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(From Old Corral image collection)
Left is Virginia Vale (1920-2006; real name: Dorothy Howe), who was born in Dallas, Texas. Vale's Hollywood career spanned from the mid 1930s through World War II, and she was George O'Brien's most frequent leading lady and they appeared together in a half dozen RKO oaters. After retiring from the screen, Vale worked 30+ years for Lockheed.

Other frequent O'Brien heroines were Cecilia Parker (3 films) and Laraine Johnson/Laraine Day (3 films).



WHEN A MAN'S A MAN (Sol Lesser/Fox, 1935) was released in early 1935.

Producer Sol Lesser had plans to do this film several years earlier and scuttlebutt was that he was considering Reb Russell for the lead.

But Lesser and book author Harold Bell Wright got into some legal issues and filming was postponed.

Those issues were finally settled a year or two later and Lesser made the film with O'Brien as the star.

(Pressbook ad courtesy of Les Adams)




(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
 Did Lash LaRue pattern his dark outfit on the range costume worn by O'Brien? Perhaps he did, though O'Brien did wear a mix of light and dark colored shirts and hats as seen on these webpages.


(Courtesy of Minard Coons)

Above is a youngish George O'Brien in one of his many costumes - this is probably during his early westerns at Fox.

On the left is Al LaRue as the 'Cheyenne Kid' in the Eddie Dean starrer SONG OF OLD WYOMING (PRC, 1945).




(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - lobby card from HARD ROCK HARRIGAN (Sol Lesser/Fox, 1935).
It wasn't unusual to see O'Brien baring his chest in his films as well as photos and magazines. Because of his muscular physique, he was nicknamed "The Chest" (though some O'Brien biographies list his nickname as "The Torso").

Various O'Brien biographies note that he was the U. S. Navy Pacific Fleet boxing champion in 1918. But there is confusion about whether he was a light heavyweight or heavyweight, and I've been unable to confirm which weight class.



On the left is the cover of George O'Brien and the Hooded Riders, one of several Big Little Books/Better Little Books featuring O'Brien.

George was not the star/subject of a comic book series.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)




(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - O'Brien rode 'Mike' during his stay at RKO.
 
(From Old Corral image collection)



O'Brien's series finale occurred with TRIPLE JUSTICE (RKO, 1940) and then he retired and returned to Navy duty for World War II. After the war, he had feature roles in two John Ford directed cavalry epics that starred John Wayne - FORT APACHE (RKO, 1948) and SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (RKO, 1949).

Am unsure why O'Brien took the lead/hero role in GOLD RAIDERS (Jack Schwartz Productions / United Artists, 1951) which featured the chaotic Three Stooges (Moe, Shemp and Larry). Circa 1951, O'Brien was in his early fifties ... his last starring role was in 1940 ... and this entertaining but ultra low budget film certainly didn't provide him with a big payday.

(Pressbook ad courtesy of Les Adams)




(Courtesy of Les Adams)

(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - a vending card


On the left is a pressbook ad for PRAIRIE LAW (RKO, 1940) which starred O'Brien and included "Slim" Whitaker as the sidekick.  Note the error on Slim Whitaker's last name - they've spelled it as Whittaker with two t's.



Buck Rainey's Favorite O'Briens

By far, O'Brien's best western was THE IRON HORSE, directed by John Ford in 1924.  THREE BAD MEN ranks second among his silent westerns.  SUNRISE was his best non-western.  In the sound era, all of his Fox westerns were budgeted at $100,000 to $300,000. They were all excellent and it is hard to pick one above the others.  Personally, I like THUNDER MOUNTAIN best.  At RKO, his DANIEL BOONE has to be the best.

Les Adams' Favorite RKO O'Briens

THE MARSHAL OF MESA CITY - a remake of THE ARIZONIAN that is a bit less gritty than the original but is still out of the mainstream formula for a series western.

THE RENEGADE RANGER - a remake of an earlier Tom Keene (and another half-dozen or so that used this plot), but this version comes off as more plausible, and Tim Holt is a vast improvement over the insipid second-leads in the other versions. Rita Hayworth doesn't hurt anything nuther.

BORDER G-MAN - with the exception of Gene Autry's early fantasy films at Republic, I've never cared much for most westerns that mixed elements of the old west and modern times, but I did like this early-day saber-rattler. And Ray Whitley's first version of "Back in the Saddle Again".

Boyd Magers' Favorite O'Briens
RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE ('31)
WHEN A MAN'S A MAN ('35)
TIMBER STAMPEDE ('39)
MARSHAL OF MESA CITY ('39)
STAGE TO CHINO ('40)
Guilty Pleasure: GOLD RAIDERS ('51)



LINKS

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on George O'Brien and his actress and wife Marguerite Churchill (1910 - 2000):
     George O'Brien: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0639563/
     Marguerite Churchill: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0161451/

During the 1920s, O'Brien did several films with Olive Borden and the pair were romantically linked from about 1926-1930. There's a large website on Borden with photos and more info on her relationship with O'Brien: http://silentoliveborden.blogspot.com/

You can read more about Orin O'Brien, George's daughter, at the New York Philharmonic website. She's a bassist with the Philharmonic. She was co-chair of the double bass department from 1992 to 2002 at The Juilliard School. She is also on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music and the Mannes College of Music: http://nyphil.org/about-us/artists/orin-o-brien

The Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame has a section devoted to George's son, author Darcy O'Brien: http://poetsandwriters.okstate.edu/halloffame/obrien.html

There's some photos and a profile on O'Brien at the GoldenSilents website: http://www.goldensilents.com/stars/georgeobrien.html

Brian Walker's Drive In Theater website has a page with lots of photos on O'Brien: http://www.briansdriveintheater.com/georgeobrien.html

Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has info on George O'Brien but no information on his burial or interment location: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=8709390
(I do have newspaper obituaries on O'Brien which mention a funeral ceremony/Rosary in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, followed by his burial at sea by the U. S. Navy, San Diego, California.)

O'Brien does have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. You can search the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce / Walk Of Fame website at: http://www.walkoffame.com

Check the Golden Boot award webpage on the Old Corral. George O'Brien is among many western movie heroes that were never honored with a Golden Boot award.



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