George O’Brien — As He Is (1929) 🇺🇸

George O’Brien — As He Is (1929) |

November 23, 2023

He is a six-foot Hercules, with the muscular equipment first publicized by Hellenic sculptoring gentlemen — a javelin thrower, inadequately disguised by the best Boulevard tailors.

by Margaret Reid

Were heaven as prone to standardizing as the movies, George O’Brien would have been a son of ancient Greece during that era when the body was a cult whose aim was its physical perfection. Maybe he was, if you incline toward the comforting theory of reincarnation. Certainly, to all appearances, he is anything but the sleek actor-type developed by the movies.

Acting and its exigencies are just about the least of George O’Brien’s worries. He enjoys the profession, finds a tremendous source of interest in varying roles, but remains undisturbed by the irritations and disappointments that comprise a studio day. His career is the means by which he makes, a lot of money in a pleasant way. He will tell you that he is a lazy man, that one of the profession’s principal charms is that it doesn’t interfere too much with his life.

Besides the money, his chief satisfaction is in the appreciation of the fans. He admits getting a kick out of being famous. But to him its most important manifestation is the mail from all corners of the world. His secretary weeds out the too fulsome letters and he goes over the remainder. This he frankly enjoys — particularly letters from youngsters, who ask his advice on physical training. He sustains a tremendous correspondence. Many of the boys to whose letters he replies have been writing for five years. In a matter-of-fact way, quite removed from sentimentality, he finds it gratifying to have brought a pleasant and healthy influence into so many young lives.

He also enjoys letters that show appreciation for the riding feat, care used in technical details. Letters from army officers who have noted the accuracy of his uniform, his walk, his manner in some picture; letters from sailors, from Europeans when he has made a Continental picture, and so on. He doesn’t spout about his art, but he is openly pleased to be considered a good artist.

Acting, as a profession, happened to him more by accident than by intent. After the war, in which he participated aboard the submarine chaser 297, he found his former ideas and desires no longer feasible. He was restless, unable to fix his attention on the things that had mattered a great deal lie fore. To please his father, he picked up his interrupted studies at Santa Clara College. He was studying medicine, but majoring in football. The usual college plays, to which he contributed more enthusiasm than skill, did not arouse any particular interest in the drama.

After two months back in the college routine, he had had enough. With his father’s amiable consent, he struck out for Hollywood. But not to become an actor. All he wanted was a job. He had met Tom Mix at a rodeo in the northern part of the State. More interested in Mix’s proficiency in the saddle than before the camera, George got into conversation with him. The star told the boy if ever he came to Hollywood he would get him work.

When George did come to Hollywood, Mix kept his word. George spent his days happily lugging cameras around the Fox lot. Now and then some riding and roping were required, and they learned to let George do it. He decided it would be a good racket to be an actor so, with a flourish, he abandoned his fifteen-dollar-a-week job. and courted the capricious gods who look after — in a fashion — the movie extras.

Some days he worked, some days he didn’t. When the idle intervals became alarming in length, he made no bones about getting a job as lumber hauler, prop boy or sixth-assistant electrician. Officially an actor, at the same time he had a rather big appetite which could become disturbing if unappeased. But he had little difficulty in getting odd jobs around the studio. To hire him was economy, a production manager’s joy to see him run cheerfully about with props, tucked lightly under his arm, that required the efforts of two other men.

His apprenticeship was thorough. He was one of the furtive figures in that Limehouse street, one of the whoopee makers in that Long Island orgy, the guy in the leopard skin carrying one lady on his shoulder, and dragging another by the hair, in that flashback in Manslaughter, the Apache with the black beard in Shadows of Paris. On awfully lucky occasions his $7.50 was raised to $15 for risking his neck in some incredible riding feat

In due time — a bit overdue, George was beginning to think — he was relieved of the precarious routine of extra work. After bits and negligible roles he was “discovered” and placed in celebrity by The Iron Horse. His popularity has been gathering momentum ever since, but it was not until Sunrise that he was recognized as a fine actor instead of, as heretofore, a pleasing person.

He likes being a star, but doesn’t take it to heart. He would like all his pictures to be good, but when one falls short he isn’t depressed. He maintains a healthy balance, rare in Hollywood, by virtue of the fact that he has activities just as absorbing outside the studio as in it. Physical fitness is important to him and, although he does not make a fetish of it, its attending routine is his chief pastime. There are swimming, riding, tennis, football, handball, and basketball. He is on the Fox basketball team, composed of Charlie Farrell [Charles Farrell], Barry Norton, Charles Morton, and other Fox actors, and the notices on his last picture did not afford him as much glee as the account of how they licked the Richfield Oil team.

Fie has a boat that is dear to his soul. On it he cruises indolently up and down the coast, exploring sea ways and courting storms. He loves the sea and is never happier than when either in or on it. He feels a kinship with all sailors, and one of his greatest sources of pride is the unfailing Christmas telegram from the gang on chaser 297.

The deepest and finest influence in George’s life has always been that exerted by his father, Dan O’Brien, chief of police of San Francisco. Almost anything you say or do is apt to remind George of something his father pulled. His filial pride and devotion are intense and unwavering.

One of his close friends is F. W. Murnau. The two are often together, sometimes solving the difficulties of the universe, and sometimes sitting in comfortable silence for hours at a time. When he is seen at the Cocoanut Grove or the Biltmore, it is usually with Olive Borden. George likes to dance and is more than ordinarily proficient at it.

He is well informed and his wide range of interest and information makes him an agreeable conversationalist. He is not opinionated but, on the contrary, facile in ideas and receptive of logical argument. He has a streak of moodiness in him, periods of melancholy which he has trained himself to expose to the light of reason, and blame on the weather. Over events he does not worry. Things happen — if you anticipate them, you’re likely to get fooled, and if you mourn them afterward, what good will it do? He is an actor without a grievance. Even the loss of a big chance, as when Cecil B. DeMille wanted him for a tremendous part in Dynamite, and the Fox program prevented George’s acceptance. He wanted the role, for it would have meant important things, but he couldn’t take it. Too bad — maybe some other time; that was that.

He lives at the Hollywood Athletic Club. He is the despair of the studio publicity department, because he is scarcely ever available for interviews. He sincerely tries to be accommodating, but there are so many things to do. The beach, the boat, the horses and, whenever there is a week between pictures, a flight to San Francisco to be with his father and mother. He drives an expensive car, wears well-tailored, brown clothes, likes avocados for lunch, and all the prop men and “juicers” call him George and bum cigarettes from him.

George O’Brien — As He Is (1929) |

Physical fitness is important to George O’Brien, and its routine is his chief pastime.

George O’Brien — As He Is (1929) |

George O’Brien — As He Is (1929) |

George O’Brien’s amiability is a predominant characteristic, according to Margaret Reid’s estimate opposite, which brings out, among other pleasant and laudable things, the surprising fact that he is that rarity — an actor minus a grievance.

Photo by: Kahlen

Collection: Picture Play Magazine, May 1929