Hugh O’Brian

  1. Alexander Scourby, The Redhead From Wyoming, 1952.     Cast as cattle baro  in the redhead Maureen O’Hara’s Western, O’Brien was suddenly derailed by  Universal into a better ride, Meet Me at the Fair.  He would next join the TV Western rage for The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. Same for two of  the support cast: Dennis Gunsmoke Weaver and Jack Maverick Kelly.   
  2. Edmund Purdom, The Egyptian, 1953.      Once Brando split for his New York shrink’s couch, head Fox Darryl Zanuck scurried around searching for a new Sinuhe, the court physician – O’Brian, Dirk Bogarde, John Cassevetes, Montgomery Clift,  Richard Conte, John Derek, Rock Hudson, John Lund, Guy Madison, Michael Pate. Fox borrowed MGM’s wooden Purdom and sued Brando for $2m, settled when he agreed to make (the much worse) Désirée.   Or Daisy-Rae as he called the one that got away from Napoleon.  
  3. Bud Abbott, Fireman, Save My Child, 1954.   “Note: There may or may not be a plot to this story. If you can’t find it don’t worry about it…” All set to go as the latest Abbott & Costello farce, when Lou fell ill and the mad-cap duo was subbed by… O’Brian and Buddy Hackett. Not the same thing at all!
  4. Edward G Robinson, The Ten Commandments, 1954.
  5. Guy Williams,  Zorro, TV, 1957-1961.    Because it was for Walt Disney, who had just made a big star out of Fess Parker as Davy Crockett, the first casting call in March 1957, was answered by 130 Zorro wannabes! Uncle Walt insisted all the final testees had real moustaches (like his!). Producer Norman Foster knew who he wanted and (despite Disney’s misgivings), wouldn’t make the series without him. And Williams began shooting the opener, Presenting Senor Zorro, during July 15-26. O’Brian had his own hit show,The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, TV, 1955-1961- and one of his Zorro rivals, Britt Lomond, appeared in three episodes as Johnny Ringo.
  6. James Darren, The Guns of Navarone, 1960.    At 24, the teen idol  pin-up boy  from  Gidget was the only star to be the right age for his role – as Irene Papas’ son, Private Spyros Pappadimos – in writer-producer Carl Foreman’s anti-war thriller about   a squad of  (almost Dad’s Army-like) Allied  saboteurs in WWII Greece.  Darren  was chosen in a similar fashion to Geoffrey Horne in  Foreman’s Oscar-winning script for The Bridge on the River Kwai – there must be  some beefcake to please the girls dragged along by  their boys to a war movie. He only had sparse lines – or words..   But then, he was on his honeymoon…  He was soon stuck again in Gidget Goes Hawaiian and indeed, Gidget Goes To Rome with a different Gidget each time opposite his Moondoggle – before escaping(?)  into TV’s Time, Tunnel.
  7. Victor Buono, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? 1962. Two years before the first-time screen meting of enemes Bette Davis and Joan Crawford – and the birth  of  hagsploitation  – TV cowboy Hugh O’Brian  had been contacted by producer Richard Rush to try a new kind of role  between Agnes  Moorehead”s Baby Jane Hudson, ex-child star, still jealous of her sister‘s better, well longer, career and  deciding to do something diabolical about it.  TV actress Jennifer West was  booked for sadistic Jane’s masochist sibling, Blanche in 1960.   Well, well, didja ever!
  8. Tom Tryon, The Cardinal, 1963.   The sudden blip in producer-director-ogre Otto Preminger’s track record was caused by lamentable casting. Tyron, happier later as a novelist, was never the actor Otto tried to force him to be… during the rise and rise of the titular Vatican favourite, reportedly based on New York’s powerful (and Senator Joe McCarthy-loving) Cardinal Spellman. Preminger tested three bores Tyron, Bradford Dillman, Cliff Robertson; considered total opposites Hugh O’Brian,Stuart Whitman; and, according to Tyron, refused the better Albert Finney, Peter O’Toole, even the the (way too old) Gregory Peck. O’Brian had an uncredited cameo as Barbara Bouchet’s lover in Preminger’s next opus, In Harm’s Way, 1964.
  9. Alain Delon,The Yellow Rolls Royce, 1965.     Until profits from The VIPs boosted British director Anthony Asquith’s budget, O’Brianand Ann-Margret were due for the second tale of the Rolls – eventually driven by Delon and Shirley MacLaine.


 Birth year: 1925Death year: 2016Other name: Casting Calls:  9