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George O'Brien (actor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

George O'Brien
O'Brien in 1926
Born(1899-04-19)April 19, 1899
DiedSeptember 4, 1985(1985-09-04) (aged 86)
Occupation(s)Actor, singer
Years active1922–1964
(m. 1933; div. 1948)
Children3, including Darcy and Orin O'Brien

George O'Brien (April 19, 1899 – September 4, 1985)[1] was an American actor, popular during the silent film era and into the sound film era of the 1930s, best known today as the lead actor in F. W. Murnau's 1927 film Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans.

YouTube Encyclopedic

  • 1/5
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  • The Dude Ranger [1934] | Full Movie | George O'Brien, Irene Hervey, LeRoy Mason
  • The Dude Ranger (1934) GEORGE O'BRIEN
  • Seas Beneath (1931) George O'Brien - Director John Ford
  • George O'Brien A Man's Man in Hollywood
  • THUNDER MOUNTAIN - George O'Brien - Zane Greye's novel - Full Western Movie / English


Early life

Born in San Francisco, California, George O'Brien was the oldest son of Daniel J. and Margaret L. (née Donahue) O'Brien; O'Brien's father later became the chief of police for the City of San Francisco. (Dan O'Brien ordered the arrest of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle in September 1921 at the scandalous Labor Day party held by Arbuckle.)

In 1917, O'Brien enlisted in the United States Navy to fight in World War I, serving on a submarine chaser. He volunteered to act as a stretcher bearer for wounded Marines and was decorated for bravery. After the war, O'Brien became Light Heavyweight boxing champion of the Pacific Fleet.[1]


With Dolores Costello in Noah's Ark (1928)

O'Brien came to Hollywood in his early 20s, hoping to become a cameraman, and he worked as an assistant cameraman for both Tom Mix and Buck Jones. He began his acting career in bit parts and as a stuntman. One of his early roles was in the 1922 George Melford-directed drama Moran of the Lady Letty, most notable for starring Rudolph Valentino. In 1924, O'Brien received his first starring role in the drama The Man Who Came Back with the English actress Dorothy Mackaill. The same year, he was chosen by John Ford to star in The Iron Horse with actress Madge Bellamy. The film was an immense success at the box office, and O'Brien made nine more films for Ford. In 1927, he starred in the F. W. Murnau-directed Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans with Janet Gaynor, which won three major Academy Awards and remains his most famous film, and he played the lead in the epic East Side, West Side.[2]

O'Brien and Beatrice Roberts in Park Avenue Logger, 1937

O'Brien spent the remainder of the 1920s as an extremely popular leading man in films, often starring in action and adventure roles with popular actresses of the era, such as Alma Rubens, Anita Stewart, Dolores Costello, Madge Bellamy, Olive Borden (with whom he was linked romantically during the 1920s), and Janet Gaynor. With the advent of sound, O'Brien displayed a strong, confident voice and remained a leading star of westerns and outdoor adventures. In 1938, he signed with RKO Radio Pictures to headline a western series; O'Brien (often atop his horse Mike) was well received and was ranked consistently among the top 10 cowboy stars. During this series of westerns, he starred with Actress Virginia Vale on six occasions and with Actor Chill Wills five times. The RKO series was stopped at 17 movies when O'Brien re-enlisted in the Navy; he was replaced by RKO with Tim Holt who had a longer association with RKO than O'Brien. [3]

O' Brien in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, 1949

Military service

During World War II, O'Brien served as a beachmaster in the Pacific, and was decorated several times. He left service with the rank of commander. He later joined the United States Naval Reserve and retired with the rank of captain in 1962, having four times been recommended for the rank of admiral.

Following his service in World War II, O'Brien occasionally took featured parts in films directed by John Ford, including Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and Cheyenne Autumn. O'Brien's last leading role was in the 1951 movie Gold Raiders, with O'Brien handling the action and the Three Stooges' (Shemp Howard, Larry Fine, and Moe Howard) doing comedy routines.

While serving in the Naval Reserve, O'Brien took on a project for the Department of Defense as part of President Eisenhower's "People to People" program. He was project officer for a series of orientation films on three Asian countries. One of these films, on Korea, was directed by John Ford. The other two countries covered were Formosa (Taiwan) and the Philippines.

Personal life

In the 1920s, O'Brien dated actress Olive Borden for many years, and most thought they would marry. For some reason (some say his family did not approve of Olive), they ended their relationship and he eventually married actress Marguerite Churchill on July 15, 1933. Their first child, Brian, died 10 days after his birth. Daughter Orin O'Brien became a double bassist for the New York Philharmonic. Their youngest child Darcy O'Brien was a successful writer and college professor. George and Marguerite divorced in 1948.[1]

Later years and death

O'Brien suffered a stroke in 1981 and was bedridden the last four years of his life. He died in 1985 in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. For his contribution to the movie industry, O'Brien was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6201 Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles.

Partial filmography

Film performances
Year Film Role Notes
1922 Moran of the Lady Letty Deck Hand
The Ghost Breaker A Ghost
White Hands Sailor directed by Lambert Hillyer
1923 The Ne'er-Do-Well Clifford directed by Alfred E. Green
1924 The Man Who Came Back Henry Potter directed by Emmett J. Flynn
The Iron Horse Davy Brandon directed by John Ford
Shadows of Paris Louis directed by Herbert Brenon
1925 The Dancers Tony directed by Emmett J. Flynn
The Fighting Heart Denny Bolton directed by John Ford
Havoc Dick Chappel directed by Rowland V. Lee
Thank You Kenneth Jamieson directed by John Ford
1926 The Johnstown Flood Tom O'Day directed by Irving Cummings
The Silver Treasure Nostromo directed by Rowland V. Lee
The Blue Eagle George Darcy directed by John Ford
3 Bad Men Dan O'Malley directed by John Ford
1927 Is Zat So? Ed "Chick" Cowan directed by Alfred E. Green
Paid to Love Crown Prince Michael directed by Howard Hawks
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans Farmer directed by F. W. Murnau
1928 Noah's Ark Travis/Japheth directed by Michael Curtiz
Sharp Shooters George directed by John G. Blystone
1929 Salute Cadet John Randall
True Heaven Lieutenant Philip Gresson directed by James Tinling
Masked Emotions Bramdlet Dickery directed by Kenneth Hawks
1930 Rough Romance Billy West
  • directed by A. F. Erickson
  • with John Wayne (uncredited)
1931 Riders of the Purple Sage Jim Lassiter directed by Hamilton McFadden
Seas Beneath Cmdr. Robert "Bob" Kingsley directed by John Ford
A Holy Terror Tony Bard a.k.a. "Woodbury" directed by Irving Cummings
1932 The Golden West David Lynch/Motano directed by David Howard
Robbers' Roost Jim Wall directed by David Howard and Louis King
1933 The Last Trail Tom Daley directed by James Tinling
1934 Frontier Marshal Michael Wyatt directed by Lewis Seiler
1935 The Cowboy Millionaire Bob Walker directed by Edward F. Cline
1936 Daniel Boone Daniel Boone directed by David Howard
1937 Windjammer Bruce Lane directed by Ewing Scott
Park Avenue Logger Grant Curran directed by David Howard
1938 Painted Desert Bob McVey directed by David Howard
Lawless Valley Larry Rhodes directed by David Howard
Gun Law Tom O'Malley directed by David Howard
The Renegade Ranger Captain Jack Steele directed by David Howard
Border G-Man Jim Galloway directed by David Howard
1939 Timber Stampede Scott Baylor directed by David Howard
Arizona Legion Boone Yeager directed by David Howard
The Fighting Gringo Wade Barton directed by David Howard
The Marshal of Mesa City Cliff Mason directed by David Howard
1940 Triple Justice Brad Henderson directed by David Howard
Stage to Chino Dan Clark directed by Edward Killy
1947 My Wild Irish Rose William "Duke" Muldoon directed by David Butler
1948 Fort Apache Capt. Sam Collingwood
  • directed by John Ford
  • with John Wayne
1949 She Wore a Yellow Ribbon Maj. Mac Allshard
  • directed by John Ford
  • with John Wayne
1951 Gold Raiders George O'Brien
1964 Cheyenne Autumn Major Braden
Television performances
Year Title Role Notes
1957 Studio 57 1 episode


Year Award Result Category Notes
1976 Western Heritage Awards Won Trustees Award for outstanding career portraying the Western movie hero


  1. ^ a b c Folkart, Burt A. (September 8, 1985). "Athlete and Film Actor George O'Brien, 86, Dies". Los Angeles Times.
  2. ^ "George O'Brien". Golden Silents.
  3. ^ "George O'Brien". TCM. Retrieved April 6, 2023.

External links

This page was last edited on 22 July 2023, at 19:43
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