Handsome cowboy star George O'Brien was born in San Francisco on this date in 1899.
Over the past 18 months or so O'Brien has become a top favorite of mine. I love his RKO "B" Westerns and his sunny, good-natured personality. Watching him gives me the feeling that "all's right with the world."
As I wrote in my post on BULLET CODE (1940): "It's such fun to step into the world of one of these O'Brien Westerns for an hour. He's sort of a Western 'Superman,' a large man of great strength who hurls bad guys around with ease; he has an impish mischievous streak, but he's an honorable, responsible man who protects the vulnerable and won't back down from a fight.
"At the same time, O'Brien's characters feel 'real' and possible, rather than the stuff of fantasy. It's rather nice to be reminded that there are good men like him in the world, and I imagine the audiences of 1940, watching as war clouds gathered, must have thought so too."
Frequent costar Virginia Vale later said of O'Brien: "George was just a gem of a fellow. I thought he was just wonderful."
TRIPLE JUSTICE (1940) O'Brien re-enlisted in the Navy, where he was a decorated officer during WWII. After the war he continued to focus on his Naval career, serving during Korea and continuing in the Naval Reserves until the '60s.
O'Brien appeared in just a handful of postwar films, mostly for his old friend John Ford: FORT APACHE (1948), SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949), and CHEYENNE AUTUMN (1964).
O'Brien was married to Marguerite Churchill. Their daughter Orin has been a bassist with the New York Philharmonic for nearly half a century and son Darcy was the author of many published books.
There's a good book out on O'Brien from Bear Manor Media: GEORGE O'BRIEN: A MAN'S MAN IN HOLLYWOOD by David W. Menefee.
George O'Brien films previously reviewed here: THE IRON HORSE (1924), NOAH'S ARK (1928), GUN LAW (1938), BORDER G-MAN (1938), PAINTED DESERT (1938), THE RENEGADE RANGER (1938), THE MARSHAL OF MESA CITY (1939), TIMBER STAMPEDE (1939) (also here), ARIZONA LEGION (1939), THE FIGHTING GRINGO (1939) LEGION OF THE LAWLESS (1940), BULLET CODE (1940) (also here), PRAIRIE LAW (1940), and TRIPLE JUSTICE (1940).
Update: Additional reviews: 3 BAD MEN (1926), SUNRISE (1927), MYSTERY RANCH (1932), THUNDER MOUNTAIN (1935), THE BORDER PATROLMAN (1936), LAWLESS VALLEY (1938), RACKETEERS OF THE RANGE (1939), TROUBLE IN SUNDOWN (1939), STAGE TO CHINO (1940), and SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1949).
January 2016 Update: Coming to DVD: George O'Brien Western Collection.