Actor Hugh O’Brian, best known for his portrayal of the title role in the 1950’s TV Western “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp,” has died. He was 91.
O’Brian born Hugh Charles Krampe in Rochester, New York, son of Hugh John Krampe, a United States Marine Corps officer, and Edith Lillian (Marks) Krampe. His paternal grandparents were German immigrants; his mother was half German-Jewish and half English and Scots ancestry. O’Brian dropped out of the University of Cincinnati after one semester to enlist in the United States Marine Corps during World War II. At seventeen, he became the youngest Marine drill instructor.
After World War II, O’Brian moved to Los Angeles to study at UCLA. He was discovered on the stage by Ida Lupino,who signed him to Never Fear, a film she was directing, which led O’Brian to a contract with Universal Pictures.
O’Brian was chosen to portray legendary lawman Wyatt Earp on the ABC western series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, which debuted in 1955. It soon became one of the top-rated shows on television. During its six-year run, Wyatt Earp consistently placed in the top ten in the United States. At the time he was one of television’s great male sex symbols. Decades later, O’Brian reprised the role in two episodes of the television series Guns of Paradise (1990), TV-movie The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw (1991) and the independent film Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone (1994), the latter mixing new footage and colorized archival sequences from the original series.
O’Brien also made a number of motion pictures,(In many of which he had his shirt off) among them Rocketship X-M (1950), The Lawless Breed (1953), There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954), White Feather(1955), Come Fly with Me (1963), Love Has Many Faces (1965), In Harm’s Way (1965), Ten Little Indians (1965), and Ambush Bay (1966) (In many of which he had his shirt off)
Hugh O’Brian dedicated much of his life to the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), a non-profit youth leadership development program for high school scholars. HOBY sponsors 10,000 high school sophomores annually through its over 70 leadership programs in all 50 states and 20 countries. Since its inception in 1958, over 435,000 young people have participated in HOBY-related programs.
O’Brian died peacefully in his Beverly Hills home on Monday, according to the statement from his foundation.