Edmund O'Brien

Oscar-Winning Actor


This Knol written by Jon Hopwood
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Oscar-winner Edmond O'Brien was one of the most respected character actors in American cinema from his heyday of the mid-1940s through the late 1960s. Born on September 10, 1915, in New York, New York, O'Brien learned his craft in the theater, appearing with Orson Welles's Mercury Players. He made his uncredited debut as an extra in Prison Break (1938), but his real debut was with the plum supporting part of Gringoire in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). After returning from his wartime service with the Army Air Force, O'Brien built up a distinguished career as a supporting actor in A-list films, and as an occasional character lead such as in D.O.A. (1950).

O'Brien won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Barefoot Contessa (1954) and also was received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nod for his role as a drunken senator ferreting out an attempted coup d'etat in Seven Days in May (1964). He also appeared as the crusty old timer Freddy who antagonizes Ben Johnson's character Tector Gorch in director Sam Peckinpah's classic Western The Wild Bunch (1969). Increasingly, he appeared on television in the 1960s and '70s, but managed a turn in his old boss Orson Welles' unfinished film The Other Side of the Wind (1972).

O'Brien married and divorced the actresses Nancy Kelly and Olga San Juan, with the latter wife being the mother of his three children, including actors Maria O'Brien and Brendan O'Brien. He died in May 1985 Inglewood, California, of Alzheimer's Disease and was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.