Edmond O’Brien was born in the Bronx, New York in 1915. O’Brein stated that he learned magic tricks from his neighbor Harry Houdini. He was in the school theater and major in drama a Columbia University. He started on Broadway debut at 21.
He was brought to Hollywood and he was uncredited in his first film – Prison Break (1938). The next year he was in a supporting role as “Gringoire” in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) with Charles Laughton.
He joined the Army Air Force during World War II and returned to a solid career as a supporting actor. By 1950, he was given the lead role in D.O.A. (1950).
O’Brien has roles in other film noir classics such as The Killers (1946) and The Hitch-Hiker (1953)
In 1954, he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Barefoot Contessa (1954).
Perhaps one of O’Brien’s greatest performance was as the drunken newspaper editor Dutton Peabody in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). O’Brien played the majority of his scenes with Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne. O’Brien as Dutton provided comic relief with his quick wit but played the journalist straight.
O’Brien has two other important roles in 1962. These films are The Longest Day (1962) where he played an American general and the Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) where he played the author, Tom Gaddis, the author of the book about the birdman,
The Academy nominated him for another for his role as the drunken senator in Seven Days in May (1964). O’Brien played a complex character in that his alcoholism had turned him into a job. However, the time he was needed to save the Union, he remained strong. O’Brien also appeared in the Sam Peckinpah’s classic The Wild Bunch (1969). O’Brien played the role of Sykes who was an older member of the gang. Through the 60s and 70s O’Brien worked more on television.
He died in 1985 and is buried in California.