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Eugene O'Brien
(November 14, 1880 - April 29, 1966) U.S.A.

Eugene O'Brien

Silent film actor


Eugene was born Louis O'Brien in Boulder, Colorado, to police marshal John O'Brien and his wife Kate. He studied medicine at the University of Colorado. O'Brien's first love, however, was the stage. He was not keen on becoming a doctor, so he proved to be an unenthusiastic student. After flunking pre-med, O'Brien switched to civil engineering under his family's guidance, but his heart was still set on becoming an actor.

Litch's Gardens in Denver hired the handsome, 21-year-old college-dropout for a minor acting role in 1902, and Louis O'Brien became a professional actor (he later changed his name to Eugene). He moved to New York City, where he was hired by a vaudeville house. After his stint as a chorus boy, his rich baritone voice enabled him to work his way up in the musical comedy genre to small, singing roles.

Frohman, one of the great theatrical managers of the times, signed O'Brien to a three-year contract and put him in "The Builder of Bridges," which opened on Broadway at the Hudson Theatre in 1909.

O'Brien's first film was The Lieutenant Governor. Then, World Film Corp. made O'Brien a screen star, putting him in an adaptation of Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone for his next movie, and then producing or releasing many of his subsequent pictures.

Very handsome, with a thick head of light brown hair, the blue-eyed O'Brien became a leading actor. Eventually, O'Brien reached silent screen superstar status. While he told the press that he preferred acting for a live audience than acting in the movies, and that he longed to return to the legitimate theater, he retired from acting for good, both movies and the stage, when the talkies came in. He made his last film, Faithless Lover, in 1928. He was 47 years old.

The next year, the former star bought a Hollywood hacienda and moved in. A private man, he told a reporter that he liked his new life as he could do as he pleased whenever he wanted to do, and enjoyed his mornings being alone as opposed to being on a movie set. O'Brien, who said he'd never get married as women were too possessive, declared that he was "untroubled by girls and reveling in athletics, gardening, and most of all in bachelorhood."

Eugene O'Brien is listed as somebody who followed "in a long line of gay leading men in silent films". For his work on movies, he received a "Star" on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Eugene O'Brien died of pneumonia in Los Angeles, at the age of 85, and although his funeral was held in Hollywood, his body was interred in the family plot in Boulder's Green Mountain Cemetery.


Source: excerpts from a biography by Jon C. Hopwood - et alii

His work include:

  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917)
  • Little Miss Hoover (1918)
  • Is Life Worth Living? (1921)
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