Friday, 9 September 2016

Hugh O'Brian Passes On

Hugh O'Brian, known for playing Wyatt Earp in the Western TV series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp and starring in the Seventies action series Search, died on September 5 2016 at the age of 91.

Hugh O'Brian was born on April 19 1925 in Rochester, New York.  He attended New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois and then Kemper Military School in Booneville, Missouri. He attended the University of Cincinnati with the intent of majoring in law. He dropped out after one semester to enlist in the United States Marines during World War II. Following the war he had planned to enrol in Yale University. He moved to Los Angeles with the intent of earning money to pay for his education at Yale. While in Los Angeles he met upcoming actresses Ruth Roman and Linda Christian, who acquainted him with a theatre group. One night the leading man for Somerset Maugham’s play Home and Beauty fell ill and Hugh O'Brian took his place. It after that experience that Mr. O'Brian decided to enrol at UCLA and simply pursued acting as a hobby while he earned money for his education. He made his film debut in an uncredited role in Kidnapped (1948).

Not long afterwards legendary director and actress Ida Lupino saw one of Hugh O'Brian's performances and cast him in a major role in her film Never Fear (1949). in 1950 he appeared in an uncredited role in the classic noir D.O.A., and in significant roles in Rocketship X-M (1950), Beyond the Purple Hills (1950), and The Return of Jesse James (1950).

The Fifties saw Hugh O'Brian cast in the role of Wyatt Earp in The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, the first of network television's adult Westerns. It was followed that September in 1955 by two more adult Westerns: Gunsmoke and Cheyenne. The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp proved highly successful. It ran six seasons and ranked in the top twenty shows for the year for four of those seasons. Along with Gunsmoke and Cheyenne it also sparked a cycle towards Westerns that dominated television in the late Fifties.

During the Fifties Hugh O'Brian also guest starred on such shows as Hallmark Hall of Fame, Fireside Theatre, Studio 57, The Loretta Young Show, The Millionaire, Date with the Angels, Make Room for Daddy, Playhouse 90, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, and G.E. Theatre. He appeared in such films as Fighting Coast Guard (1951), Little Big Horn (1951),  Son of Ali Baba (1952), Meet Me at the Fair (1953), The Lawless Breed (1953),  Seminole (1953), Saskatchewan (1954), Drums Across the River (1954), Broken Lance (1954), There's No Business Like Show Business (1954), White Feather (1955), The Twinkle in God's Eye (1955), The Brass Legend (1956), and Alias Jesse James (1959).

In the Sixties Mr. O'Brian appeared in the films Come Fly with Me (1963), Love Has Many Faces (1965), In Harm's Way (1965), Assassination in Rome (1965), Ten Little Indians (1965), Ambush Bay (1966), Africa: Texas Style (1967), and Strategy of Terror (1969). On television he guest starred on such shows as The Dick Powell Theatre, Alcoa Premiere, The Virginian, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Perry Mason, Kraft Mystery Theatre, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, The Red Skelton Hour, and Hallmark Hall of Fame.

In the Seventies Hugh O'Brian starred as Hugh Lockwood in the single season, spy-fi show Search. He guest starred on the shows Good Heavens, Charlie's Angels, Police Story, and Fantasy Island. He appeared on the mini-series The Seekers. He appeared in the films Killer Force (1976), The Shootist (1976), and Game of Death (1978).

In the Eighties Hugh O'Brian appeared in the films Doin' Time on Planet Earth (1988) and Twins (1988). He guest starred on the TV shows Fantasy Island; The Love Boat; Paradise; and Murder, She Wrote. In the Nineties he guest starred on the shows L. A. Law and Call of the Wild. He reprised his role as Wyatt Earp in the TV movies The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw and Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone.

In 1958 Hugh O'Brian founded the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Foundation, a charity devoted to developing leadership development for young people. 

Hugh O'Brian will probably always be remembered as the stalwart, courageous Wyatt Earp. That having been said, he was capable of playing other roles. On Search Hugh Lockwood was a hip, wisecracking, ladies man, about as far from the somewhat stoic Wyatt Earp as one can get. In his guest appearance on Perry Mason he played playboy entertainment lawyer Bruce Jason, another role quite unlike Wyatt Earp. His role in The Shootist was even further from Wyatt Earp; he played a professional gambler and pistoleer. Earlier in his career Hugh O'Brian had a brief appearance as another villain, the gunman Morgan in the Audie Murphy Western Drums Across the River. While Hugh O'Brian will probably always be remembered as Wyatt Earp, he was capable of playing many more types of characters. 

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