Maureen O'Hara's Battle With A Gossip Magazine Is Still Shrouded In Mystery

There was a time in American pop culture history when celebrity gossip magazines were considerably less restrained than they are today, effectively holding sway over the lives and careers of the people they covered. Obsessing over the private lives of celebrities, and in particular their sex lives, is nothing new, but the difference between 2022 and 1957 is that perhaps fewer people now care who is involved with whom, so long as the relationships are between consenting adults. However, a couple of generations ago, things were different. The wrong column in the wrong gossip magazine could end a career, regardless of whether or not what the column reported was factual. For example, according to, when gossip columnist Louella Parsons broke a story about Ingrid Bergman having an illegitimate child, Bergman's career in Hollywood was stalled for a decade.

Fighting back against gossip columns was usually a losing proposition — the First Amendment gave writers considerable protections that usually weren't worth the lengthy and expensive court battles that would ensue whenever someone attempted to take legal action. But Irish actress Maureen O'Hara wasn't going to brook having lies told about her (although they may not have been lies), and she brought down one of the most popular gossip magazines in Los Angeles.

Maureen O'Hara did or did not kiss a guy in a movie theater

Imagine that it's 2022, and you walk into a movie theater and see two adults in the throes of passion. Most likely you're going to ignore it, unless of course they're being downright obscene, in which case you might call for the manager. What you're not going to do, however, is ask to see their marriage licenses and make sure they're married to each other.

But in 1957, the idea of a woman and a man who weren't married to each other engaging in romantic physical activity in a darkened theater was scandalous. More so if the woman was a popular actress known for playing conservative characters, such as, for example, the mother in "Miracle on 34th Street." So when a Confidential Magazine reporter got wind of the allegation that Maureen O'Hara and an unidentified man (Confidential characterized him as a "Latin Lothario," says Vanity Fair) had been spotted smooching it up at Graumann's Chinese Theater – three years prior to the report's publication, no less — the magazine ran with it, according to The Vintage News. O'Hara wasn't going to take this lying down, and she sued.

O'Hara sues Confidential for libel

The State of California was, like the many celebrities whose lives and careers had been damaged or ruined by Confidential columns, keen to see the magazine shut down, according to Irish Central. However, the First Amendment was and is a tough nut to crack, so the state went after one of the few tools that can be used to limit free speech: by claiming that the magazine published libelous stories. (The relationship between libel — written defamation — and the First Amendment is still being sorted out, according to the First Amendment Encyclopedia).

Following the publication of the allegation that she and a man were getting it on at the theater, O'Hara, with help from the state, sued for libel. She didn't win, but hers and a series of other libel lawsuits eventually led to Confidential's gossip column being shut down. Since that column was the newspaper's bread and butter, the magazine's popularity suffered.

O'Hara might very well have been in the theater with a man that day. The actress provided a passport that verified that she was out of the country on the date the magazine claimed the theater tryst took place. The jury wasn't really clear on how much, if anything, that meant, since the alleged incident had taken place years earlier and no one was truly certain exactly when it happened. Perhaps testimony on her behalf from her sister, a nun, helped. In any event, a deadlocked jury failed to reach a verdict. "O'Hara claimed vindication but the mystery remains," notes Irish Central.