Family & Companions
A veteran Irish-American lead and character player, Pat O'Brien is best known as one of the cynical reporters in the sterling first screen version of the Broadway play, "The Front Page" (1931), the title role (opposite Ronald Reagan) in "Knute Rockne--All American" (1940) and as Jimmy Cagney's clerical confidante in "Angels With Dirty Faces" (1938).
A sharp, wisecracking type in the early 1930s, O'Brien found his star persona becoming increasingly sentimentalized after the Production Code crackdown of 1934, but occasionally returned memorably to his earlier type, as in "Torrid Zone" (1940), opposite Cagney and Ann Sheridan. He remained a popular star through the 40s, often in stalwart roles such as not only his Rockne but also "The Iron Major" (1943). A childhood friend of Spencer Tracy, O'Brien acted with Tracy in "The People Against O'Hara" (1951) and in John Ford's sentimental roundup of veteran character players, "The Last Hurrah" (1958). Billy Wilder also put his iconic value to good use as an Irish cop on the tail of both the gangsters and the cross-dressing heroes on the run in the director's hilarious "Some Like It Hot" (1959).
Cast (Feature Film)
Joined a traveling stock theater company
Had an uncredited turn as a police detective in "Compliments of the Season"
Breakthrough film role, Hildy Johnson in "The Front Page"
Played a studio head in Victor Fleming's Hollywood satire "Bombshell", starring Jean Harlow
First film with James Cagney, Lloyd Bacon's "Here Comes the Navy"
Featured in Bacon's "Devil Dogs of the Air" and "The Irish In Us" with James Cagney
Reteamed with Cagney in Howard Hawks' "Ceiling Zero"
Played the priest opposite Cagney's gangster in "Angels With Dirty Faces", Michael Curtiz's iconic portrait of childhood friends who take different paths
Reteamed with Bacon and Cagney, playing a wisecracking screenwriter in the fast-moving Hollywood spoof "Boy Meets Girl"
Played Father Francis Duffy, the beloved chaplain of WWI's famed New York Irish regiment in "The Fighting 69th"
Starred as the titular Notre Dame coach in "Knute Rockne, All American"; producers initially wanted Cagney for the role but Rockne's widow insisted upon O'Brien
Starred with George Raft in the second film adaptation of the Prohibition-set "Broadway"
Played Major Chick Davis, a commander in charge of turning cadets into fighter pilots in the quasi-documentary "Bombardier"
Was star of the jungle-set WWII adventure "Marine Raiders"
Starred as a lawyer trying to keep his clients out of trouble on their honeymoon in the zany but predictable caper "Having Wonderful Crime"
Starred with Anne Jeffreys in the adventure "Riffraff", playing private eye Dan Hammer
Starred in "Fighting Father Dunne" as a parish priest in 1900s St Louis trying to help the street urchin newsboys
Played Gramp, a lovable ex-vaudevillean who serves as guardian to "The Boy with Green Hair", an orphaned and tormented youngster played by Dean Stockwell
As Father O'Hara in "The Fireball", runs the orphanage that Mickey Rooney's rollerskating champ flees
Featured in "The People Against O'Hara"; paired with Spencer Tracy, who had never starred in a film with O'Brien despite their longtime friendship
Played the Commander of a Navy warship leading an attack on Japan in "Okinawa", a WWII action drama
Co-starred in "Inside Detroit", a dramatized expose of corruption in the US auto industry
Starred with Tracy in John Ford's political drama "The Last Hurrah"
Had a featured role in the Billy Wilder classic "Some Like it Hot", playing the cop trailing the gangsters and the bumbling heros in drag
Starred as a maverick veteran lawyer partnered with his newly practicing by-the-book son in the ABC sitcom "Harrigan and Son"
Lone film credit of the decade, co-starring role in the Western "Town Tamer"
Starred as a retired Texas Ranger who reenters law enforcement to clean up a besieged small town in the ABC TV-movie "The Over-the-Hill Gang", co-starring such fellow veterans as Walter Brennan and Andy Devine
Starred as a doctor in "The Other Woman", an installment of of the daytime drama special series "ABC's Matinee Today"
Portrayed the US Vice President in the sequel/remake "Billy Jack Goes to Washington"
With Myrna Loy, co-starred as Burt Reynolds parents in the black comedy "The End"
Final TV-movie role, co-starring in the Gary Coleman vehicle "Scout's Honor"
Played Howard's uncle Joe on "Happy Days" (ABC)
Final film role, playing Delmas in Milos Forman's "Ragtime", also starring Cagney in his final role