“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?” – Hugh O’Brian’s message to young people is “Freedom to Choose
Tall, handsome Hugh O’Brian, best known for his role as Wyatt Earp in the 50′s, has worn many different hats through the many characters he has portrayed. Along with his extensive movie and television career, he is an inspiration to young high school kids through the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership.
From The Beginning:
Hugh O’Brian was born Hugh Charles Krampe on April 19, 1925 and is known for his various roles on westerns in television and in movies.
He was born in Rochester, NY to father — Hugh John Krampe (a career US Marine) and mother — Edith Krampe. He attended New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois. Other future actors who attended New Trier were Charlton Heston, Rock Hudson and Ann-Margaret, to name a few. He later attended Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri where he excelled in football, basketball, wrestling and track. After only attending one semester, Hugh dropped out of the University of Cincinnati to enlist in the Marine Corps during World War II. He was the youngest drill instructor at 17 years of age. After World War II he moved to Los Angeles and attended UCLA.
His big break came (while he was performing on stage) when he was discovered by legendary actress/director Ida Lupino. She signed him to a film she was directing, Never Fear, and eventually this lead to a contract with Universal Pictures.
His Television Career:
In 1955 the television western The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp aired. Hugh O’Brian was cast in the leading role as legendary lawman, Wyatt Earp. That same year debuted Gunsmoke, both of these shows started the “Adult Western” on television.
The emphasis of both shows were on character development vs elaborate moralizing. Wyatt Earp quickly became one of the top rated shows on television and during its 7 year run, remained in the top 10 shows in the U.S.
Throughout the 60′s he appeared regularly on other shows including Jack Palance’s ABC Circus and as a visiting attorney on Perry Mason. Star Raymond Burr was absent due to a minor emergency surgery. He appeared as a panelist on both Password and What’s My Line? where he served as a mystery guest on three different occasions.
His Movie Career:
O’Brian enjoyed great success in many movies as well, here are just a few:
Rocketship X-M (1950)
The Lawless Breed (1953)
Fireman Save My Child (1954) he replaced Bud Abbott in the movie and Buddy Hackett replaced Lou Costello (Abbott and Costello).
There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954)
Ten Little Indians (1955)
In 1976 he played killer Jack Pulford in John Wayne’s last movie The Shootist. The scenario of the movie was about a gunfighter, J.B. Books, who returns home to find out he is dying from cancer. Sadly, John Wayne died from stomach cancer three years later.
O’Brian was very good friends with the Duke and said he considered it a great honor to be in this film with him.
On June 25, 2006, Hugh O’Brian married for the first time at age 81. The ceremony was held at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, officiating was the Reverend Robert Schuller. The couple was serenaded by close friend Debbie Reynolds.
Hugh O’Brian has dedicated a great deal of his life to the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership, known as HOBY. It is a non-profit youth leadership development program that empowers 10,000 high school sophomores through its 70+ leadership programs in all 50 states and 20 countries.
For his contributions to the television industry, Hugh O’Brian has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1992, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame and National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.