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The Life and Legend of Hugh OBrian Image Credit: True West
The Life and Legend of Hugh OBrian Image Credit: True West

The Life and Legend of Hugh O'Brian

One role defined Hugh O’Brian’s acting career—the title character in The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp.

Henry C.Parke

The adult Western premiered on ABC on September 6—61 years and one day before the actor passed away at the age of 91. Born Hugh Charles Krampe in Rochester, New York, he dropped out of college in 1942, at 19, to join the Marines, where he became their youngest drill sergeant. As ruggedly handsome as any man has the right to be, he embarked on an acting career in Hollywood. In 1950, he appeared in his first Western, Beyond the Purple Hills, starring Gene Autry. By his fourth year, he had won the Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer, for his performance in The Man from the Alamo.

But most people remember him as “The Man from Tombstone.”

Many of his friends and his coworkers, on the big screen and the small, pay tribute to Hugh O’Brian:

In 1954, Earl Holliman recalls, “We played brothers. Richard Widmark, Hugh O’Brian and I were the sons of Spencer Tracy in a picture called Broken Lance. I’d seen him on the screen; I knew he was a man-about-town and dating all the girls at Fox. I wasn’t sure I was going to like him, but we sat together on the plane to Nogales in Arizona, and he laughed at my jokes.

“So we became friends. In those days, when you were a supporting actor, on location, you shared a room with another supporting actor. Hugh and I shared the same room. I liked Hugh; he was easy and fun to work with, had a nice sense of humor.


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