Oscar-winning character actor Edmond O'Brien's film roles ranged from introspective, beleaguered heroes to dynamic cops and private eyes.
Hard-working and versatile, O'Brien is best known for his characterizations of Winston Smith, the mentally tortured protagonist of George Orwell's "1984," released in 1955, and of the alcoholic Southern senator imprisoned by the military in "Seven Days in May," a 1964 feature about a nearly successful military coup in America. That role also won him an Oscar nomination.
He won the Academy Award for best supporting actor as a sweaty, fast-talking press agent in 1954's "The Barefoot Contesssa."
He appeared in more than 60 films and television productions. In 1962 alone he worked in four: "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," "Moon Pilot," "Birdman of Alcatraz" and "The Longest Day."
Born in New York, O'Brien got his first taste of acting at 16, carrying Lady Godiva's bathtub across a stage in Westport, Conn. And a bitter taste it was: He staggered and fell into the tub.
Within a few years he was playing in summer stock and on Broadway. In the late 1930s, he worked in radio and on stage with Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre group. He was part of the famous 1938 radio broadcast based on H. G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds" that caused panic among Americans who thought they were being invaded by martians.
He had his first Hollywood role in 1939, when he was 24, in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." By the late '40s, after well-received performances in "White Heat," "D.O.A." and "The Killers"— film noir productions that delved into the darker corners of everyday life — he was a star.
In 1949, a national poll by the Young Women's League of America, a group devoted to single living, declared O'Brien to have more "male magnetism" than any other man in the country.
O'Brien was married twice, first briefly to actress Nancy Kelly in 1941 and then to another actress, Olga San Juan, in 1948. They were divorced in 1975 but remained close, according to his daughter.
As he matured, his stocky, heavily jowled and essentially sympathetic features lent themselves to less sexy and more varied characters.
|1954||Best Supporting Actor||The Barefoot Contessa||Win|
|1964||Best Supporting Actor||Seven Days in May||Nomination|