Hugh O'Brian

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Hugh O'Brian
Hugh O'Brian 1964.JPG
O'Brian in 1964
Born Hugh Charles Krampe
(1925-04-19) April 19, 1925 (age 91)
Rochester, New York, U.S.
Other names Hugh O'Brien
Alma mater University of California
Occupation Actor, singer
Years active 1948–2014
Political party Republican[citation needed]
Spouse(s) Virginia Barber (m. 2006)
Website Hugh O'Brian official website

Hugh O'Brian (born Hugh Charles Krampe; April 19, 1925) is an American actor known for his starring roles in the 1955-1961 ABC western television series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp and the 1972-1973 NBC action television series Search. He had a small but key role in John Wayne's last film, The Shootist.

Life and career[edit]

Early life and military service[edit]

O'Brian was born Hugh Charles Krampe in Rochester, New York, the son of Ohio-born parents Edith Lillian (née Marks) and Hugh John Krampe, a United States Marine Corps officer. His paternal grandparents were German immigrants, while his mother was of half German Jewish and half English and Scottish descent. O'Brian first attended school at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, then the (now defunct) Kemper Military School in Booneville, Missouri. He lettered in football, basketball, wrestling, and track. O'Brian dropped out of the University of Cincinnati after one semester to enlist in the United States Marine Corps during World War II. At seventeen, he became the youngest Marine drill instructor.[1][2][3][4]

O'Brian as Harry Chamberlain in Rocketship X-M (1950).
With Stella Stevens in "The Graduation Dress" (1960), an episode of General Electric Theater

Career start[edit]

After World War II, O'Brian moved to Los Angeles to study at UCLA. He was discovered on the stage by Ida Lupino,[5] who signed him to Never Fear, a film she was directing, which led O'Brian to a contract with Universal Pictures.

Wyatt Earp and television career[edit]

He was chosen to portray legendary lawman Wyatt Earp on the ABC western series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, which debuted in 1955. The series, alongside Gunsmoke and Cheyenne, which debuted the same year, spearheaded the "adult western" television genre, with the emphasis on character development rather than moral sermonizing. It soon became one of the top-rated shows on television. During its six-year run, Wyatt Earp consistently placed in the top ten in the United States. Decades later, O'Brian reprised the role in two episodes of the television series Guns of Paradise (1990), TV-movie The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (1991) and the independent film Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone (1994), the latter mixing new footage and colorized archival sequences from the original series.[6]

O'Brian appeared regularly on other programs in the 1960s, including Jack Palance's ABC circus drama The Greatest Show on Earth. He also appeared as a 'guest attorney' in the 1963 Perry Mason episode "The Case of the Two-Faced Turn-a-bout" when its star, Raymond Burr, was sidelined for a spell after minor emergency surgery. He was a guest celebrity panelist on the popular CBS prime-time programs Password and What's My Line? and served as a mystery guest on three occasions on the latter series.[6]

In 1971 he filmed a TV movie pilot titled PROBE, playing a high-tech (for the times) agent for a company that specialized in recovering valuable items. The pilot would spawn a show for O'Brian named SEARCH, which ran one season (1972-1973). In 1999 and 2000, he co-starred with Dick Van Patten, Deborah Winters, Richard Roundtree, and Richard Anderson in the miniseries Y2K - World in Crisis.[7]

Film career[edit]

The actor made a number of motion pictures, among them Rocketship X-M (1950), The Lawless Breed (1953), There's No Business Like Show Business (1954), White Feather (1955), Come Fly with Me (1963), Love Has Many Faces (1965), In Harm's Way (1965), Ten Little Indians (1965), and Ambush Bay (1966).

While onstage, Elvis Presley introduced O'Brian from the audience at the singer's April 1, 1975, performance at the Las Vegas Hilton, as captured in the imported live CD release "April Fool's Dinner". O'Brian was a featured star in the 1977 two-hour premiere of the popular television series Fantasy Island. He played the last character that John Wayne ever killed on the screen in Wayne's final movie, The Shootist (1976). O'Brian appeared in fight scenes with a Bruce Lee lookalike in Lee's last, partially completed, film, the controversial Game of Death.[6]

O'Brian recreated his Wyatt Earp role for three 1990s projects: Guns of Paradise (1990) and The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (1991), with fellow actor Gene Barry doing likewise as lawman Bat Masterson for each, as well as the independent film Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone (1994). He also had a small role in the Danny DeVito/Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy film Twins (1988).[6]

Personal life[edit]

On June 25, 2006, at age 81, O'Brian married Virginia Barber (born ca. 1952); it was his first marriage. The ceremony was held at Forest Lawn Memorial Park with the Rev. Robert Schuller officiating.[8]

Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Foundation[edit]

Hugh O'Brian has dedicated much of his life to the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), a non-profit youth leadership development program for high school scholars. HOBY sponsors 10,000 high school sophomores annually through its over 70 leadership programs in all 50 states and 20 countries. Since its inception in 1958, over 435,000 young people have participated in HOBY-related programs.

One high school sophomore from every high school in the United States, referred to as an "ambassador," is welcome to attend a state or regional HOBY seminar. From each of those seminars, students (number based on population) are offered the opportunity to attend the World Leadership Congress (WLC). In 2008, over 500 ambassadors attended from all 50 states and 20 countries. The concept for HOBY was inspired in 1958 by a nine-day visit O’Brian had with famed humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer in Africa. Dr. Schweitzer believed "the most important thing in education is to teach young people to think for themselves."

O'Brian's message to young people is “Freedom to Choose” as explained in an essay on the topic:

I do NOT believe we are all born equal. Created equal in the eyes of God, yes, but physical and emotional differences, parental guidelines, varying environments, being in the right place at the right time, all play a role in enhancing or limiting an individual's development. But I DO believe every man and woman, if given the opportunity and encouragement to recognize their potential, regardless of background, has the freedom to choose in our world. Will an individual be a taker or a giver in life? Will that person be satisfied merely to exist or seek a meaningful purpose? Will he or she dare to dream the impossible dream? I believe every person is created as the steward of his or her own destiny with great power for a specific purpose, to share with others, through service, a reverence for life in a spirit of love.

— Hugh O'Brian, The Freedom to Choose[9]



For his contribution to the television industry, Hugh O'Brian has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6613½ Hollywood Blvd. In 1992, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Year Nominated work Award Result
1953 The Man from the Alamo Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer — Male Won
1956 The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp Primetime Emmy for Best Continuing Performance by an Actor in a Dramatic Series Nominated
1960 Himself Hollywood Walk of Fame Star — Television Honored
1973 Golden Plate Award — Television[10] Honored
1991 Golden Boot Award Honored
1992 Hall of Great Western Performers Inducted

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Hugh O'Brian Biography (1930-)". 1930-04-19. Retrieved 2016-01-18. 
  2. ^ "Los Angeles Times: Archives - Marshaling His Forces for the Future". 1996-06-16. Retrieved 2016-01-18. 
  3. ^ [1] Archived April 3, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ [2] Archived April 3, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Wise, James E. & Rehill, Anne Collier. Stars in the Corps: Movie Actors in the United States Marines, p. 150 (1999) Naval Institute Press, ISBN 978-1557509499
  6. ^ a b c d Hugh O'Brian at the Internet Movie Database
  7. ^ "Movies". Retrieved January 18, 2016. 
  8. ^ Hugh O'Brian weds,; accessed March 1, 2016.
  9. ^ "Index". Retrieved August 25, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Academy of Achievement: Golden Plate Recipients 1961-1976". Retrieved 2016-01-18. 

External links[edit]