Actor Hugh O’Brian, who passed away September 5, is famous primarily for his TV work. He starred for six seasons as the Wild West’s Wyatt Earp on the 1950’s show “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp” (re-runs of which can currently be seen on the COZI-TV network). But, O’Brian also appeared in films and created a philanthropic legacy.
Most of O’Brian’s roles on the big screen were in Westerns. But, the year before he began playing TV’s Earp, he had a bit part in 1954’s movie musical “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” O’Brian plays the love interest of actress Mitzi Gaynor in this Irving Berlin-scored film about a family of professional entertainers. The cast features showbiz veterans Ethel Merman, Donald O’Connor and Dan Dailey plus 1950s icon Marilyn Monroe. Watch for her sultry renditions of “Heat Wave” and “Lazy.”
Fans of Agatha Christie mysteries will remember O’Brian as the star of the 1965 British motion picture “Ten Little Indians.” The plot involves ten strangers invited to an alpine chalet by their unseen host, Mr. Owen. Malcolm Lockyer’s jazz score adds a light note to this film where everyone has a secret and all their lives are in danger. O’Brian and teen idol/ singer Fabian are the two Americans in the cast. The whodunit is populated by British film faces of the mid-1960s: Shirley Eaton was fresh off her role as Jill Masterson, the Bond girl painted gold in “Goldfinger.” Stanley Holloway and Wilfrid Hyde-White had co-starred in the film version of “My Fair Lady,” with Holloway reprising the role of Alfred Dolittle which he popularized on Broadway. And, director George Pollock and actor Dennis Price had just worked together on another Agatha Christie film, “Murder Most Foul,” part of MGM’s Miss Marple series.
A 1958 visit to Africa inspired O’Brian to contribute more than just his acting talents to the world. On that trip, he met medical missionary and Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Albert Schweitzer, famous for his work with leprosy. Schweitzer’s belief that “the most important thing in education is to teach young people to think for themselves” motivated O’Brian to found Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY). The program facilitates communication and guidance by bringing together community leaders and high school students at annual conferences. Participants are chosen from across the U.S. and around the world. O’Brian’s HOBY legacy ensures the continuation of his philosophy that “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.”