TopBilled

On why Pat O'Brien has never been Star of the Month

44 posts in this topic

1 minute ago, Kay said:

I admit that I never understood why he was. Or... why he was in movies. Or at least why he was the star of movies. He never seemed particularly talented or likable insofar as dozens of other character actors were. The best performance I've ever seen him give was in The Boy with Green Hair (1948).

Maybe giving him a day in August or making him Star of the Month might help people appreciate his talents.

His breakthrough role was playing the original Hildy Johnson in THE FRONT PAGE. I think anyone who looks at his performance in that early picture can see why studios were eager to sign him.

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Just now, TopBilled said:

Maybe giving him a day in August or making him Star of the Month might help people appreciate his talents.

His breakthrough role was playing the original Hildy Johnson in THE FRONT PAGE. I think anyone who looks at his performance in that early picture can see why studios were eager to sign him.

Thanks for the recommendation.

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Pat O' Brien was  a rather fine actor-great with the wisecracks and snappy comebacks.  Generally he was not an actor who could carry a film unless he starred with someone like James Cagney.  Yes he did indeed make a lot of films, but for the most part many were quickly forgotten.  I think, above all else, he was Irish and that comes thru loud and clear.  I most recently saw him in Secret Command with Chester Morris.

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I have Pat's auto/bio. He struggled like the dickens and was roomies with Spencer Tracy back in the day. They starved to death trying to find work. 

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I classify O'Brien as a secondary leading man.   I.e. an actor that falls in-between a leading man and supporting \ character actors.    E.g.  like Franchot Tone and Van Heflin.    Yea they were given leading man roles but often in 'B' pictures.   Most of the time the characters these actors played were more than just supporting.

Anyhow,  O'Brien was a solid actor and I enjoy many of the films he was in.  Some good ones where he was the lead are Having A Wonderful Crime and Crack-Up.    

 

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11 hours ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

I classify O'Brien as a secondary leading man.   I.e. an actor that falls in-between a leading man and supporting \ character actors.    E.g.  like Franchot Tone and Van Heflin.    Yea they were given leading man roles but often in 'B' pictures.   Most of the time the characters these actors played were more than just supporting.

Anyhow,  O'Brien was a solid actor and I enjoy many of the films he was in.  Some good ones where he was the lead are Having A Wonderful Crime and Crack-Up.    

I'd say guys like O'Brien were secondary leading men at the bigger studios (Warners and MGM) but they were were primary leading men at the smaller studios (RKO and Columbia). The smaller studios would borrow these guys from the bigger studios, because they needed names to sell their pictures, and the modestly budgeted programmers would provide decent acting opportunities. 

When O'Brien was about to leave Warners, the studio gave him a prestige picture like KNUTE ROCKNE probably so he would re-sign, but he instead chose to freelance. 

As he aged, O'Brien was a natural for character parts which explains why he enjoyed longevity in Hollywood, while so many from his generation had shorter careers.

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On 3/11/2018 at 5:30 PM, Janet0312 said:

I have Pat's auto/bio. He struggled like the dickens and was roomies with Spencer Tracy back in the day. They starved to death trying to find work. 

I was meaning to ask...what's the name of the book? Is it still in print?

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21 hours ago, TopBilled said:

I was meaning to ask...what's the name of the book? Is it still in print?

The Wind at My Back: The Life and Times of Pat O'Brien. I found a used copy on Amazon years ago. You can still.

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27 minutes ago, Janet0312 said:

The Wind at My Back: The Life and Times of Pat O'Brien. I found a used copy on Amazon years ago. You can still.

Thank you Janet. Interesting title.

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 3.55.57 PM.jpg

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On ‎4‎/‎10‎/‎2018 at 6:58 PM, TopBilled said:

Thank you Janet. Interesting title.

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 3.55.57 PM.jpg

Yeah, it's not bad reading either. Some stories in there about his partying with best friends Cagney and Spencer Tracy. I enjoyed it. Could have been a little longer tho.

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On 4/10/2018 at 6:58 PM, TopBilled said:

Thank you Janet. Interesting title.

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 3.55.57 PM.jpg

Based on an old Irish blessing:

"May the road rise up to greet you, May the wind always be at your back . . ."

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Speaking of Pat O'Brien, reminds me of the time I was in a bar in Dublin with some American tourists and one brought up the name of Pat O'Brien and there was loud booing and insults being hurled [ along with some bottles of Guinness] as the local boys basically said they hated, despised and abhorred Pat O'Brien because they were sick of seeing him portray the Irish in films, particularly since he was US born and bred and to them was a ridiculous cliche of an lad of Ireland, and they found him corny, annoying and also called him too right wing to be a true fellow Irishman. I found it hilarious that just his name had stirred up such antagonism and ridicule.

I did always find him boring though in films mostly, and this would why I might think he is not highly regarded now as an icon?

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3 minutes ago, CaveGirl said:

Speaking of Pat O'Brien, reminds me of the time I was in a bar in Dublin with some American tourists and one brought up the name of Pat O'Brien and there was loud booing and insults being hurled [ along with some bottles of Guinness] as the local boys basically said they hated, despised and abhorred Pat O'Brien because they were sick of seeing him portray the Irish in films, particularly since he was US born and bred and to them was a ridiculous cliche of an lad of Ireland, and they found him corny, annoying and also called him too right wing to be a true fellow Irishman. I found it hilarious that just his name had stirred up such antagonism and ridicule.

I did always find him boring though in films mostly, and this would why I might think he is not highly regarded now as an icon?

Well a man whose very name incites riots in Irish pubs can't be TOO boring. He must have made an impression somewhere along the way!

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Faith and begorrah only a fine person could have found something positive in my woebegone tale of bar incitements, TP! I'm sure you are right though...

Later after the O'Brien conversation, we talked with the locals from the south, about my great-great-great aunts, who looked like Dame May Whitty and Una O'Connor, and who had received a letter from Ireland in 1920 or so, thanking them for contributing so generously to the IRA in their time of need. I made a big hit with that story. They were from County Cork and pro-IRA. 

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13 minutes ago, CaveGirl said:

I did always find him boring though in films mostly, and this would why I might think he is not highly regarded now as an icon?

While O'Brien could be rather 'flat' in some of his performances he could be very animated;  E.g. The Front Page or Torrid Zone (where he goes toe-to-toe with Cagney).    In many of the other films O'Brien did with Cagney, the character O'Brien played was more low key by 'nature'.   E.g Angel with Dirty Wings.   I.e. the energy level O'Brien channeled to those characters was the right level for the character.   That is the basic job of a secondary-leading man;  to provide a counter balance to the lead actor.

 

  

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12 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

While O'Brien could be rather 'flat' in some of his performances he could be very animated;  E.g. The Front Page or Torrid Zone (where he goes toe-to-toe with Cagney).    In many of the other films O'Brien did with Cagney, the character O'Brien played was more low key by 'nature'.   E.g Angel with Dirty Wings.   I.e. the energy level O'Brien channeled to those characters was the right level for the character.   That is the basic job of a secondary-leading man;  to provide a counter balance to the lead actor.

 

  

You're right, James. I probably took the easy way out for explaining why I don't care for Pat without really extrapolating on it. I think he totally reminds me of an old man who lived in my neighborhood who was a know-it-all, loud mouthed curmudgeon, who was right wing and used to lord it over all the kids and tell them what they were allowed to think about everything. He would also yell at you if your ball went over his fence into his yard. We called him Crabby Appleton. That is who Pat O'Brien reminds me of, and this must be why I don't care for him in films. Your points about Pat's persona in films is right on! You're a scholar and a gentleman.

Excuse me while I go continue my online therapy...

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4 minutes ago, CaveGirl said:

Think he totally reminds me of an old man who lived in my neighborhood who was a know-it-all, loud mouthed curmudgeon, who was right wing and used to lord it over all the kids and tell them what they were allowed to think about everything. He would also yell at you if your ball went over his fence into his yard. We called him Crabby Appleto

Please don't see the O'Brien \ Bogie \ Sheridan film The Great O'Malley where Pat plays Crabby Appleto to a T.

On-line therapy wouldn't be enough after that experience.   :D

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2 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

Please don't see the O'Brien \ Bogie \ Sheridan film The Great O'Malley where Pat plays Crabby Appleto to a T.

On-line therapy wouldn't be enough after that experience.   :D

I could only bear to watch that abomination once, due to it having that adorable Sybil Jason in it!!!

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7 hours ago, CaveGirl said:

I could only bear to watch that abomination once, due to it having that adorable Sybil Jason in it!!!

Oh I think it's a cute film. Sybil is a little too precious sometimes, but she has good rapport with Pat and Bogey. 

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