Arthur O'Connell

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Arthur O'Connell
Arthur O'Connell in Bus Stop trailer cropped.jpg
From Bus Stop (1956)
Born (1908-03-29)March 29, 1908
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died May 18, 1981(1981-05-18) (aged 73)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Alzheimer's disease
Resting place
Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York City
Occupation Stage, film, and television actor
Years active 1938–1981
Spouse(s) Ann Hall Dunlop (1940–1973, divorced)

Arthur O'Connell (March 29, 1908 – May 18, 1981) was an American stage and film actor. He appeared in films starting (with a small role in Citizen Kane) in 1941 and television programs (mostly guest appearances). Among his screen appearances were Picnic, Anatomy of a Murder, and as the watch-maker who hides Jews during World War II in Corrie ten Boom's The Hiding Place.


He was born on March 29, 1908 in New York City

He made his legitimate stage debut in the middle 1930s, at which time he fell within the orbit of Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre. Welles cast O'Connell in the tiny role of a reporter in the closing scenes of Citizen Kane (1941), a film often referred to as O'Connell's film debut, though in fact he had already appeared in Freshman Year (1938) and had costarred in two Leon Errol short subjects as Leon's conniving brother-in-law.

After numerous small movie parts, O'Connell returned to Broadway, where he appeared as the erstwhile middle-aged swain of a spinsterish schoolteacher in Picnic - a role he'd recreate in the 1956 film version, earning an Oscar nomination in the process. Later the jaded looking O'Connell was frequently cast as fortyish losers and alcoholics; in the latter capacity he appeared as James Stewart's boozy attorney mentor in Anatomy of a Murder (1959), and the result was another Oscar nomination. In 1962 O'Connell portrayed the father of Elvis Presley's character in the motion picture Follow That Dream, and in 1964 in the Presley-picture Kissin' Cousins.

1962 also found O'Connell featured as the idealist-turned-antagonist Clint Stark, in The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, which has become a cult classic. O'Connell's is the only character other than star Tony Randall to appear as one of the "7 faces."

O'Connell continued appearing in choice character parts on both television and films during the 1960s, but avoided a regular television series, holding out until he could be assured top billing. He appeared as Matt Dexter, an aging Irish drifter in the episode "Songs My Mother Told Me" (February 21, 1961) on ABC's Stagecoach West series. In the story line, Dexter witnesses a shooting and is sought as a material witness to a crime. Two criminals, one of whom is played by Richard Devon, also seek Dexter's whereabouts to make sure that he never testifies in court. Young Davey Kane, played by Richard Eyer, sneaks food and clothing to Dexter, who kills a rattlesnake that had threatened Davey and his dog. Dexter also teaches Davy new songs on his harmonica; hence the title of the episode.[1]

On Christmas Day, 1962, O'Connell was cast as Clayton Dodd in the episode "Green, Green Hills" of NBC's modern western series, Empire, starring Richard Egan as the rancher Jim Redigo. This episode also features Dayton Lummis as Jason Simms and Joanna Moore as Althea Dodd.[2]

In 1964, O'Connell played Joseph Baylor in the episode "A Little Anger Is a Good Thing" on the ABC medical drama about psychiatry, Breaking Point, starring Paul Richards.

O'Connell subsequently accepted the part of a man who discovers that his 99-year-old father has been frozen in an iceberg on the 1967 sitcom The Second Hundred Years, having assumed that he would be billed first per the producers' agreement. Instead, top billing went to newcomer Monte Markham in the dual role of O'Connell's father and his son. O'Connell accepted the demotion to second billing as well as could be expected, but he never again trusted the word of any Hollywood executive.[citation needed]

Ill health forced O'Connell to reduce his acting appearances in the middle 1970s, but the actor stayed busy as a commercial spokesman, a friendly pharmacist who was a spokesperson for Crest toothpaste.

At the time of his death from Alzheimer's disease in California in May 1981, O'Connell was appearing by his own choice solely in these commercials. O'Connell is interred at Calvary Cemetery, Queens, New York.

Partial filmography[edit]

Year Film Role Notes
1938 Freshman Year
1939 Murder in Soho Lefty
1942 Man From Headquarters Goldie Shores
1948 Open Secret Carter
1955 Picnic Howard Bevans
1956 The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit Gordon Walker
Bus Stop Virgil Blessing
Man of the West Sam Beasley
The Proud Ones Jim Dexter
1957 April Love Uncle Jed Bruce
1959 Gidget Russell Lawrence
Anatomy of a Murder Parnell Emmett McCarthy
Operation Petticoat Chief Machinist's Mate Sam Tostin
1960 Cimarron Tom Wyatt
1961 Misty Clarence Beebe
1962 Follow That Dream Pop Kwimper
1964 7 Faces of Dr. Lao Clint Stark
Kissin' Cousins Pappy Tatum
1965 The Great Race Henry Goodbody
The Monkey's Uncle Darius Green III
1966 Fantastic Voyage Colonel Donald Reid
1967 The Reluctant Astronaut Arbuckle Fleming
The Second Hundred Years (TV series) Edwin Carpenter
1968 The Power Professor Henry Hallson
1970 There Was a Crooked Man...
1972 The Poseidon Adventure (1972 film) Chaplain John
1973 Wicked, Wicked Mr. Fenley
1975 The Hiding Place Caspar ten Boom


  1. ^ "Stagecoach West: "Songs My Mother Told Me"". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved August 27, 2012. 
  2. ^ ""Green, Green Hills", Empire, December 25, 1962". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved February 28, 2013. 

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