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Hugh O'Brian –


About Hugh O'Brian (1925 – 2016)

Hugh O'Brian was born Hugh Charles Krampe in Rochester, New York, the son of Edith (Marks) and Hugh John Krampe, a career U.S. Marine Corps officer. He attended New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, then went on to enroll at the now-defunct Kemper Military Academy in Boonville, Missouri. He lettered in football, basketball, wrestling, and track. He dropped out of the University of Cincinnati after one semester to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II.

O'Brian died at his home in Beverly Hills, California on September 5, 2016 at the age of 91 of natural causes.

After World War II, O'Brian moved to Los Angeles to study at UCLA. While there he was discovered on the stage by Ida Lupino, who signed him to a film she was directing, Never Fear, that led to a contract with Universal.

O'Brian replaced Bud Abbott in what began and ended up as an Abbott and Costello movie, Fireman Save My Child (1954), with Buddy Hackett cast in the Lou Costello role and Spike Jones and his band also appearing.

He won the coveted role of legendary lawman Wyatt Earp on the ABC western series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, which debuted in 1955. Together with Gunsmoke and Cheyenne, which bowed the same year, these shows were the vanguard of the "adult western" TV genre, with an emphasis on character development rather than moralizing. The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp would soon become one of the top-rated shows on TV. In its six-year run, Wyatt Earp consistently appeared in the top ten. Decades later, O'Brian reprised the role in two episodes of the television series Guns of Paradise (1990), TV-movie The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (1991) and in the independent production of Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone (1994), the latter mixing new footage and colorized archival sequences from the original show.

O'Brian appeared regularly on other programs in the 1960s, including Jack Palance's circus drama The Greatest Show on Earth. He can also be seen as a 'guest attorney' in the 1963 Perry Mason episode "The Case of the Two-Faced Turn-a-bout" when Raymond Burr was briefly unavailable after minor emergency surgery. He was a guest celebrity panelist on the popular CBS prime-time programs Password and What's My Line?, and served as a mystery guest three times on the latter show. In 1971 he starred in a TV movie pilot, PROBE, in which he played a high-tech agent for a company specializing in recovering valuable items. The pilot spawned a show, SEARCH, which ran for one season (1972-1973), in which O'Brian starred. In 1999 and 2000, he co-starred with Dick Van Patten, Deborah Winters, Richard Roundtree, and Richard Anderson in the miniseries Y2K - World in Crisis.

He made a number of films, among them Rocketship X-M (1950), The Lawless Breed (1953), There's No Business Like Show Business (1954), White Feather (1955), Come Fly with Me (1963), Love Has Many Faces (1965), In Harm's Way (1965), Ten Little Indians (1965), and Ambush Bay (1966). O'Brian was a featured star in the 1977 premiere of Fantasy Island, and also appeared in fight scenes with a Bruce Lee double in Lee's last film, Game of Death, in 1978.

O'Brian reprised his Wyatt Earp role for three 1990s projects: Guns of Paradise (1990) and The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (1991), with Gene Barry joining him as lawman Bat Masterson for each, as well as the independent film Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone (1994). He also had a small role in the Danny DeVito/Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy Twins (1988) as one of several DNA donors who'd contributed genetic material to what became the "twins". In the film, Schwarzenegger thinks he's found his father when he meets O'Brian's character.

On June 25, 2006, O'Brian married for the first time at the age of 81; his wife is the former Virginia Barber (born 1952). The ceremony was held at Forest Lawn Memorial Park with the Reverend Robert Schuller, pastor of the former Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, officiating. They were serenaded by their close friend Debbie Reynolds.

Hugh O'Brian has dedicated much of his life to Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), a non-profit youth leadership development program for high school scholars. HOBY sponsors 10,000 high school sophomores yearly through its network of over 70 leadership programs in 50 states and 20 countries. Since it began in 1958, over 400,000 students have participated in HOBY-affiliated programs.

The concept for HOBY was inspired in 1958 by a nine-day visit O’Brian had with the great humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer in Africa. Dr. Schweitzer told O'Brian that "the most important thing in education is to teach young people to think for themselves."

Hugh O’Brian’s core message to young people is “Freedom to Choose" as explained in his essay on the topic.

Hugh O'Brian's movie credits include...

Year Movie Role
1948 Kidnapped Sailor
1949 Never Fear Len Randall
1950 D.O.A. Jazz Fan
1950 Rocketship X-M Harry Chamberlain
1950 Beyond the Purple Hills Jack Beaumont
1950 The Return of Jesse James Lem Younger
1951 Vengeance Valley Dick Fasken
1951 Buckaroo Sheriff of Texas Ted Gately
1951 Fighting Coast Guard Tom Peterson
1951 Little Big Horn Pvt. Al DeWalt
1951 On the Loose Dr. Phillips
1951 Cave of Outlaws Garth
1952 The Battle at Apache Pass Lt. Robert Harley
1952 The Cimarron Kid Red Buck
1952 Yankee Buccaneer Off-Screen Narrator
1952 Sally and Saint Anne Danny O'Moyne
1952 Son of Ali Baba Hussein
1952 Red Ball Express Pvt. Wilson
1952 The Raiders Hank Purvis
1953 The Lawless Breed Ike Hanley
1953 Meet Me at the Fair Chilton Corr
1953 Seminole Kajeck
1953 The Man from the Alamo Lt. Tom Lamar
1953 The Stand at Apache River Tom Kenyon
1953 Back to God's Country Frank Hudson
1954 Taza, Son of Cochise Killed settler
1954 Saskatchewan Carl Smith
1954 Fireman Save My Child Smitty
1954 Drums Across the River Morgan
1954 Broken Lance Mike Devereaux
1954 There's No Business Like Show Business Charles Gibbs
1955 White Feather American Horse
1955 The Twinkle in God's Eye Marty Callahan
1956 The Brass Legend Sheriff Wade Addams
1958 The Fiend Who Walked the West Daniel Slade Hardy
1959 Alias Jesse James Wyatt Earp
1963 Come Fly with Me FO Ray Winsley
1965 In Harm's Way USAAC major
1965 Love Has Many Faces Hank Walker
1965 Assassination in Rome Dick Sherman
1965 Ten Little Indians Hugh Lombard/ Charles Morley
1966 Ambush Bay 1Sg Steve Corey
1967 Africa Texas Style Jim Sinclair
1969 Strategy of Terror Det. Matt Lacey
1976 Killer Force Lewis
1976 The Shootist Jack Pulford
1978 Game of Death Steiner
1988 Doin' Time on Planet Earth Richard Camalier
1988 Twins Granger
1994 Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone Wyatt Earp
2014 Old Soldiers Dick Bartholomew

Hugh O'Brian's television credits include...

Year Show/Series Role
1949 Oboler Comedy Theatre N/A
1950 Fireside Theater N/A
1954 Hallmark Hall of Fame Starbuck
1954 Letter to Loretta Various
1954 Studio 57 Giff Dillard
1955 The Millionaire Luke Fortune
1955 Stage 7 Billy the Kid
1955 Damon Runyon Theater Packy
1955 The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp Wyatt Earp
1955 Celebrity Playhouse N/A
1956 Make Room for Daddy Wyatt Earp
1956 The Star and the Story Hank Bartlett
1956 Matinee Theater N/A
1957 The Ford Television Theatre Matty Curran
1957 Playhouse 90 Various
1957 The Christophers N/A
1957 Date with the Angels Himself
1959 Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse Various
1960 The Secret World of Eddie Hodges Wyatt Earp
1960 General Electric Theater Sam Sharp
1961 Sunday Showcase John Honeyman
1961 The Play of the Week N/A
1961 Feathertop Feathertop
1961 The Dick Powell Show Jack Farmer
1962 Theatre '62 N/A
1962 Alcoa Premiere Miles Hadley
1962 The Virginian Paul Taylor
1962 Kraft Mystery Theatre Various
1962 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Christopher Martin/ Christopher Phillips
1963 Perry Mason Bruce Jason/Conrad Bucola
1963 The Greatest Show on Earth Garve
1964 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Various
1964 Vacation Playhouse Sam Sharp
1965 Kraft Suspense Theatre Det. Matt Lacey
1965 The Red Skelton Show Count Mustache
1966 Preview Tonight Joseph
1967 Dial M for Murder Mark Halliday
1968 A Punt, a Pass, and a Prayer Johnny Aragon
1970 Wild Women Killian
1970 Swing Out, Sweet Land Thomas Jefferson
1971 Harpy Peter Clune
1972 Probe Hugh Lockwood
1972 Search Hugh Lockwood
1973 Police Story Various
1975 Murder on Flight 502 Det. Daniel Myerson
1976 Good Heavens N/A
1976 Charlie's Angels Tony Mann
1977 Benny and Barney: Las Vegas Undercover Jack Davis
1977 Fantasy Island Various
1977 Murder at the World Series The Governor
1978 Cruise into Terror Andy - Captain
1978 Greatest Heroes of the Bible Abner
1979 The Seekers Andrew Piggot
1982 Bush Doctor Dr. Robert Maxell
1982 The Love Boat Gabriel
1982 Matt Houston Thom 'Buck' McCune
1989 Paradise Wyatt Earp
1990 Gunsmoke: The Last Apache Nelson Miles
1990 Murder, She Wrote Fred Keppard
1991 The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw Wyatt Earp
1993 L.A. Law Raymond Holtz
2000 Call of the Wild Older Miles

Memorable Quotes

“I believe every person is created as the steward of his or her own destiny with great power for a specific purpose: To share with others, through service, a reverence for life in a spirit of love.”

“I do NOT believe we are all born equal. CREATED equal in the eyes of God, YES, but physical and emotional differences, parental guidance, varying environments, being in the right place at the right time, all play a role in enhancing or limiting an individual's development. ”

“But I DO believe every man and woman, if given the opportunity and encouragement to recognize their own potential, regardless of background, has the freedom to choose in our world. Will an individual be a taker or a giver in life? Will that person be satisfied merely to exist or seek a meaningful purpose? Will he or she dare to dream the impossible dream?”

Did You Know

At 17 years of age, Hugh O'Brian was the youngest Drill Instructor in Marine Corps history.

O'Brian was once a soda-jerk at Schwab's drug store on Sunset Boulevard.

He was one of the first celebrities to take part in frontline tours of Vietnam, at the request of the State Department. Hugh once staged and directed a company of "Guys and Dolls" which toured Vietnam, Thailand and Japan for the troops.

O'Brian was the last person killed onscreen by John Wayne, in The Shootist (1976). O'Brian was a good friend of Wayne and said he considered this a great honor.

He broke into acting by accident. Dating an actress in Los Angeles at the time, he visited her at a couple of her rehearsals for a play. The director asked Hugh to step in after the leading man dropped out of the show. An L.A. Times reporter saw the production and gave Hugh an excellent review.

Hugh O'Brian as Wyatt Earp in The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp.
Hugh O'Brian in Africa Texas Style (1967).
O'Brian in Ambush Bay (1966).
O'Brian, left, in Come Fly With Me (1963).
In Game of Death (1978).
In Love Has Many Faces (1965).
With Shirley Eaton in Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians (1965).
O'Brian in a promotional poster for The Brass Legend (1956).
Hugh O'Brian was John Wayne's last gunfighting foe in The Shootist (1976).