Born in San Francisco on April 19, 1899 (some sources list 1900 as his date of birth), George O'Brien was the son of Daniel O'Brien, San Francisco's Chief of Police. O'Brien attended Santa Clara College but enlisted in the Navy near the end of World War I, and quickly became a heavyweight boxing champion of the Pacific Fleet. After the end of the war, O'Brien returned to college but soon made his way to Hollywood. Starting in 1920, O'Brien worked as a stuntman and production assistant for Famous Players-Lasky. Gradually, he also took on bit parts in films, before catching the eye of director John Ford, who chose the relatively unknown O'Brien to star in Ford's 1924 silent epic The Iron Horse. Ford was impressed by the natural acting ability of his new star and convinced Fox executives to put him under contract. Throughout the latter days of silent films, O'Brien had great success as a leading man and starred in some of the best films of the era. Standing 5'11", he was nicknamed "The Chest" in the 1920s for his strong, muscular build.

Johnny Weissmuller and George O'BrienGeorge O'BrienGeorge O'BrienGeorge O'BrienGeorge O'BrienGeorge O'Brien

LEFT: O'Brien with Johnny Weissmuller in the early 1930s. CENTER A: 1920s pose. CENTER B and C: 1930s poses. CENTER D and RIGHT: Daring Fox studio shots to promote O'Brien's 1926 comedy Fig Leaves

By 1928, elements of sound were being grafted onto movies originally filmed as silents, in a rush to get on the "talkie" bandwagon. O'Brien's first all-sound film was Salute (1929), which was not a great success upon release. Not knowing what to do with the popular actor, Fox executives eventually threw O'Brien in a series of lower-budget westerns. O'Brien's early westerns were highly successful for the studio, and O'Brien became perhaps the most popular western star at that time. In 1936, he left 20th Century-Fox for an offer from RKO, where he made 20 pictures at the studio in four years.

In 1933, O'Brien married actresss Marguerite Churchill, the star of Dracula's Daughter (1936). The couple met when they were both cast in the 1931 western Riders of the Purple Sage. They had two children--bassist Orin O'Brien and writer Darcy O'Brien--before divorcing in 1948.

the films of george o'brien

The Iron Horse (1924) Get It Here at Movies Unlimited

George O'Brien

Director John Ford gave George O'Brien his first starring role in the western The Iron Horse. This film originally had a running time of 150 minutes, very long for a 1920s western

The Silver Treasure (1926)

George O'BrienGeorge O'BrienGeorge O'Brien

O'Brien as Nostromo in The Silver Treasure

Is Zat So? (1927)

George O'BrienGeorge O'Brien

O'Brien as boxer Chick Cowan in Is Zat So?

Sunrise (1927)

George O'Brien and Janet Gaynor

Scene from Sunrise with Janet Gaynor. O'Brien portrays a young farmer who contemplates murdering his wife (Gaynor) at the urging of another woman. O'Brien was teamed with Gaynor in two other films: The Blue Eagle (1926) and The Johnstown Flood (1926)

Blindfold (1928)

George O'Brien and Lois Moran

With Lois Moran in Blindfold

Noah's Ark (1928) Get It Here at Movies Unlimited

George O'BrienGeorge O'Brien and Dolores Costello

LEFT: As Japheth in Michael Curtiz's Warner Bros. epic Noah's Ark. RIGHT: With co-star Dolores Costello. With a budget in excess of a million dollars, this was one of the most expensive films ever made, until the 1930s. Originally shot as a silent film, some sound sequences were inserted before its release

Seas Beneath (1931)

George O'Brien and Marion Lessing

With Marion Lessing the John Ford war film Seas Beneath

The Dude Ranger (1934) Get It Here at Movies Unlimited

George O'Brien

Scene from Fox's short western The Dude Ranger

Hard Rock Harrigan (1935)

George O'BrienGeorge O'Brien

As the title character in the Fox Film Corporation drama Hard Rock Harrigan

Thunder Mountain (1935)

George O'BrienGeorge O'Brien

From Thunder Mountain

The Border Patrolman (1936)

George O'Brien

As Bob Wallace in The Border Patrolman, O'Brien has to keep Polly Ann Young in check

Daniel Boone (1936) Get It Here at Movies Unlimited

George O'BrienGeorge O'Brien

From O'Brien's most popular western, the RKO release Daniel Boone

Park Avenue Logger (1937) Get It Here at Movies Unlimited

George O'BrienGeorge O'Brien

From RKO's Park Avenue Logger

The Renegade Ranger (1938) Get It Here at Movies Unlimited

Ray Whitley, Tim Holt, Rita Hayworth, and George O'Brien

From the RKO western The Renegade Ranger with Ray Whitley, Tim Holt, and Rita Hayworth

My Wild Irish Rose (1947) Get It Here at Movies Unlimited

Arlene Dahl, Alan Hale, Sara Allgood, George Tobias, and George O'Brien

O'Brien had a supporting role in the Warner Bros. musical My Wild Irish Rose. Also pictured are Arlene Dahl, Alan Hale, Sara Allgood, and George Tobias

Gold Raiders (1951) Get It Here at Movies Unlimited

Fuzzy Knight, Monte Blue, George O'Brien, and Hugh Hooker

From the Three Stooges comedy Gold Raiders with Fuzzy Knight, Monte Blue, and Hugh Hooker

later years

With the onset of World War II, at the age of 41 O'Brien decided to leave his acting career behind and re-enlist in the Navy. Returning to films after the war, however, roles for George O'Brien had evaporated. He made a few more films between 1947 and 1951, and even became a panelist on the TV series Pantomime Quiz. With the onset of the Korean War, O'Brien again returned to active duty. He acted in only one more film, the John Ford western Cheyenne Autumn (1964; with Richard Widmark, Carroll Baker, Ricardo Montalban, and Gilbert Roland), retiring to a ranch in Oklahoma afterward. Following a stroke and several years of poor health, O'Brien passed away on September 4, 1985, at the age of 86. He was survived by his son, writer Darcy O'Brien (1939-1998), and his daughter, bassist Orin O'Brien.

george o'brien films available from movies unlimited

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The Valentino Collection [DVD] DVD
Silent-era heartthrob Rudolph Valentino stars in these four rare films from the early days of cinema. First, a beautiful woman becomes "A Society Sensation" (1918) after saving a rich woman's son (Valentino) from drowning, and the two pitch woo in this short drama. Carmel Myers, ZaSu Pitts co-star. Next, playing a South American poet, Valentino seeks a few "Stolen Moments" (1920) with an ardent admirer. Marguerite Namara, Arthur Earle co-star in this melodramatic short. Then, Valentino is a Spanish nobleman in San Francisco who is forced by smugglers onto a ship destined for Mexico. The rousing swashbuckler "Moran of the Lady Letty" (1922) co-stars May McAvoy, William Long. Finally, an Indian prince (Valentino) in hiding falls for an American girl. Is "The Young Rajah" (1922) doomed to unhappiness? Fanny Midgley, Charles Ogle also star. Restored versions include color tinting and new musical scores. 3 3/4 hrs. total. Standard; Soundtrack: music score; featurettes; photo gallery. Silent with music score. Two-disc set.
The Ford At Fox Collection: John Ford's Silent Epics [DVD] DVD
John Ford's (credited as Jack Ford) early silent Western "Just Pals" (1920) chronicles the unlikely friendship between a shiftless bum (Buck Jones) and a young boy (George Boy), and the would-be romance of Jones and the local schoolteacher (Helen Ferguson). And, "Four Sons" (1928) tells the poignant tale of the Bernle boys, a quartet of Bavarian brothers who must leave their doting mother at the outbreak of World War I, with one of them going to fight for America. James Hall, Charles Morton, Ralph Bushman star. Five-disc set also includes "The Iron Horse," "3 Bad Men" and "Hangman's House." 9 3/5 hrs. total. Standard; Soundtracks: Dolby Digital 5.0, Dolby Digital stereo music score; featurettes; photo gallery; audio commentary. Silent with music score.
The Iron Horse [DVD](1924) DVD
John Ford's silent frontier saga stars George O'Brien as an ex-Pony Express rider searching for the mountain pass his surveyor father discovered years earlier to aid the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. At the same time, O'Brien attempts to woo his childhood sweetheart and faces off against the man responsible for his pa's death. Madge Bellamy, Fred Kohler also star. Includes both the U.S. and the international versions; 149 min/133 min. Standard; Soundtracks: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital stereo music score; Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; audio commentary; featurettes; photo gallery. Silent with music score. Two-disc set.
Hangman's House (1928)/3 Bad Men [DVD](1926) DVD
The first of two silent epics from John Ford, "Hangman's House" (on which Ford served as an uncredited director) concerns a strict Irish judge whose deathbed wish is that his daughter marry a wealthy man who, unknown to him, is targeted by a vengeful expatriate determined to restore his family's honor. Victor McLaglen, June Collyer, Earle Foxe star; look quickly for John Wayne in, not one but, two uncredited roles. Then, a trio of outlaws becomes the unlikely protectors of a young settler woman after her father is killed, in "3 Bad Men." George O'Brien, Olive Borden, Tom Santschi, Frank Campeau star. 163 min. total. Standard; Soundtrack: Dolby Digital 5.1 music score; Subtitles: Spanish, French. Silent with music score.
Noah's Ark [DVD](1928) DVD
Director Michael Curtiz's silent melodrama (with some talking sequences) juxtaposes a romantic triangle between an American man, a German woman, and a Russian military officer during World War I against the Old Testament tale of patriarch Noah, his family, and the Great Flood. One of the costliest films made up to that time (in both budget and in lives tragically lost on set during an ambitious underwater sequence) stars, in dual roles, George O'Brien, Dolores Costello, Noah Beery, and Paul McAllister. 100 min. Standard; Soundtrack: Dolby Digital mono music score. Silent with music score.
The Dude Ranger [DVD](1934) DVD
Duuude! An Easterner (George O'Brien) inherits some land and travels west to claim it, only to find that a crippled man is robbing the daughter of the ranch foreman. Going undercover as a cowhand, O'Brien falls for the girl while trying to ferret out the crook. Irene Harvey, LeRoy Mason, Sid Saylor also star; based on a story by Zane Grey. 64 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital stereo; featurettes.
Outlaws Of Boulder Pass (1942)/When A Man's A Man [DVD](1935) DVD
First, in "Outlaws of Boulder Pass," when greedy ranchers try to take over valuable ranch land, the Lone Rider (George Huston in his final film role) and Fuzzy Jones (Al St. John) become determined to stop them. Along the way, they encounter an old friend, a beautiful damsel and plenty of rootin'-tootin' frontier action! Stunning horse opera co-stars Dennis Moore, Marjorie Manners. Then, in "When a Man's a Man," Eastern tenderfoot George O'Brien, goes West to find adventure and gets more than he expects when he tames a bronco and gets in the middle of a skirmish with ranchers over water rights. With Dorothy Wilson, Paul Kelly, Harry Woods. AKA: "Saga of the West." 108 min. total. Standard; Soundtrack: English. Plays All Regions.
The Cowboy Millionaire [DVD](1935) DVD
George O'Brien stars as the rough-and-ready runner of a dude ranch who finds himself falling for a British lady guest who's out of her element. When his would-be love suspects that he is a gigolo, she decides to mosey on back to England. Never one to let a misunderstanding get in the way of his happiness, O'Brien heads overseas to claim his dream girl's heart. With Evalyn Bostock, Edgar Kennedy, Maude Allen. Standard; Soundtrack: English. Plays All Regions.
O'Malley Of The Mounted [DVD](1936) DVD
A group of horse-riding scalawags is terrorizing the small towns along the U.S.-Canadian border. George O'Brien is lawman O'Malley, who goes undercover and poses as one of the nasties in order to stop their dastardly deeds. Irene Ware, Stanley Fields, James Bush co-star in this remake of the 1921 film of the same name. Standard; Soundtrack: English.
Daniel Boone [DVD](1936) DVD
America's legendary pioneer leads a group of people out of North Carolina into the unexplored regions of Kentucky, fighting floods and fierce Indians. George O'Brien, Heather Angel and John Carradine star in this superior actioner. 79 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English mono.
Windjammer [DVD](1937) DVD
Outstanding adventure stars George O'Brien as a deputy D.A. assigned to track down a powerful naval officer who dodged a subpoena to testify before a U.S. Senate Committee. Tracing him to a Honolulu yacht race, the legal eagle stows away aboard the craft. But when the vessel is attacked by gunrunners, O'Brien must save the day. With Constance Worth, William Hall, Brandon Evans. 55 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English. Plays All Regions.
Park Avenue Logger [DVD](1937) DVD
The patriarch of a blue-blood family doesn't think his son is becoming a rugged enough man, so he sends him to a logging camp. The young man's wrestling abilities reach fruition at the camp and, known as "the Masked Marvel," he smashes some crooks and helps a young woman's logger father when he gets in trouble. George O'Brien, Ward Bond and Beatrice Roberts star. AKA: "Millionaire Playboy," "Tall Timber." 65 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English. Plays All Regions.
Hollywood Cowboy [DVD](1937) DVD
A movie star specializing in playing cowboys has his vacation in the real West interrupted when he discovers gangsters are causing trouble for a group of ranchers. Now, he is forced to saddle up and bring down the bad guys with the help of a low-flying plane and some stampede-ready cattle. George O'Brien, Cecilia Parker, Maude Eburne star. AKA: "Wings Over Wyoming." 62 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English. Plays All Regions.
Tim Holt Western Classics Collection, Vol. 1 [DVD] DVD
Five-disc set features Tim Holt in 10 B-westerns. Captain George O'Brien must contend with a rebel gang and a corrupt government in "The Renegade Ranger" (1938). Rita Hayworth co-stars; Holt is an outlaw hassling notorious liar Harry Carey in "The Law West of Tombstone" (1938); an undercover Holt tries to con a culprit into crossing border for arrest in "Along the Rio Grande" (1941); love gets in the way of robbing banks in "The Bandit Trail" (1941); Holt is framed for murder in "Robbers of the Range" (1941); Holt investigates a counterfeiting ring in "Dude Cowboy" (1941). With Marjorie Reynolds; "Come on Danger" (1942) has Holt trying to protect a female outlaw; Holt must bring killers to justice in "Bandit Ranger" (1942); an evil vigilante tries to control land in "Pirates of the Prairie" (1942); and "Fighting Frontier" (1942) finds Holt in trouble after infiltrating robbers. 10 hrs. total. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono.
George O'Brien 3-Film Collection [DVD] DVD
Retired lawman George O'Brien pins back on the badge to save schoolmarm Virginia Vale, and the whole town, from the schemes of corrupt sheriff Leon Ames in "The Marshal of Mesa City" (1939). Henry Brandon, Slim Whitaker co-star. After hanging up his shingle in a small town, attorney O'Brien locks horns with a local vigilante committee that starts overstepping its authority in "Legion of the Lawless" (1940). Vale, Norman Willis, Hugh Sothern co-star. Rancher O'Brien hits the trail to attend his boyhood pal's wedding, but buys trouble when the road companions that he makes turn out to be bank robbers, in "Triple Justice" (1940). Vale, Paul Fix, Glenn Strange co-star. 187 min. total. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono.
My Wild Irish Rose [DVD](1947) DVD
The life of famed tenor Chauncey Olcott is the subject of this musically charged biopic. The film follows Olcott's (Dennis Morgan) rise to stardom, from his humble beginnings in minstrel shows to Broadway and his success as a composer, as well as his relationships with actress Lillian Russell (Andrea King) and hometown girl Rose Donovan (Arlene Dahl). Songs include the title tune, "Mother Machree," "One Little, Sweet Little Girl," "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," and more. 101 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English.
Fort Apache [Blu-ray](1948)
John Ford's classic frontier epic about an isolated Cavalry outpost and the men and women who live there stars Henry Fonda as the fort's stubborn new commander, whose rigorous stance puts him at odds with his men and leads to war with the Apache, and John Wayne as his veteran second-in-command. With Shirley Temple, John Agar, and Ward Bond. 128 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English.
Fort Apache [DVD](1948) DVD
John Ford's classic frontier epic about an isolated Cavalry outpost and the men and women who live there stars Henry Fonda as the fort's stubborn new commander, whose rigorous stance puts him at odds with his men and leads to war with the Apache, and John Wayne as his veteran second-in-command. With Shirley Temple, John Agar and Ward Bond. 128 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital mono; Subtitles: English, Spanish, French; featurette; theatrical trailer.
She Wore A Yellow Ribbon [DVD](1949) DVD
Memorable look at duty, devotion and honor from director John Ford stars John Wayne as a middle-aged Cavalry captain who, on the eve of retirement, strives to forestall war between Indians and the army. With Joanne Dru, Ben Johnson, John Agar. 103 min. Standard; Soundtracks: English Dolby Digital mono, French Dolby Digital mono; Subtitles: English, French, Portuguese, Spanish; home movies; theatrical trailer.
John Ford Film Collection [DVD] DVD
In "The Lost Patrol" (1934), a British military squad in World War I is lost in the desert and must fend off attacks by the Arabs. Victor McLaglen, Boris Karloff, Wallace Ford star. Next, set in 1922 Dublin, "The Informer" (1935) is the story of a member of the Irish rebellion who betrays a friend in order to collect the reward money and lives to regret it. McLaglen (in an Oscar-winning performance), Heather Angel, Preston Foster star. "Mary of Scotland" (1936) is a lush historical drama with Katharine Hepburn as Mary Queen of Scots, who defies her British cousin Elizabeth I (Florence Eldridge), taking the Earl Bothwell (Fredric March) as her second husband. John Carradine co-stars. The groundbreaking Western "Sergeant Rutledge" (1960) stars Woody Strode as a black cavalryman falsely accused of murdering his white commanding officer and raping and killing the man's daughter. With Jeffrey Hunter, Constance Towers. And, Ford's final Western, "Cheyenne Autumn" (1964) follows a band of Cheyenne Indians' perilous trek from an Oklahoma reservation to their ancestral land in Wyoming. Richard Widmark, Carroll Baker, Edward G. Robinson, and James Stewart star. Five-disc set.
Classic Comedy Teams Collection [DVD] DVD
Three-disc set includes the Three Stooges classics "Meet the Baron" and "Gold Raiders" with George O'Brien, the Laurel and Hardy films "Air Raid Wardens" and "Nothing But Trouble," and the Abbott and Costello outings "Lost in a Harem" and "Abbott and Costello in Hollywood."
Cheyenne Autumn [DVD](1964) DVD
The final Western from director John Ford, this powerful, sweeping drama follows a group of Cheyenne Indians in 1880s Oklahoma as they, against a government order, leave their squalid reservation to return to their ancestral lands in Wyoming, a perilous 1,500-mile odyssey that puts the ragtag band at odds with the cavalry. Richard Widmark, Carroll Baker, Karl Malden, Ricardo Montalban, Edward G. Robinson, Gilbert Roland, and James Stewart star. 156 min. Widescreen (Enhanced); Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital 5.1; Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; audio commentary; featurette; theatrical trailer.

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Cheyenne Autumn (1964) with Richard Widmark, Carroll Baker, Karl Malden, Sal Mineo, Dolores del Rio, Ricardo Montalban, Gilbert Roland, Patrick Wayne, and John Carradine
Gold Raiders (1951) with the Three Stooges, Sheila Ryan, Monte Blue, and Lyle Talbot
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) with John Wayne, Joanne Dru, and John Agar
Fort Apache (1948) with John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple, and Anna Lee
My Wild Irish Rose (1947) with Arlene Dahl, Dennis Morgan, and Andrea King
Bullet Code (1940) with Virginia Vale
Legion of the Lawless (1940)
Prairie Law (1940) with Virginia Vale
Stage to Chino (1940) with Virginia Vale
Triple Justice (1940) with Glenn Strange
Timber Stampede (1939) with Chill Wills and Ward Bond
Arizona Legion (1939) with Laraine Day and Chill Wills
The Fighting Gringo (1939) with Glenn Strange
Lawless Valley (1939) with Chill Wills
The Marshal of Mesa City (1939) with Virginia Vale
Racketeers of the Range (1939) with Bud Osborne and Chill Wills
Trouble in Sundown (1939) with Chill Wills and Ward Bond
Border G-Men (1938) with Laraine Day
Gun Law (1938)
Painted Desert (1938) with Laraine Day
The Renegade Ranger (1938) with Rita Hayworth and Tim Holt
Hollywood Cowboy (1937) with Charles Middleton
Park Avenue Logger (1937) with Ward Bond
Windjammer (1937)
Daniel Boone (1936) with John Carradine and Dickie Jones
The Border Patrolman (1936) with Polly Ann Young and Smiley Burnette
O'Malley of the Mounted (1936)
Thunder Mountain (1935) with George 'Gabby' Hayes
Cowboy Millionaire (1935) with Edgar Kennedy
When a Man's a Man (1935) with Paul Kelly
Hard Rock Harrigan (1935) with Irene Hervey
Whispering Smith Speaks (1935)
The Dude Ranger (1934) with Irene Hervey
Frontier Marshal (1934) with Ward Bond
Ever Since Eve (1934)
The Last Trail (1933) with Claire Trevor and J. Carrol Naish
Life in the Raw (1933) with Claire Trevor
Smoke Lightning (1933)
Robbers' Roost (1933) with Maureen O'Sullivan
The Golden West (1932)
Mystery Ranch (1932) with Charles Middleton
The Gay Caballero (1932) with Victor McLaglen
The Rainbow Trail (1932) with Minna Gombell
Riders of the Purple Sage (1931) with Marguerite Churchill and Noah Beery
A Holy Terror (1931) with Sally Eilers and Humphrey Bogart
Fair Warning (1931) with Nat Pendleton and George Brent
Seas Beneath (1931) with Marion Lessing
The Last of the Duanes (1930) with Myrna Loy and Nat Pendleton
Rough Romance (1930) with Antonio Moreno, Helen Chandler, and John Wayne
The Lone Star Ranger (1930) with Sue Carol
Salute (1929) with Helen Chandler, Stepin Fetchit, and Joyce Compton
Masked Emotions (1929)
Noah's Ark (1929) with Dolores Costello, Noah Beery, and Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams
True Heaven (1929) with Lois Moran
Blindfold (1928) with Lois Moran
Sharp Shooters (1928) with William Demarest
Honor Bound (1928)
East Side, West Side (1927) with Virginia Valli and June Collyer
Sunrise (1927) with Janet Gaynor and Margaret Livingston
The Romantic Age (1927)
Is Zat So? (1927) with Edmund Lowe and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Paid to Love (1927) with Virginia Valli
The Blue Eagle (1926) with Janet Gaynor
Fig Leaves (1926) with Olive Borden
3 Bad Men (1926) with Lou Tellegen and Olive Borden
Rustling for Cupid (1926)
The Johnstown Flood (1926) with Janet Gaynor
The Silver Treasure (1926) with Lou Tellegen and Hedda Hopper
Thank You (1925)
The Fighting Heart (1925) with Billie Dove
Havoc (1925) with Madge Bellamy
The Dancers (1925) with Alma Rubens and Madge Bellamy
The Roughneck (1924) with Billie Dove
The Painted Lady (1924) with Dorothy Mackaill
The Iron Horse (1924) with Madge Bellamy
The Man Who Came Back (1924)
Shadows of Paris (1924)
Woman-Proof (1923)
The Ne'er-Do-Well (1923)
Moran of the Lady Letty (1922)
White Hands (1922)

Pantomime Quiz. This show began as a local Los Angeles panel game show; later, Pantomime Quiz was aired on all four networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, and DuMont) at different times. The show ran sporadically from 1947 through 1963. O'Brien appeared on the series from 1947 through 1950.
Studio 57, episode Typhoon, originally aired September 8, 1957

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Watch George O'Brien's 1934 action flick The Dude Ranger

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