George O’Brien


George O'Brien:  1899 – 1985

Western movie star George O'Brien (1899-1985) started out and ended up working for director John Ford, with a long detour for movie series at Fox and RKO.  His RKO image was often as the husky, dark-clad cowboy with his hat tilted to one side, riding a horse named Mike, and with a ready grin, even in the face of adversity.

O'Brien became an assistant cameraman on some Tom Mix movies (at $15 a week) and was soon doing stunt work at Fox. After supporting roles in various silents, he was tested by John Ford for an epic western, THE IRON HORSE (1924) and got the role. He also got a ten-year Fox contract.

O'Brien would spend the remainder of the 1920s as an extremely popular leading man in films, often starring in action and adventure roles alongside such popular actresses of the era .

With the advent of sound, George O'Brien became a popular star of Westerns and rarely took parts outside of the Western film genre. Throughout the 1930s, O'Brien was a consistent Top Ten box-office draw appearing in scores of Westerns.

O'Brien served in the Navy through early 1946, initially in a recruit training command and later, as a "Beachmaster" involved in a dozen or more island invasions.  He stayed in the Naval Reserve and was back on active duty during Korea and Vietnam.

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1a.  The Iron Horse (1924) George O’Brien (Directed by John Ford) Silent Movie (2 hr 28 min) - The main story of The Iron Horse involves the building of a transcontinental railroad and culminates in a reenactment of the famous union of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railways at Promontory Point, Utah in 1869. However, The Iron Horse also involves a cattle drive, an Indian attack, a saloon brawl, and the Pony Express. In addition, Wild Bill Hickcok, Buffalo Bill, and Abe Lincoln make appearances. The basic situation is filled with suspense as the railroad workers hammer spikes into rails and lay down the iron rails, struggling to be the first to complete their stretch of railroad tracks. 

George O'Brien plays the hero, Davy Brandon. After his father is killed by a tribe of Indians led by a white man, Brandon strives to realize his father's dream of building a transcontinental railroad. Meanwhile, Davy attempts to woo his childhood sweetheart, Miriam (Madge Bellamy), only to discover that she is already married--and her husband, Peter Jesson (Cyril Chadwick), is the same man who murdered Davy's father. So Davy must reveal Peter Jesson's true nature, win Miriam's heart, and help complete the transcontinental railroad! 

 John Ford shot most of the film in Arizona, where a good-sized town was built in order to support the movie's huge cast and crew (over 6,000 people altogether). A train of 56 coaches was required to transport the production to the site. The resulting movie is one of the great silent epics. However, the drama isn't overshadowed by the weight of the movie's historical importance.  Star George O'Brien was virtually unknown when John Ford cast him in The Iron Horse. O'Brien would become a major star of the silent era.   However, in the sound era, O'Brien was strictly a Western star. 

1b.  John Ford's 1926 silent western - 3 Bad Men (1926) - George O'Brien - Three outlaws come to the aid of a young girl after her father is killed. 

1c.  The Last of the Duanes (1930) - George O’Brien (based on a Zane Grey Novel)

Buck Duane (George O’Brien) avenges his father's murder by gunning down the killer, but must flee from the law. He finds Ruth, whom he once loved, in the clutches of the outlaw Bland. In rescuing Ruth, he becomes entangled with Bland's amorous wife (Myra Loy).  Based on Zane Grey’s novel “Lone Star Ranger”.

NOTE: 1.  The titles in the very beginning of this video (about 50 seconds) is repeated a few times. 2.  At 3:30 seconds into the movie, the picture freezes or another color movie shows for about 10 seconds.  Just move the cursor about 15 seconds so the movie will continue.

2.  Zane Grey’s The Dude Ranger (1934) - George O'Brien

When Selby (George O'Brien) arrives as the new ranch owner, he is assumed to be just another cowboy attracted to Ann Hepburn (Irene Hervey) so he takes a job as a dude cowhand. He learns cattle are being rustled and he suspects the boss Sam Hepburn (Henry Hall). But Hepburn suspects the foreman Hyslip (LeRoy Mason) and when he catches him with the goods, Hyslip shoots him. Hyslip then blames the new dude, and sends his men out to kill him.

3.  When a Man's a Man (1935) - George O’Brien

The story is about a man named Larry (George O'Brien) who is a drifter. He is traveling by train and at a stop goes to a Rodeo. He sees these guys riding a wild horse and he wants to see if he can do it. Well he falls off and to top it all off, misses his train. So he decides to stay behind and work on ranch.

When a border patrolman (George O'Brien) catches their spoiled daughter smoking in a no-smoking area, parents hire him to watch over her. She then runs over to Mexico and gets involved with jewel thieves and he has to go save her.

5.  Daniel Boone (1936) – George O’Brien:

A segment of the life of the legendary frontiersman, Daniel Boone (George O' Brien). Specifically it presents an account of his first settlement in Kentucky.

6.  Park Avenue Logger (1937) - George O’Brien

Millionaire Mike Curran , thinking his son, Grant Curran (George O’Brien) too intellectual, sends him west to learn logging at one of his lumber camps. Unknown to his father, Grant Curran is a professional wrestler and easily able to handle the thugs that attack him at the lumber camp. This enables him to stay on the job and he soon uncovers how his father is being cheated by the local boss.

7.  Windjammer (1937) - George O’Brien - The fourth and last of the George A. Hirliman-produced films starring George O'Brien (preceded by 'Daniel Boone', 'Park Avenue Logger' and 'Hollywood Cowboy') that were distributed by RKO Radio. Hirliman sold O'Brien's contract to RKO, which then produced 18 series westerns starring O'Brien that ended when O'Brien went into the Navy at the outbreak of WW II. Long-time (past and future) O'Brien director David Howard served as Hirliman's Associate Producer on this film. 'Windjammer' finds O'Brien as a subpoena server ordered to serve a subpoena on Brandon Evans (The Commondore) for a senate inquiry or lose his job. Posing as a playboy, he boards the Commodore's yacht during a yacht race, and the yacht is wrecked by a gun-running windjammer commanded by Captain Morgan (William Hall.) 

8.  Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage1931- George O’Brien - The 1931 production of Riders of the Purple Sage, starring George O'Brien and Marguerite Churchill. Shot in Sedona, Arizona.

9.  3 Bad Men (George O’Brien) 1926Silent Movie 1hr 32 min.  Directed by John Ford.  In 1876, an old man finds gold in the Sioux lands, provoking a gold and land rush from immigrants to Dakota. On the way to Custer, the lonely cowboy Dan O'Malley (George O’Brien) helps to fix the wheel of Mr. Carlton's wagon and flirts with his daughter Lee Carlton. Later, Lee and her father are attacked by horse thieves and Mr. Carlton is murdered; however, the 3 outlaws [the 3 Bad Men of the title of the movie] "Bull" Stanley, Mike Costigan and "Spade" Allen save her from the criminals and head with her to the camp where the pioneers are waiting for President Grant proclamation to explore the lands. In the site, the corrupt Sheriff Layne Hunter rules with his henchmen with horror and injustice. The trio of outlaws decides that Lee needs to get married and select Dan to be her husband. When Bull's sister Millie Stanley is murdered by Hunter's right arm Nat Lucas, "Bull" organizes the men to chase Hunter. But it is 1877 and the gold and land race of wagons is ready to start.

10. Zane Grey's Thunder Mountain 1935 – George O’Brien - Kal Emerson (George O'Brien') and his pal Steve Sloan (Dean Benton) have the secret of a gold mine in Thunder Mountain, but no money to finance their prospecting until Kal rescues Sydney Blair (Barbara Fritchie) from the unwelcome advances of a drunken miner. She persuades her father, Samuel Blair (Edward LeSaint), to stake them. When they locate the mine, Kal returns for Sydney and her father. On the trip back, Kal falls in love with Sydney, who pretends to do the same with him because she believes he will soon be a rich man. When they arrive, they find that a mining town has sprung up on the site and that Rand Leavitt (Morgan Wallace) is in control of the mine. Sydney and all of Kal's friends turn against him, with the exception of "Nugget" (Frances Grant), a dance hall girl secretly in love with him. Kal is preparing to take Leavit before the miner's court when Steve returns to tell how he had been attacked while on the way to register the claim.   [Sound is slightly out of sync with the picture]

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11.  The Border Patrolman (1936) - George O'BrienBob Wallace (George O’Brien) is a Border Patrolman who resigns in protest after being humiliated by the spoiled granddaughter of a millionaire vacationing at a desert resort near the Mexican border. Subsequently, the girl's grandfather hires him to sheperd the girl. Meanwhile, the young girl is wooed by a sophisticated jewel thief who plans using her as a "mule" to unwittingly smuggle jewelry across the border.  Bob Wallace arrives in Mexico and rescues the girl. However, she departs with the gems which leads to a big chase scene and ultimate rescue after she is abducted by her former paramour. Bob Wallace and the reformed brat return to the U.S.A. with the jewel thief and his cronies as prisoners. Smiley Burnette has a minor role and a couple of songs.  [ADDED]   

12.  A Holy Terror (1931) - Eastern millionaire's son Tony Bard (George O’Brien) finds his father murdered and flies west to see rancher Drew who may know something about it. En route he crashes his plane into Jerry's bathroom; she falls in love with him which makes her suitor Steve Nash jealous.  Humphrey Bogart plays Steve Nash. [ADDED] 

This movie is based on the novel Trailin'! by Max Brand.  To download the audio of this Max Brand novel, click hereà



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