He was a leading man, once, but then turned into a great character actor, and then what could be considered a a combination of the two or a “character leading man.”
But those who caught his starring performance in the 1950 suspense thriller D.O.A. (that’s Dead On Arrival for the uninitiated) will not easily forget Edmond O’Brien. In almost every sense, he is the engine that kept this dark this tale — of a man trying to solve his own murder — hurdling along.
He frantically lunges in and out of rooms…He skitters and slides down hallways …O’Brien is so overheated he can’t stand still for a moment, lest he drown in a pool of sweat, writes film noir specialist Eddie Muller.
This isn’t a complaint. When directed to play it straight…O’Brien acted the ideal Everyman…But whenever the material threatened to go stiff , O’Brien could be counted on to shake and stir the batter. Faster than any actor, he could go from Average Joe to disheveled dervish, flapping his his prodigious pompadour around like an overgrown cock’s comb.
O’Brien’s noir resume was lengthy as was his film career in general, comprising some 120 screen and tv credits spread over three decades. And along the way O’Brien became no stranger to Academy Award consideration. (That’s a young O’Brien pictured below romancing Maureen O’Hara as Esmerelda in his first movie appearance in 1939’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.)
Ok, on to our Edmond O’Brien Quiz. As usual, answers tomorrow.
1) Question: Although he worked in all manner of commercial studio films, O’Brien’s first professional preference was Shakespearean drama. a) True; b) False.
2) Question: A heart attack cost O’Brien a key role in which Academy Award winner? Hint: he was replaced by Arthur Kennedy. a) The Bridge on the River Kwai; b) Around the World in 80 Days; c) Lawrence of Arabia; or d) A Man For All Seasons.
3) Question: Which of the following titles was responsible for O’Brien’s best supporting actor Oscar win? a) Seven Days in May; b) The Barefoot Contessa; c) The Wild Bunch; or d) The other Side of the Wind.
4) Question: Two of O’Brien’s best movies, The Hitchhiker (see below)
and The Bigamist are often remarked on today because: a) Both pictures were self-financed by O’Brien; b) Both pictures cast black and Hispanic actors in key roles; c) Both films were directed by a woman, rare at the time; or d) None of the above.
5) Question: Late in his career (he died in 1985 at the age of 69) O’brien took on one of his most distinctive and memorable character roles in a classic western. Can you name the film’s title and its director?