cinema actress Clara Bow even underwent a nervous breakdown and was promptly fired by her studio, Paramount.
This was reported in 1945. What a woman 🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/6cTFGgadNf
— James Rhodes (@JRhodesPianist) November 4, 2017
For O’Hara’s part, she refused to have any of it. She wouldn’t let directors, producers, or stars have their way with her.
“I guess Hollywood won’t consider me as anything except a cold hunk of marble until I divorce my husband, give my baby away and get my name and photograph in all the newspapers,” she said in The Mirror interview. “If that’s Hollywood’s idea of being a woman, I’m ready to quit now.”
“I wouldn’t throw myself on the casting couch, and I know that cost me parts,” she stated. “That wasn’t me.”
O’Hara’s bravery is inspiring even today. We can all agree with Rhodes’ estimation: “What a woman!”