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Dave O'Brien Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5)  | Mini Bio (2)  | Spouse (2)  | Trade Mark (1)  | Trivia (12)  | Personal Quotes (2)

Overview (5)

Born in Big Spring, Texas, USA
Died in Catalina Island, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameDavid Poole Fronabarger
Nickname Tex
Height 6' 3" (1.91 m)

Mini Bio (2)

Former chorus boy who would become a star in "B" westerns, and later a successful comedy writer (under the name David Barclay) and TV director. O'Brien is notable as one of the relatively few success stories to emerge out of the drek of poverty row, where he blissfully worked for nearly a decade before landing work in the hypo-nasal Pete Smith's series of novelty shorts at MGM. In the mid-50's he gravitated toward comedy writing working on the Red Skelton Show, striking up a longtime friendship with series co-writer Sherwood Schwartz.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Bill Takacs <kinephile@aol.com>

Born in Texas as David Poole Fronabarger on May 31, 1912, Dave O'Brien was a multi-faceted performer who entered Hollywood as a chorus boy in the early 1930s (he can be briefly spied in 42nd Street (1933) just after Bebe Daniels's "You're Getting to be a Habit With Me" number). His sheer perseverance and desire to succeed in Hollywood precluded any misgivings about working at less prestigious studios. He nailed meatier roles at poverty row outfits, most famously in Reefer Madness (1936) (original title "Tell Your Children", better known as "Reefer Madness") in the ludicrous role as the guy who overdoses from smoking weed. He then slid over to ailing Grand National to fill the jack boots of RCMP Renfrew while pulling double duty backing up Dorothy Page in the studio's oddball "singing cowgirl" oaters which proved to be the studio's last gasp at life. O'Brien then moved up the Gower Gulch ladder - relatively speaking - by supporting the East Side Kids at Monogram. During this period he landed a juicy role in one of the few nominally interesting PRC releases, The Devil Bat (1940), starring Bela Lugosi. PRC itself was at the very bottom rung of Hollywood, yet O'Brien happily worked throughout the war years (he was classified 4F for the draft) there in both its ultra low-budget "Billy the Kid" westerns, starring an increasingly disgruntled Buster Crabbe and in all 22 of its marginally better Texas Ranger entries, some starring Tex Ritter. He took time out to appear in Columbia's Captain Midnight (1942) serial and became wildly popular with kids. O'Brien became known to better heeled audiences in the post-war period as the perpetual bungler in Pete Smith Specialty shorts at MGM, which continued to be released through 1955. In these, he usually played a typical suburban homeowner who had endless losing run-ins with leaky faucets, exposed wires, untrainable dogs, dangerous industrial machinery, balky lawnmowers, etc. O'Brien usually appeared in pantomime over the sarcastically hypo-nasal narration of Mr. Smith. These shorts are now reappearing fairly often as "From the Vault" filler between movies on the Turner Classic Movie channel (TCM). His work at MGM in the 50s included a cameo in the lavish Kiss Me Kate (1953). Multi-talented, he became recognized as a comedy writer (as David Barclay) in the 1950s, ending his varied career as a senior writer on the popular long running The Red Skelton Hour (1951). His long time friend, producer Sherwood Schwartz, recalled that O'Brien was extremely self-conscious about his lack of formal education and felt handicapped by his poor spelling and use of grammar. His inventive scripts for Skelton were the product of a dictation process with O'Brien rattling off ideas, lines and gags in writers' bullpen sessions similar to those seen in the later Dick Van Dyke Show. Whether nearly illiterate or not, O'Brien became a highly successful comedy writer and widely respected among his peers. A longtime sailing enthusiast (an avocation that had been a major factor in ending his first marriage), he collapsed form a heart attack while piloting his 60-foot racing sloop "White Cloud" to victory in the Marina del Rey-to-Catalina Island race in 1969. His last words were reportedly, "This is the happiest day of my life!". He was survived by his wife Nancy, two sons, Jib, Skippy and three daughters, Patty, Pam and Wendy. He was just 57 years old.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jack Backstreet

Spouse (2)

Nancy Lee Lister (1955 - 8 November 1969) ( his death) ( 3 children)
Dorothy Short (1936 - 1954) ( divorced) ( 2 children)

Trade Mark (1)

Delightful appearances in miscellaneous fun shorts.

Trivia (12)

Accomplished stuntman
An all-round jack-of-all-trades in the entertainment business, Dave started off as a dancer and chorus boy in Warner Bros. musicals (42nd Street (1933), among others). He was also a stuntman and villain in westerns, although he did star in a series as a Texas Ranger. He was also a stalwart hero of cliffhangers and rugged adventure (Captain Midnight (1942), The Rangers Take Over (1942)). In addition, he composed songs for some of his western programmers and wrote, directed (as David Barclay) and starred in a popular and long-running series of comedy shorts made by producer Pete Smith at MGM. As if that weren't enough, he turned to TV as a writer for Red Skelton and won an Emmy.
First wife Dorothy Short was a "B" actress in westerns and appeared with Dave in the cult classic Reefer Madness (1936) (original title "Tell Your Children" but better known as "Reefer Madness"), the serial Captain Midnight (1942) and the Pete Smith shorts, among others. They had two children but divorced in the early 1950s, reportedly because of Dave's complete devotion to sailing and his love of the sea. He subsequently remarried and had three more children.
Had extremely thinning hair and wore a hairpiece. He incorporated this amusingly into a couple of his Pete Smith shorts.
Was a TV writer from 1955 on using the alias 'Dave Barclay.'
The owner of a 60-foot racing sloop "The White Cloud," Dave collapsed and died on board after winning a Marina del Rey-to-Catalina yacht race off California.
Will forever be enshrined in the memories of bad-movie lovers everywhere for his role as the marijuana-crazed, wild-eyed dope fiend screaming "Faster! Play it faster!" at his equally marijuana-fried female piano-playing companion in the cult classic Reefer Madness (1936) (original title "Tell Your Children" but better known as "Reefer Madness").
In 1954 he made a TV pilot called "Meet the O'Briens'", in which he played a bumbling young husband whose in-laws live with him and his wife. It wasn't picked up.
His first movie role was in an Eddie Lambert comedy short whose title is now unknown.
During O'Brien's early days doing movie bits, he supplemented his income by singing in supper clubs like the Hotel Roosevelt, Pyramid Cafe, and Embassy Roof.
Around 1940 he and James Newill became partners in a ranch in Topanga Canyon, CA. It was too far to commute to the studio, so the Newills and O'Briens spent alternating weekends there.
In 1950 Pete Smith and O'Brien received a special award at the White House from President Harry S. Truman for one of their shorts, Wrong Way Butch (1950).

Personal Quotes (2)

[About meeting US President Harry S. Truman] Shaking hands and talking with the President of the United States is the greatest thing I've ever done.
[Just prior to his death] I've had a full, enjoyable life, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.

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