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Why this actor’s heartbreaking 1945 letter has suddenly gone viral

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Kayleigh Dray
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An unearthed allegation from 1945, penned by legendary Irish actor Maureen O’Hara, has been shared thousands of times on Twitter.

Decades of alleged sexual assault and abuse in Hollywood are finally coming to light. With some of the biggest names in the business being accused, from Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey, more and more people are coming forward to tell their stories.

Many have asked how, if true, such an abuse of power could have gone on for so many years seemingly hidden, with some questioning why the men and women coming forward took so long to speak up.

But most didn’t; it’s just that nobody listened.

While we’re only just beginning to recognise the deeply pervasive nature of this type of abuse, particularly in Hollywood, it is important to remember that it has always been there: people in power have always been in a position to take advantage of those who aren’t.

And a recently unearthed letter, penned by the late Maureen O’Hara in 1945, has proven this.

In the 72-year-old missive, which was originally published in The Mirror, the legendary actress recalls how she was dubbed “a cold potato without sex appeal” when she refused to accept Hollywood’s culture of sexual harassment.

“I’m a helpless victim of a Hollywood whispering campaign,” she wrote. “Because I don’t let the producer and director kiss me every morning or let them paw me they have spread around town that I am not a woman, that I am a cold piece of marble statuary.

“I am so upset with it that I am ready to quit Hollywood. It’s got so bad I hate to come to work in the morning.”

You can read her letter in full below:

O’Hara’s words have had a huge impact online, with many thanking the actress for speaking out when she did – as well as apologising on behalf of all those who did not take her claims seriously.

“This was reported in 1945,” wrote the person who originally shared the letter on Twitter. “What a woman.”

O’Hara, shortly before her death, spoke to The Daily Telegraph in 2014 about how refusing to give in to advances from studio heads harmed her career.

“I wouldn’t throw myself on the casting couch, and I know that cost me parts,” she recalled.

“I wasn’t going to play the w***e. That wasn’t me.”

Of course, O’Hara was not alone in calling out sexual harassment in old Hollywood.

In a recent interview with Vulture, actress Rose Marie described being harassed on a Broadway stage in the Fifties by a producer who wanted to turn the live production into a film. 

Marie went on to explain that she called him out for his behaviour “in front of everyone”.

“I said, ‘You son of a bitch, you couldn’t get it up if the flag went by!’” she said, but added that she paid a heavy price for speaking out: her role in the film became virtually non-existent after her remarks.

She recently shared a tweet about the Harvey Weinstein allegations, writing: “I’ve worked since I was three, I’m now 94. With Weinstein, finally women are speaking up to power.

“I have suffered my whole life for that. Don’t stop.”

Images: Rex Features

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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