Arthur Guy Empey

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From Over the top, 1917

Arthur Guy Empey (11 December 1883, Ogden, Utah –22 February 1963, Wadsworth, Kansas) was a soldier in both the British and American armies of World War I, and an author, screenwriter, actor and movie producer.


Empey served for six years in the US Cavalry and was performing duty as a recruiting sergeant for the New Jersey National Guard in New York City when World War I began. He left the United States at the end of 1915 frustrated at its neutrality in the conflict at that point and travelled to London, England, where he joined the 1st London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers), Territorial Force, of the British Army, going on to serve with it in the 56th (London) Infantry Division on the Western Front as a bomber and a machine-gunner. He was medically discharged from the British Army after he was wounded in action at the commencement of the Battle of the Somme.[1]

On returning to the United States, Empey wrote a book of his experiences titled Over the Top, which became a publishing sensation in 1917 with over a quarter of a million copies sold, and was turned into a film in 1918 with Empey writing the screenplay and playing the lead role.[2] Empey had attempted to re-join the US Army in 1917 but was rejected due to his wounds. On the basis of the book's success, he played a major propaganda role for the Federal Government's policy of moving the nation from a position of neutrality in World War I to a combatant role, and toured widely throughout the USA giving public performances and readings from it to rally the American people to the nation's entry into the conflict. He was commissioned a Captain in the US Army's Adjutant General's Department[3] but the commission was withdrawn three days later amidst speculation that the cause was that whilst appearing as an actor in a play of Pack Up Your Troubles, Empey gave a speech praising the American volunteers but not the draftees who were being consripted at that time, suggesting that the latter lacked the right stuff because they had waited "until they were fetched" before enlisting for war service. In the audience was President Woodrow Wilson.[4] Empey wrote several more screenplays, and more books on World War I, and formed his own production company called the Guy Empey Pictures Corporation. He was also a popular song-writer during the war years, writing the lyrics for numbers such as Your Lips are No Man's Land but Mine, and Liberty Statue is Looking Right at You.

In later years Empey turned to writing pulp fiction, creating the hero Terence X. O'Leary [5] who would explain "sure and the 'X' stands for 'xcillint'". Empey's O'Leary appeared in a variety of pulp magazines such as War Stories (Dell), Battle Stories (Fawcett), with the Infantryman O'Leary also doing duty as a Military Policeman, Secret Service Agent and Foreign Legionnaire, later becoming an aviator in War Birds (Dell). The latter magazine was later retitled Terence X O'Leary's War Birds.[6] With the start of O'Leary's name on the publication the magazine changed from O'Leary fighting in World War I to science fiction adventure with O'Leary fighting "Unuk, High Priest to the God of the Depths" a 500 year old madman who has seized an island in the South Pacific, kidnapped scientists and turned them into zombies to perfect amazing weapons to attack the United States in O'Leary Fights the Golden Ray and O'Leary, Dyno-Blaster, or Adventure of the Ageless Men.[7] with the magazine ending after its third issue The Purple Warriors of Neptunia. A few more stories with O'Leary did appear after this in War Stories and Battle Stories.

In 1935 Empey organised a unit of volunteer cavalrymen called the Hollywood Hussars that included several film stars such as Victor McLaglen and Gary Cooper with Ted Parsons as personnel officer.[8] The Hussars were a uniformed paramilitary horse mounted organisation whose bylaws stated they would turn out in any emergency except labour disputes.[9] Headquartered in the Hollywood Athletic Club they were a volunteer "military-social unit" "devoted to the advancement of American ideals".[8]

He was the father of the model and actress Diane Webber.


Empey died at Wadsworth, Kansas on 22.February 1963, and his body was buried in the Leavenworth National Cemetery.

Notable works[edit]

Advertisement for The Undercurrent (1919)
  • Books
    • Over the Top (1917)
    • First Call: Guideposts to Berlin (1918)
    • Tales from a Dugout (1918)
    • The Madonna of the Hills: the Story of a New York Cabaret Girl (1921)
    • A Helluva War (1926)
  • Films
    • Over the Top (1918) (writer and actor)
    • The Undercurrent (1919) (producer, writer and actor)
    • Millionaire For a Day (1921) (producer, writer and actor)
    • Troopers Three (1930) (producer and writer)


  • My motto for the Reds is 'S.O.S.-Ship or Shoot'".[10]


External links[edit]