Pat O'Brien (actor)

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Pat O'Brien
Pat-O'Brien-1931.jpg
Pat O'Brien in 1931
Born William Joseph Patrick O'Brien
(1899-11-11)November 11, 1899
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Died October 15, 1983(1983-10-15) (aged 83)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Cause of death Heart attack
Occupation Actor
Years active 1925–1982
Spouse(s) Eloise Taylor
(m. 1931)
Children 4

William Joseph Patrick "Pat" O'Brien (November 11, 1899 – October 15, 1983) was an American film actor with more than 100 screen credits. Of Irish descent, he often played Irish and Irish-American characters and was referred to as "Hollywood's Irishman in Residence" in the press. One of the best-known screen actors of the 1930s and 1940s, he played priests, cops, military figures, pilots, and reporters. He is especially well-remembered for his roles in Knute Rockne, All American (1940), Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), and Some Like It Hot (1959). He was frequently paired onscreen with Hollywood legend James Cagney. O'Brien also appeared on stage and television.

Early life

Pat O'Brien was born in 1899 to an Irish-American Roman Catholic family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.[1] All four of his grandparents had come from Ireland. The O'Briens were originally from County Cork. His grandfather, Patrick O'Brien, for whom he was named, was an architect who was killed while trying to break up a saloon fight in New York City. His mother's parents, the McGoverns, immigrated from County Galway in the west of Ireland in the mid- to late-19th century.[2]

As a child, O'Brien served as an altar boy at Gesu Church, while growing up near 13th and Clybourn streets in Milwaukee. He attended Marquette Academy with fellow actor Spencer Tracy, who became a lifelong friend. During World War I, O'Brien and Tracy joined the United States Navy. They both attended boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, but the war ended before their training had finished.[3]

Jack Benny was also at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center at the same time as O'Brien and Tracy. According to his autobiography, Benny performed a number on the violin at a show one evening, when the sailors started booing and heckling him. O'Brien walked on stage and whispered in his ear, "For heaven's sake, Ben, put down the damn fiddle and talk to 'em." Benny stopped playing his violin and made a series of comments that got laughs from the audience. In this way, O'Brien indirectly helped to start Benny's career in comedy.[4]

After the war, O'Brien finished his secondary schooling at Marquette Academy and later attended Marquette University. While still at college, he decided to seek work as an actor. He moved to New York, where he lived for a while with Tracy (who had also become an actor), and began a career on the stage.[5]

Early career

O'Brien spent a decade in plays on Broadway and in the New York City area.

Hollywood

O'Brien made his film debut in the Vitaphone Varieties short film, The Nightingale, produced in New York and released in August 1930.[6]:57 His first starring role was as ace reporter Hildy Johnson in the original 1931 version of The Front Page with Adolphe Menjou. In 2010, this film was selected by the National Film Preservation Board for preservation in the Library of Congress's National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."[7]

He was the lead in Paramount's Personal Maid (1931), and was in an MGM musical Flying High (1931), supporting Bert Lahr. He was Irene Dunne's love interest in RKO's Consolation Marriage (1932), then co-starred opposite a young Bette Davis in Hell's House (1932). O'Brien stayed in leads, going from studio to studio: Scandal for Sale (1932), at Universal; The Strange Case of Clara Deane (1932), at Paramount; Hollywood Speaks (1932), American Madness (1932) and Virtue (1932).

O'Brien played a heroic pilot in Universal's Air Mail (1932), directed by John Ford. While at that studio he was in Laughter in Hell (1932) and Destination Unknown (1933). At the small Majestic Pictures he starred in The World Gone Mad (1933).

Warner Bros

O'Brien's first Warner Bros. movie was Bureau of Missing Persons (1933), starring Bette Davis. He went to RKO for Flaming Gold (1933) and MGM for Bombshell (1933), then Warners signed O'Brien to a long-term contract. He would remain with the studio until, when he left after a dispute over the terms of his contract renewal.[8]

O'Brien supported Dick Powell in College Coach (1933) and Joan Blondell in I've Got Your Number (1934).[9] He was third lead to Barbra Stanwyck and Joel McCrea in Gambling Lady (1934), then was with Powell again in Twenty Million Sweethearts (1934).

Here Comes the Navy (1934) was O'Brien's first film with James Cagney, also under contract to Warners. The two originally met in 1926 and remained friends for almost six decades. After O'Brien's death, Cagney referred to him as his "dearest friend."[10] O'Brien played the lead, a boxer, in The Personality Kid (1934), supported Powell in Flirtation Walk (1934) and was an auctioneer in I Sell Anything (1935).

Cagney and O'Brien were reteamed in Devil Dogs of the Air (1935). He was a critic in love with Dolores Del Rio in In Caliente (1935) and had the lead in the bio-pic Oil for the Lamps of China (1935), which he called "one of my favorite pictures."[11] "That was a sweetheart," he said.[12]

He and Cagney were in The Irish in Us (1935) then it was back to supporting Powell in Page Miss Glory (1935). He headlined a musical Stars Over Broadway (1935) then was back with Cagney for Howard Hawks' Ceiling Zero (1935). Cagney later sued Warners for billing O'Brien's name above his.[13]

"Jimmy's grand to work with," said O'Brien in 1935. "You couldn't ask for a better partner but there's a limit to all that. I think one picture a year with Jimmy would be fine. But as it is I've been with him in every uniform - the army, the navy, the police, the marines, the air corps - and it's always a case of me falling for his girl or him falling for mine. It gets tiresome... I don't just want to be a fast-talking Charlie all my life."[12]

Warners gave him some starring parts: I Married a Doctor (1936), Public Enemy's Wife (1936), China Clipper (1936), The Great O'Malley (1937), and Slim (1937) with Henry Fonda. He was a prison guard in San Quentin (1937) opposite Humphrey Bogart, romanced Blondell in Back in Circulation (1937) and was an old sailor in Submarine D-1 (1938).

O'Brien was pulled out of Swing Your Lady to support Kay Francis in Women Are Like That (1938)[14] and was back with Powell for Cowboy from Brooklyn (1938). He and Cagney reteamed for Boy Meets Girl (1938), and he was meant to be back with Powell in Garden of the Moon (1938), but Powell refused to do it - he was replaced by John Payne.

O'Brien has one of his best ever roles as the former street kid turned priest in Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) with Cagney. He was with Blondell in Off the Record (1939) and The Kid from Kokomo (1939), and supported Ann Sheridan in Indianapolis Speedway (1939).

He went over to Paramount for The Night of Nights (1939), part of a deal in which Warners bought the rights to The Old Maid from Paramount. He then made Slightly Honorable (1939) for United Artists.

Back at Warner Bros he was reunited with Cagney for The Fighting 69th (1940) then made Castle on the Hudson (1940) with Sheridan and John Garfield. He was a cop in 'Til We Meet Again (1940), supported Cagney and Sheridan in Torrid Zone (1940). He supported Garfield and Frances Farmer in Flowing Gold (1940).

O'Brien was then given his best known role, as the famous Notre Dame University football coach Knute Rockne in Knute Rockne, All American (1940). In the film, he gave the speech to "win just one for the Gipper," referring to recently deceased football player, George Gipp, portrayed in the film by a young Ronald Reagan. Reagan later used this saying as a slogan for his campaign for president in 1980.

O'Brien was at a career peak. He was considered for the role of Alvin York in the film Sergeant York.[15] From this high point, however, O'Brien left Warner Bros in July 1940.

Leaving Warner Bros

O'Brien and Anne Jeffreys in Riffraff (1947)

After he left Warner Brothers in 1940, O'Brien signed a contract with 20th Century Fox for two films a year.[16] However they ended up not using him.

He signed with Columbia Pictures to make two films a year.[17] He was in Escape to Glory (1940), then was idle for a year before making Two Yanks in Trinidad (1942) with Brian Donlevy and Flight Lieutenant (1942) with Glenn Ford. At Universal he was in Broadway (1942) with George Raft.

RKO

Soon he signed a contract with RKO and appeared in several movies for that studio.[8] He mostly played authority/military roles such as The Navy Comes Through (1942), and Bombardier (1943). The Iron Major (1943) was an attempt to repeat the success of Knute Rockne with O'Brien as Frank Cavanaugh.

At Universal he supported Deanna Durbin in His Butler's Sister (1943) then it was back to RKO for Marine Raiders (1944).

With his agent Phil Ryan O'Brien set up his own production company, Teneen Productions. They signed a deal with Columbia to make a film with O'Brien, Secret Command (1944). (In 1955 the IRS would sue him for earnings on this film.[18]) At RKO he did Having Wonderful Crime (1946) and Man Alive (1945). For Columbia he made Perilous Holiday (1946) then

In 1946 he starred in the successful film-noir suspense film, Crack-Up. He was in a thriller, Riffraff (1947) and another biopic Fighting Father Dunne (1948). He followed it with The Boy with Green Hair (1948), and A Dangerous Profession (1949) with Raft.

While working as a Hollywood contract player, O'Brien made occasional appearances on the radio in the 1930s and 1940s. In the summer of 1947, he starred with Lynn Bari in Summer Theater, a program "dramatizing episodes in the life of a small town druggist."[19]

Later career

Pat O'Brien visiting Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center in 1972

O'Brien's movie career slowed considerably by the early 1950s, although he still managed to get work in television. In his autobiography, The Wind At My Back, he professed to being completely flummoxed about the decline of his career. His close friend, Spencer Tracy, fought with his studio, MGM, to get roles for O'Brien in his films, The People Against O'Hara (1951) and The Last Hurrah (1958).[20]

He still had leads in films like Okinawa (1952), Inside Detroit (1956) and Kill Me Tomorrow (1957). In 1959 O'Brien appeared in one of his best-known movies as a police detective opposite George Raft in Some Like It Hot, starring Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, and Tony Curtis.

In his later years, O'Brien often worked in television. He was cast in 1956 and 1957 in four episodes of the religion anthology series, Crossroads. In three of the four programs, he played priests. He also performed in two episodes of The Virginian in the mid-1960s.[21] In the 1960-1961 television season, O'Brien joined Roger Perry in the 34-episode ABC sitcom, Harrigan and Son, about a father-and-son team of lawyers. He played the lead role of James Harrigan, Sr.[21]

O'Brien made numerous appearances on television as himself, including several on The Ed Sullivan Show. In 1957, he guest starred in the first season of the NBC variety program, The Ford Show, Starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. Other shows in which he appeared as himself include the interview programs: The David Frost Show, The Tonight Show, The Merv Griffin Show, and The Joey Bishop Show. In 1957, Ralph Edwards profiled O'Brien's life and career for an episode of This Is Your Life. He was also the mystery guest on the game show What's My Line? in 1953 and 1957. In the "Jennifer and the Will" episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, he has a memorably comic turn as Jennifer Marlowe's elderly boyfriend. His final filmed performance came in a 1982 episode of Happy Days.[21]

He had a small role as Burt Reynolds' father in the 1978 comedy film The End, opposite Myrna Loy, cast as Reynolds' mother.

In later years, O'Brien recalled that he had had three "great" movie roles in his career: Knute Rockne, Hildy Johnson in The Front Page, and Father Duffy in The Fighting 69th.[22]

In the 1960s through the early 1980s, O'Brien often traveled around the United States as a one-man act and in road shows. He also performed frequently in nightclubs.[10]

Near the end of his life, he toured in a stage production of On Golden Pond, which he considered "absolutely the best play" he had ever read.[23][24]

"Irish Mafia"

In the late 1930s, Pat O'Brien and a small group of his actor friends began to meet to converse and exchange opinions and stories. Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky dubbed them the "Irish Mafia," but they preferred to call their social group the "Boys Club." In addition to O'Brien, the original members of the club were James Cagney, Spencer Tracy, Allen Jenkins and Frank McHugh, all of whom were Irish-Americans. Later Lynne Overman joined their group and then Ralph Bellamy and Frank Morgan. Bert Lahr, Louis Calhern, and James Gleason were occasional guests. The actors gathered to socialize, but they also occasionally used the group to discuss ideas about their latest movies. By the mid-1940s the group began to break up, as members died or moved. Some of the surviving members kept in contact by telephone and occasional meetings.[25]

Personal life

Postcard of Pat O'Brien's home in Brentwood, California

O'Brien and his wife, Eloise, had four children: Mavourneen, Sean, Terry, and Brigid. Three of his children were adopted.[10] The youngest, Brigid O'Brien (born 1946), was his biological child.[26] Eloise O'Brien occasionally appeared on stage with her husband.

Among those who knew him personally, O'Brien was known for his love of storytelling, jokes, and late-night parties.[10][27] Bob Hope specifically remembered him as a raconteur.[10] Another friend recalled that he was always "the life, and I mean the lively life, of the party."[27] He traveled to Vietnam as part of a US tour in February 1969.[28]

O'Brien died on October 15, 1983 from a heart attack at age 83. He had gone into hospital for minor prostate surgery, recovered from the operation, then died. Ronald Reagan, who was president at the time, released a White House statement noting his sadness over O'Brien's death. The president had called the actor at the hospital days before his death.[10][29]

Filmography

Poster for The Front Page (1931)
Promotional still for Ceiling Zero (1936), featuring Pat O'Brien, Martha Tibbetts, James Cagney, June Travis and Stuart Erwin
Pat O'Brien in Public Enemy's Wife (1936)
James Cagney and Pat O'Brien in Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)
Poster for The Last Hurrah (1958)
Year Title Role Notes
1930 Nightingale, TheThe Nightingale Short[6]:56
1930 My Mistake Short[6]:57
1930 Compliments of the Season Short[6]:57
1931 Pat O'Brien in "Crimes Square" Short[6]:62
1931 Front Page, TheThe Front Page Hildy Johnson [30]
1931 Personal Maid Peter Shea [30]
1931 Flying High Sport Wardell [30]
1931 Consolation Marriage Steve Porter [30]
1932 Hell's House Kelly [30]
1932 Final Edition, TheThe Final Edition Sam Bradshaw [30]
1932 Scandal for Sale Waddell [30]
1932 Strange Case of Clara Deane, TheThe Strange Case of Clara Deane Frank Deane [30]
1932 Hollywood Speaks Jimmy Reed [30]
1932 American Madness Matt Brown [30]
1932 Virtue Jimmy Doyle [30]
1932 Air Mail Duke Talbot [30]
1933 Laughter in Hell Barney Slaney [30]
1933 Destination Unknown Matt Brennan [30]
1933 World Gone Mad, TheThe World Gone Mad Andy Terrell [30]
1933 Bureau of Missing Persons Butch Saunders [30]
1933 Flaming Gold Ben Lear [30]
1933 Bombshell Jim Brogan [30]
1933 College Coach Coach Gore [30]
1934 I've Got Your Number Terry Riley [30]
1934 Gambling Lady Charlie Lang [30]
1934 Twenty Million Sweethearts Rush Blake [30]
1934 Personality Kid, TheThe Personality Kid Ritzy McCarty [30]
1934 Here Comes the Navy Biff Martin [30]
1934 I Sell Anything Spot Cash Cutler [30]
1934 Flirtation Walk Scrapper Thornhill [30]
1935 Devil Dogs of the Air Lieutenant Bill Brannigan [30]
1935 In Caliente Larry MacArthur [30]
1935 Oil for the Lamps of China Stephen Chase [30]
1935 Irish in Us, TheThe Irish in Us Pat O'Hara [30]
1935 Page Miss Glory Click Wiley [30]
1935 Stars Over Broadway Al McGillevray [30]
1936 Ceiling Zero Jake Lee [30]
1936 I Married a Doctor Dr. William P. Kennicott [30]
1936 Public Enemy's Wife Lee Laird [30]
1936 China Clipper Dave Logan [30]
1937 Great O'Malley, TheThe Great O'Malley James Aloysius O'Malley [30]
1937 Slim Red Blayd [30]
1937 San Quentin Capt. Stephen Jameson [30]
1937 Back in Circulation Bill Morgan [30]
1937 Submarine D-1 Butch Rogers [30]
1938 Women Are Like That Bill Landin [30]
1938 Cowboy from Brooklyn Ray Chadwick [30]
1938 Boy Meets Girl J. C. Benson [30]
1938 Garden of the Moon John Quinn [30]
1938 Angels with Dirty Faces Jerry Connolly [30]
1939 Off the Record Thomas Elliott [30]
1939 Kid from Kokomo, TheThe Kid from Kokomo Billy Murphy [30]
1939 Indianapolis Speedway Joe Greer [30]
1939 Night of Nights, TheThe Night of Nights Dan O'Farrell [30]
1939 Slightly Honorable John Webb [30]
1940 Fighting 69th, TheThe Fighting 69th Father Francis Duffy [30]
1940 Castle on the Hudson Warden Long [30]
1940 'Til We Meet Again Steve Burke [30]
1940 Torrid Zone Steve Case [30]
1940 Flowing Gold Hap O'Connor [30]
1940 Knute Rockne, All American Knute Rockne [30]
1940 Escape to Glory Mike Farrough [30]
1942 Two Yanks in Trinidad Tim Reardon [30]
1942 Broadway Dan McCorn [30]
1942 Flight Lieutenant Sam Doyle [30]
1942 Navy Comes Through, TheThe Navy Comes Through Michael Mallory [30]
1943 Bombardier Major Chick Davis [30]
1943 Iron Major, TheThe Iron Major Frank Cavanaugh [30]
1943 His Butler's Sister Martin Murphy [30]
1944 Marine Raiders Major Steve Lockhard [30]
1944 Secret Command Sam Gallagher [30]
1945 Having Wonderful Crime Michael J. Malone [30]
1945 Man Alive Michael O'Flaherty "Speed" McBride [30]
1946 Perilous Holiday Patrick Nevil [30]
1946 Crack-Up George Steele [30]
1947 Riffraff Dan Hammer [30]
1948 Fighting Father Dunne Father Peter J. Dunne [30]
1948 Boy with Green Hair, TheThe Boy with Green Hair Gramp Frye [30]
1949 Dangerous Profession, AA Dangerous Profession Joe Farley [30]
1950 Johnny One-Eye Martin Martin [30]
1950 Fireball, TheThe Fireball Father O'Hara [30]
1951 Hills of Ireland, TheThe Hills of Ireland Narrator [30]
1951 Criminal Lawyer Jimmy Reagan [30]
1951 People Against O'Hara, TheThe People Against O'Hara Vince Ricks [30]
1952 Okinawa Lt. Commander Hale [30]
1954 Jubilee Trail Texas [30]
1954 Ring of Fear Frank Wallace [30]
1956 Inside Detroit Gus Linden [30]
1956 Kill Me Tomorrow Bart Crosbie [30]
1956 Last Hurrah, TheThe Last Hurrah John Gorman [30]
1959 Some Like It Hot Mulligan [30]
1965 Town Tamer Judge Murcott [30]
1969 Over-the-Hill Gang, TheThe Over-the-Hill Gang Captain Oren Hayes [31]
1970 Phynx, TheThe Phynx [30]
1975 Sky's the Limit [31]
1978 End, TheThe End Ben Lawson [31]
1981 Ragtime Delmas [31]

Short Subjects:

  • A Dream Comes True (1935)
  • A Trip Thru a Hollywood Studio (1935)
  • Swingtime in the Movies (1938)
  • Out Where the Stars Begin (1938)
  • Screen Snapshots: Famous Fathers and Sons (1946)
  • Screen Snapshots: Hollywood's Happy Homes (1949)
  • Screen Snapshots: Motion Picture Mothers, Inc. (1949)
  • Screen Snapshots: Hopalong in Hoppy Land (1951)
  • Screen Snapshots: Memorial to Al Jolson (1952)
  • Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Mothers and Fathers (1955)
  • Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Beauty (1955)

Television credits

Further reading

  • Wise, James. Stars in Blue: Movie Actors in America's Sea Services. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1997. ISBN 1557509379 OCLC 36824724

References

  1. ^ TOP CATHOLIC OF THE CENTURY NUMBER 94: Pat O'Brien (dailycatholic.org)
  2. ^ O'Brien, Pat (1964). The Wind at My Back: The Life and Times of Pat O'Brien. New York: Doubleday. pp. 18–21. 
  3. ^ O'Brien, p. 39-44.
  4. ^ Benny, Jack (1990). Sunday Nights at Seven. New York: Warner Books. pp. 15–17. ISBN 0-446-51546-9. 
  5. ^ B. R. C. "Film Gossip of the Week". The New York Times, January 31, 1937.
  6. ^ a b c d e Liebman, Roy (2003). Vitaphone Films: A Catalogue of the Features and Shorts. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0786446971. 
  7. ^ Barnes, Mike (December 28, 2010). "'Empire Strikes Back,' 'Airplane!' Among 25 Movies Named to National Film Registry". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b O'Brien, pp. 260-1.
  9. ^ Scott, J. "Telephone Romance Opens". Los Angeles Times February 17, 1934.
  10. ^ a b c d e f "Heart Attack Kills Actor Pat O'Brien". Washington, PA: Observer-Reporter. AP. October 17, 1983. Retrieved June 8, 2014. 
  11. ^ O'Brien, p. 251.
  12. ^ a b F. S. "Sentimental Irishman". The New York Times, December 1, 1935.
  13. ^ "Cagney tells court warners book him below pat O'brien". Chicago Daily Tribune, March 7, 1936.
  14. ^ "News of the Screen". The New York Times, August 31, 1937.
  15. ^ Schallert, E. "Pat O'brien probably will play sergt. york". Los Angeles Times, May 2, 1940.
  16. ^ "Pat O'brien will make 'manila calling' at fox -- reagan in 'dangerous journey'". The New York Times, January 16, 1942.
  17. ^ Douglas W. Churchill. "News of the Screen: Martha Scott Borrowed by Columbia for Role in 'They Dare Not Love'--Two Swedish Films Open Here Of Local Origin". The New York Times, December 27, 1940.
  18. ^ https://www.leagle.com/decision/195540125avtc376_1354
  19. ^ "New Shows Take Over Radio's Favorite Spots". Naugatuck Daily News. June 7, 1947. p. 6. Retrieved July 28, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication – free to read
  20. ^ Davidson, Bill (1987). Spencer Tracy: Tragic Idol. New York: E. P. Dutton. pp. 175–6. ISBN 0-525-24631-2. 
  21. ^ a b c "Pat O'Brien". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
  22. ^ O'Brien, p. 243.
  23. ^ "Pat O'Brien On Golden Pond (news report and interview)". YouTube. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  24. ^ M. K. "Portrait of A pro". The Washington Post, April 4, 1981.
  25. ^ McCabe, John (1997). Cagney. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 127–30, 329. ISBN 0-679-44607-9. 
  26. ^ O'Brien, pp. 288-90.
  27. ^ a b McCabe, p. 223.
  28. ^ Pike, Thomas,Operations and Intelligence, I Corps Reporting: February 1969, Page 24, ISBN 9781519486301
  29. ^ Eve Zibart. "Pat O'brien dies. ". The Washington Post, October 16, 1983.
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx by bz ca cb cc cd ce cf cg ch ci cj ck "Pat O'Brien". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  31. ^ a b c d "Pat O'Brien". British Film Institute. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 

External links

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