Hugh Does Something To Me …

April 19, 2020, would have been rugged actor Hugh O'Brian's 95th birthday.

Where it's squat! (All images via movie still)

Sadly, he died on September 5, 2016, at 91, but we will forever have his performances — and his pictured! — by which to remember him.

Those tan lines ...

Born in Rochester, New York, and raised in Pennsylvania and Chicago, Hugh Charles Krampe distinguished himself early on, becoming the youngest Marine drill sergeant ever during WWII at just 17.

Marine idol

After the war, he had hoped to study law, and was even accepted at Yale, but living in Hollywood and dating an actress had an unexpected side effect. While accompanying his squeeze to a play rehearsal, director (and actress) Ida Lupino (1918-1995) called on Hugh to fill in for an absent actor. He did so, and winning good notices when he performed in the production inspired him to pursue acting.

(L-R): O'Brian, Scott Brady (1924-1985), John Bromfield (1922-2005), Rock Hudson (1925-1985) & Tony Curtis (1925-2010) at the Finlandia Baths in 1950

With his strapping frame and movie-star good looks, it wasn't a stretch. But the name had to go. Accidentally credited as "Hugh Krape," he saw the writing on the stall, er, wall and adapted his mother's maiden name of O'Brien; it was misspelled as O'Brian the first time he used it and he decided it was close enough.

Let's hair it for Wyatt Earp!

Lupino, impressed with the newbie, hired him for her film Never Fear (1949), his debut, and he appeared in such films as There's No Business Like Show Business (1954), Ten Little Indians (1965), The Game of Death (1972), The Shootist (1976) and Twins (1988).

"Handsome" doesn't begin to describe it!

But television was the medium in which he was destined to make his mark. In 1955, O'Brien debuted as the titular star of TV's The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, a huge success that ran for six years, always in the Top 10.

The two faces of Hugh

The first time I ever heard O'Brian's name was attached to the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership initiative, a school-based nonprofit designed to encourage higher education. It was a program O'Brian founded very early in his career, 1958, and was close to his heart. HOBY is still a massive and active organization today, years after his death.

Cutesy with Natalie Wood (1938-1981)

O'Brian married for the first time at 81, dying 10 years later. As far as children, Hugh may have had up to four — that's how many people filed claims with his estate following his death, all saying they were his biological children. All four claimants had different mothers.

More for Hugh — I mean you — to enjoy:

Here's a pic of me with Hugh in 2014. He was just turning 91.

He wasn't exactly charming, but it was worth it! (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

Check out my remembrance of meeting the crusty actor here.

2 Responses

  1. That “Wyatt Earp” still is pure sex! Thank you for a sexy article!

  2. In July/Aug. 1973, I had a real thrill, meeting Hugh O’Brien dressed in a tux, outside Jerusalem’s Old City Walls near the Jaffa Gate. I was staying with my family in the King David Hotel, just a few minutes walk away, and was out walking our blonde cocker spaniel, Chips.
    I saw Mr. O’Brien and was in shock. I’d fantasized getting it on with him from about age 12 [I was 16 1/2 when we met].
    None of that happened, of course; but we had very nice conversation.
    He asked if I was Israeli, since I was out walking a dog at 11:00pm.
    I explained that we’d just come on Aliya to Israel and were staying at the King David Hotel till our rental house was ready in early Sept. Mr. O’Brien then asked if I knew the way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall, and could I direct him.

    I walked him to the Church, 5-6 minutes away inside the City Walls, but it was closed.
    Then I walked him to the Western Wall [of the Temple Mount; it’s also inside the City Walls].
    I couldn’t take Chips into the Western Wall area, out of respect for its sanctity.
    I waited about 10 minutes, talking to the Israeli soldiers guarding from above, till Mr. O’Brien
    returned up the steps to the exit from the Wall area to the Arab Market.
    We walked back to the King David Hotel together, and Chips got a great workout that night.
    So did my left hand…

    Thank you for the photos. I’d forgotten how truly magnificent a specimen he was. And also a really nice person.

Leave a comment