Mary Maguire

Mary Maguire (22 February 1919 – 18 May 1974) was an Australian-born actress who briefly became a Hollywood and British film star in the late 1930s.

Mary Maguire
Mary Maguire, c. 1937
Hélène Teresa Maguire

(1919-02-22)22 February 1919
Melbourne, Australia
Died18 May 1974(1974-05-18) (aged 55)
Years active1935–1942
Spouse(s)Robert Gordon-Canning (1940–1944) (divorced) (1 child)
Philip Henry Legarra (1945–1971) (his death)
ChildrenMichael (1941–1942)

Childhood and career in Australia

She was born Hélène Teresa Maguire[1][2] in Melbourne, Australia, to Michael "Mickey" Maguire, footballer, racehorse owner, hotel proprietor, and former welterweight boxer[3][4] and Mary Jane Maguire (née Carroll).[5] Nicknamed "Peggy" by the family, she was the second of five sisters. She grew up in Melbourne and Brisbane, her father managing the famous "Bull and Mouth Hotel" in Bourke Street, Melbourne,[6] and later the iconic Bellevue Hotel, Brisbane.[7] In Melbourne she attended the Academy of Mary Immaculate in Fitzroy. She began acting when she was cast in the film Heritage by director Charles Chauvel at the age of 16. Elsa Chauvel wrote in her 1973 memoirs: "This lovely child was brought to our notice by a Brisbane publicity man... fresh from a Queensland convent."[8] Changing her name to Mary, Maguire then starred in The Flying Doctor, an Australian-British co-production that was filmed in Australia by director Miles Mander and also starred American actor Charles Farrell.[9]

Hollywood 1936–1938

With encouragement from Miles Mander, Maguire and her family moved to Hollywood in September 1936.[10] Mander gave her an introduction to fellow Australian expat John Farrow, who arranged for an interview with a casting director that led to a contract with Warner Bros.[11]

Maguire made her U.S. debut in the B movie That Man's Here Again with comedian Hugh Herbert, followed by Confession with Kay Francis and Ian Hunter, Alcatraz Island with Ann Sheridan and John Litel, and Sergeant Murphy with Ronald Reagan.[12]

In February 1938, she left Warners for 20th Century Fox. Reports said she was seen in the company of 20th Century Fox executive Joe Schenck, who "believed in her career."[13]

Move to Britain

In 1938, after appearing in Mysterious Mr. Moto, she moved to Great Britain, where she appeared in a number of films,[14] including Keep Smiling, a Gracie Fields comedy. As one of only a handful of Australian actors working internationally in film at the time, her career attracted considerable attention from Australian newspapers between 1936 and 1946.

Maguire's reasons for leaving Hollywood in 1938 are unclear. There is some evidence that she had originally intended to travel to Britain in 1936.[15] On the other hand, in November 1937 a newspaper reported she had "mutinied" and been temporarily removed from Warner Brothers' payroll because she wanted dramatic roles rather than ingénue roles.[16] Subsequently she starred in British dramas such as The Outsider opposite George Sanders, Black Eyes, opposite Otto Kruger, An Englishman's Home with Edmund Gwenn and This Was Paris with Ann Dvorak.

Marriage to Robert Gordon-Canning and end of career

In mid 1939, she announced her engagement to Robert Gordon-Canning MC, a First World War veteran thirty years her senior. He had been active in far-right British politics, including the British Union of Fascists and The Link.[17] When their engagement was announced, Maguire felt the need to publicly disassociate herself from Gordon-Canning's political views and anti-Semitism. In July 1939, she told a journalist from The Australian Women's Weekly: "I have no Fascist sympathies... and do not intend to take part in my fiancé's political life... I was given my big chance in Hollywood where there are many Jews. It would be both ungrateful and unkind of me to ally myself because of marriage with the Fascist Party."[18] They married in August 1939, attracting great publicity, partly because she was carried to the wedding in an invalid chair, supposedly with a broken ankle.[19] Several years later, she revealed that she had been suffering tuberculosis at the time of the wedding. Her sickness, which she characterized as "a wonky lung", was attributed to "exposure to inclement weather in Hollywood".[20]

Ironically, amongst his previous fascist publications, Gordon-Canning had written disparagingly of the influence and tone of Hollywood films.[21] Although he was interned in July 1940, and she was still ill,[22] a son, Michael Robert, was born in February 1941; he died in early 1942.[23] Maguire's last film was This Was Paris, made in 1942 in England, a story of the activities of fifth columnists in Paris before its fall.[24] She and Gordon-Canning divorced in 1944,[20] and Maguire described the marriage as a "closed chapter" in her life. She attempted to restart her Hollywood career, but although still aged only 26, her efforts were to no avail.

Her second marriage was to Philip Henry Legarra, a U.S. engineer,[25] who had been sent to Britain to promote the Mustang fighter plane.[26]

She died at Long Beach, California, in 1974.

In 2019, Michael Adams published a biography of Maguire, Australia's Sweetheart: The Amazing Story of Forgotten Hollywood Star Mary Maguire.[27]

The marrying Maguires

Elsa Chauvel claimed the Maguire sisters were known as "The Marrying Maquires" because they took "London by storm" when they arrived there, making "spectacular marriages".[8] The oldest Maguire girl, Patricia, married Peter Rudyard Aitken, the son of Lord Beaverbrook, and was the mother of the current 6th Baronet Green of Wakefield.[28] The third Maguire daughter, Joan, acted on stage in London under the name Joan Shannon.[29] Carmel Maguire married John Wodehouse, 4th Earl of Kimberley, and was the mother of the current Earl.[30] The youngest of the girls, "Lupe" (actually christened Mary), married British hire car "king" Godfrey Davis, also having appeared in a minor part in The Man in Grey (1943).[31]


Year Title Role Notes
1933Diggers in BlightyMinor Role[32]
1935HeritageBiddy O'Shea / Biddy Parry
1936The Flying DoctorJenny Rutherford
1937That Man's Here AgainNancy Lee
1937Alcatraz IslandAnnabel Sloane aka Ann Brady
1938Sergeant MurphyMary Lou Carruthers
1938Mysterious Mr. MotoAnn Richman
1938Keep SmilingAvis Maguire
1939The OutsiderLalage Sturdee
1939Black EyesTanya Petroff
1940An Englishman's HomeBetty Brown
1942This Was ParisBlossom Leroy - Butch's Girlfriend(final film role)


  1. A. W. Simpson (1992) In the Highest Degree Odious: Detention without Trial in Wartime Britain, p. 215. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-825949-2
  3. "Mr. M. Maguire dies in London", The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 June 1950; via Trove
  4. Boxing Record Accessed 12/06/2013
  5. National Library of Australia scrapbook compiled about Mary Maguire (senior)
  6. The Argus, Melbourne, 19 November 1924
  7. The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 February 1941
  8. Elsa Chauvel (1973) My Life with Charles Chauvel. p. 60, The Shakespeare Head Press, Sydney. ISBN 0-85558-062-3. The convent was, in fact, Loretto Convent, Brisbanethe school some of the Maguire girls attended after relocating from Melbourne.
  9. Australians in Hollywood: Mary Maguire, National Portrait Gallery (Australia).
  10. The Sydney Morning Herald, 17 September 1936
  11. "Australian Conquests In Hollywood". The Advertiser. Adelaide. 28 November 1936. p. 13. Retrieved 3 March 2012 via National Library of Australia.
  12. Vaughn, Stephen (1994). Ronald Reagan in Hollywood: Movies and Politics. UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-44080-7.
  13. Schallert, E. (1938, February 12). "Lessons for Ladies" Purchased by Warners for Bette Davis", Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) (registration required)
  14. The Argus, Melbourne, 18 May 1938
  15. The Sydney Morning Herald, 3 August 1936
  16. The Argus, Melbourne, 5 November 1937
  17. See further details at British National Security Archives
  18. "Mary Maguire to Marry English Fascist Captain". The Australian Women's Weekly. 29 July 1939. p. 28. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  19. Photo of the marriage, The Herald and Weekly Times
  20. "Mary Maguire finds US lover and is divorced by husband". Truth. Brisbane. 26 November 1944. p. 12. Retrieved 8 May 2016 via Trove. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |newspaper= (help)
  21. Thomas Linehan, Brunel University, "A Dangerous Piece of Celluloid? British Fascists and the Hollywood Movie Archived 4 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine See Gordon-Canning's writings, including Mind Britain's Business Archived 8 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine and The Holy Land, Arab or Jew? (1938) Archived 11 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  22. The Argus, Melbourne, Friday 12 July 1940
  23. The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 February 1941 However, the son died in early 1942 and was interned at a church in the Gordon-Cannings' ancestral seat of Hartpury. See
  24. Turner Classic Movies entry
  25. "Mary Maguire Back". Sydney Morning Herald. 12 March 1946. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  26. McFarlane, Brian (8 February 2019). "Australia's Sweetheart review: Michael Adams on the story of Mary Maguire". The Age. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  27. Australia's Sweetheart by Michael Adams, details at National Library of Australia
  28. Janet Aitken Kidd (1987 )The Beaverbrook Girl. Collins, London. ISBN 0-00-217602-5
  29. The Evening Post, New Zealand, 11 July 1940, p.18
  30. Obituary of 4th Earl of Kimberley
  31. The Argus, Melbourne, 11 November 1937, reports an effort by Carmen and Lupe to break into pictures
  32. The Queenslander 21 June 1934
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