Monday, October 22, 2018

The Trials of O'Brien

"I want to report a murder."
"Who was murdered?"
"I was."

If you recognize that memorable exchange from 1949's film classic D.O.A., you'll want to check out Derek Sculthorpe's newest book, Edmond O'Brien: Everyman of Film Noir (McFarland). It's a welcome and worthy look at the life and career of an Oscar-winning actor who lent his talents to more than 100 films. Aside from D.O.A., O'Brien also created distinctive portraits of complex men in The Barefoot Contessa, White Heat, Seven Days in May, and a host of others. As the author notes, "His character studies were never all one thing. They were not all bad and not all good, but they were human."

Away from the cameras, O'Brien dated a dazzling array of Hollywood beauties, and married two of them -- film star Nancy Kelly (a short and tumultuous union), and actress/dancer Olga San Juan, with whom he had three children. Sculthorpe also covers the debilitating health issues that took their toll on O'Brien's life and work, including the gradual loss of his eyesight and, most cruelly, the onset of Alzheimer's while still in his fifties.

This is a quick, compelling read that should serve to reinforce O'Brien's significance as an actor, and insure that his fine performances are not overlooked.

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