biography

Born David Fronabarger on May 31, 1912, in Big Spring, Texas, actor Dave O'Brien began his career as an actor during the early days of sound films, at age 17. Dave started off as a dancer and chorus boy in Warner Bros. musicals, such as 42nd Street (1933; with Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler) and Footlight Parade (1933; with Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler), among others. His first starring role came in the exploitation classic Tell Your Children, now better known as Reefer Madness (1936; with Dorothy Short and Carleton Young). O'Brien married his Reefer Madness co-star, Dorothy Short, in 1936, and the couple eventually welcomed two daughters. When the couple married, Short's career was more stable than his, so he began working as a stuntman and villain in westerns while trying to get his foot in the door. By the late 1930s, O'Brien made his way to the top of Poverty Row, starring in numerous westerns and several horror films at Monogram and PRC and became the star of PRC's Texas Rangers series.

Dave O'BrienDave O'Brien

LEFT: O'Brien modeled swimwear in the mid 1930s. RIGHT: Early 1940s studio portrait

After years as a low-budget western star, O'Brien made the switch to comedy when he signed with MGM in 1945 do to a series of Pete Smith Specialties shorts, which he also wrote and often directed under the credited name 'David Barclay.' Afterward, O'Brien virtually gave up his feature-film career, with a couple of exceptions. Production on these shorts ended with Smith's retirement in 1954. O'Brien then moved to The Red Skelton Show, where he served as writer for many years. Whereas his career was going well, his marriage to Dorothy Short ended in 1954.

the films of dave o'brien

Reefer Madness (1936)

Dave O'Brien

Originally released under the title Tell Your Children, Reefer Madness has become an exploitation favorite. O'Brien stars as crazed stoner Ralph

The Devil Bat (1940)

Dave O'Brien and Bela Lugosi

With Bela Lugosi in PRC's first horror film, The Devil Bat

The Spider Returns (1941)

Dave O'Brien, Mary Ainslee, and Warren Hull

From the Columbia action serial The Spider Returns with Mary Ainslee and Warren Hull

Spooks Run Wild (1941)

Bela Lugosi, Dorothy Short, and Dave O'Brien

From Monogram's horror/comedy flick Spooks Run Wild with Bela Lugosi and Dorothy Short

Captain Midnight (1942)

Dave O'Brien and Dorothy Short

O'Brien as the title character in Columbia's action serial Captain Midnight. Also pictured is O'Brien's frequent costar and real-life first wife Dorothy Short

King of the Stallions (1942)

Dave O'Brien and Sally Cairns

From Monogram's romantic western King of the Stallions with Sally Cairns

The Rangers Take Over (1942)

James Newill, Iris Meredith, and Dave O'Brien

With James Newill and Iris Meredith in PRC's Texas Rangers western The Rangers Take Over

Border Buckaroos (1943)

Dave O'Brien

As Tex Wyatt in the PRC western Border Buckaroos

Return of the Rangers (1943)

Richard Alexander, Dave O'Brien, and Glenn Strange

With Richard Alexander and Glenn Strange in PRC's Texas Rangers entry Return of the Rangers

West of Texas (1943)

Dave O'Brien and James NewillDave O'Brien

LEFT: With James Newill in PRC's Texas Ranger series West of Texas. RIGHT: O'Brien as Tex Wyatt

Brand of the Devil (1944)

Dave O'Brien

From the PRC western Brand of the Devil

later years

After Dave O'Brien began the Pete Smith Specialties shorts, he acted in only a handful of films, including Kiss Me Kate (1953; with Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel), The Desperados Are in Town (1956; with Robert Arthur and Kathleen Nolan), and The Kettles in the Ozarks (1956; with Marjorie Main). Giving up his acting career in the mid 1950s, O'Brien took a job as a comedy writer for Red Skelton under his writing alias David Barclay, a job he kept for the rest of his life. He died suddenly of a heart attack while sailing on November 8, 1969, at the age of 57. He was survived by his second wife, Nancy, and three daughters and two sons. O'Brien was preceded in death by his ex-wife Dorothy Short (1915-1963).

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filmography

FILMS
The Desperados Are in Town (1956) with Robert Arthur, Kathleen Nolan, Rhodes Reason, Kelly Thordsen, and Mae Clarke
The Kettles in the Ozarks (1956) with Marjorie Main, Arthur Hunnicutt, Una Merkel, and Ted de Corsia
Just What I Needed (1955) (short)
Keep Young (1955) (short)
The Man Around the House (1955) (short)
Safe at Home (1954) (short)
Out for Fun (1954) (short)
Do Someone a Favor! (short)
Tennessee Champ (1954) with Shelley Winters, Keenan Wynn, Dewey Martin, Earl Holliman, Charles Bronson, and Yvette Duguay
Ain't It Aggravatin' (1954) (short)
Things We Can Do Without (1953) (short)
Landlording It (1953) (short)
Kiss Me Kate (1953) with Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Ann Miller, Keenan Wynn, Bobby Van, James Whitmore, Bob Fosse, and Ron Randell
It Would Serve 'Em Right (1953) (short)
Cash Stashers (1953) (short)
The Postman (1953) (short)
I Love Children, But! (1952) (short)
Sweet Memories (1952) (short)
Reducing (1952) (short)
It Could Happen to You (1952) (short)
That's What You Think (1951) (short)
Bandage Bait (1951) (short)
Fixin' Fool (1951) (short)
Wanted: One Egg (1950) (short)
A Wife's Life (1950) (short)
Wrong Way Butch (1950) (short)
That's His Story (1950) (short)
Did'ja Know? (1950) (short)
Pest Control (1950) (short)
Sports Oddities (1949) (short)
We Can Dream, Can't We? (1949) (short)
So You Want to Be an Actor (1949) (short)
How Come? (1949) (short)
Those Good Old Days (1949) (short)
Let's Cogitate (1948) (short)
Why Is It? (1948) (short)
Just Suppose (1948) (short)
You Can't Win (1948) (short)
I Love My Mother-in-Law But... (1948) (short)
Have You Ever Wondered? (1947) (short)
What D'ya Know? (1947) (short)
Pet Peeves (1947) (short)
Neighbor Pests (1947) (short)
I Love My Wife But! (1947) (short)
Early Sports Quiz: What's Your I.Q. No. 13 (1947) (short)
I Love My Husband, But! (1946) (short)
Studio Visit (1946) (short)
Flaming Bullets (1945) with Tex Ritter and Guy Wilkerson
Frontier Fugitives (1945) with Tex Ritter and Guy Wilkerson
Three in the Saddle (1945) with Tex Ritter and Guy Wilkerson
Enemy of the Law (1945) with Tex Ritter and Guy Wilkerson
The Phantom of 42nd Street (1945) with Kay Aldridge and Alan Mowbray
The Man Who Walked Alone (1945) with Kay Aldridge, Walter Catlett, and Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams
Marked for Murder (1945) with Tex Ritter and Guy Wilkerson
The Whispering Skull (1944) with Tex Ritter and Guy Wilkerson
Tahiti Nights (1944) with Jinx Falkenburg, Mary Treen, Florence Bates, and Hilo Hattie
Safety Sleuth (1944) (short)
Dead or Alive (1944) with Tex Ritter and Guy Wilkerson
Gangsters of the Frontier (1944) with Tex Ritter and Guy Wilkerson
Gunsmoke Mesa (1944) with James Newill and Guy Wilkerson
Brand of the Devil (1944) with James Newill and Guy Wilkerson
Spook Town (1944) with James Newill and Guy Wilkerson
The Pinto Bandit (1944) with James Newill and Guy Wilkerson
Guns of the Law (1944) with James Newill, Guy Wilkerson, and Jennifer Holt
Outlaw Roundup (1944) with James Newill and Guy Wilkerson
Boss of Rawhide (1943) with James Newill and Guy Wilkerson
Return of the Rangers (1943) with James Newill and Guy Wilkerson
Trail of Terror (1943) with James Newill and Guy Wilkerson
Fighting Valley (1943) with James Newill and Guy Wilkerson
Border Buckaroos (1943) with James Newill and Guy Wilkerson
West of Texas (1943) with James Newill and Guy Wilkerson
Bad Men of Thunder Gap (1943) with James Newill and Guy Wilkerson
The Rangers Take Over (1942) with James Newill and Guy Wilkerson
'Neath Brooklyn Bridge (1942) with Leo Gorcey, Bobby Jordan, Huntz Hall, and Noah Beery Jr.
The Yanks Are Coming (1942) with Mary Healy and Max 'Slapsie Maxie' Rosenbloom
Bowery at Midnight (1942) with Bela Lugosi, John Archer, Wanda McKay, and Tom Neal
King of the Stallions (1942) with Rick Vallin
Sheriff of Sage Valley (1942) with Buster Crabbe, Al St. John, and Kermit Maynard
Law and Order (1942) with Buster Crabbe, Al St. John, Wanda McKay, and Kenne Duncan
Prisoner of Japan (1942) with Alan Baxter
Down Texas Way (1942) with Buck Jones, Tim McCoy, Raymond Hatton, Luana Walters, and Glenn Strange
Billy the Kid's Smoking Guns (1942) with Buster Crabbe and Al St. John
Captain Midnight (1942) with Dorothy Short, James Craven, Guy Wilkerson, and Luana Walters
Forbidden Trails (1941) with Buck Jones and Tim McCoy
Double Trouble (1941) with Harry Langdon and Benny Rubin
Spooks Run Wild (1941) with Bela Lugosi, Leo Gorcey, Bobby Jordan, Huntz Hall, Dorothy Short, and Guy Wilkerson
Billy the Kid Wanted (1941) with Buster Crabbe, Al St. John, and Glenn Strange
The Gunman from Bodie (1941) with Buck Jones, Tim McCoy, and Raymond Hatton
The Deadly Game (1941) with Charles Farrell
The Texas Marshal (1941) with Tim McCoy
Billy the Kid in Santa Fe (1941) with Bob Steele, Al St. John, and Rex Lease
Murder by Invitation (1941) with Wallace Ford and Marian Marsh
The Spider Returns (1941) with Warren Hull and Kenne Duncan
Buzzy and the Phantom Pinto (1941) with Dorothy Short
Flying Wild (1941) with Leo Gorcey and Bobby Jordan
The Devil Bat (1940) with Bela Lugosi
That Gang of Mine (1940) with Leo Gorcey and Bobby Jordan
Queen of the Yukon (1940) with Charles Bickford
Gun Code (1940) with Tim McCoy and Carleton Young
Boys of the City (1940) with Leo Gorcey and Bobby Jordan
Sky Bandits (1940) with James Newill
Hold That Woman! (1940) with James Dunn and Frances Gifford
The Kid from Santa Fe (1940) with Addison Randall and Kenne Duncan
The Cowboy from Sundown (1940) with Tex Ritter, Carleton Young, and Glenn Strange
Son of the Navy (1940) with Jean Parker and James Dunn
Phantom Rancher (1940) with Ken Maynard and Dorothy Short
East Side Kids (1940) with Leon Ames
Danger Ahead (1940) with James Newill
Yukon Flight (1940) with James Newill and Warren Hull
Buzzy Rides the Range (1940) with Claire Rochelle
Crashing Thru (1939) with James Newill and Warren Hull
Buried Alive (1939) with Beverly Roberts
Fighting Mad (1939) with James Newill, Sally Blane, and Benny Rubin
Flaming Lead (1939) with Ken Maynard
The Fighting Renegade (1939) with Tim McCoy
Daughter of the Tong (1939) with Evelyn Brent, Grant Withers, and Dorothy Short
New Frontier (1939) with John Wayne, Ray 'Crash' Corrigan, Raymond Hatton, and Jennifer Jones
Riders of the Sage (1939) with Bob Steele, Claire Rochelle, and Carleton Young
Outlaws' Paradise (1939) with Tim McCoy
Texas Wildcats (1939) with Tim McCoy
Trigger Smith (1939) with Addison Randall
Rollin' Westward (1939) with Tex Ritter
Code of the Cactus (1939) with Tim McCoy and Dorothy Short
Drifting Westward (1939) with Addison Randall
Water Rustlers (1939) with Vince Barnett
Song of the Buckaroo (1938) with Tex Ritter and Jinx Falkenburg
Gun Packer (1938) with Addison Randall and Glenn Strange
Where the Buffalo Roam (1938) with Tex Ritter, Dorothy Short, and 'Snub' Pollard
Frontier Scout (1938) with George Houston and Al St. John
The Utah Trail (1938) with Tex Ritter, 'Snub' Pollard, and Pamela Blake
Man's Country (1938) with Addison Randall and Marjorie Reynolds
The Singing Cowgirl (1938) with Dorothy Page, Vince Barnett, and Dorothy Short
Whirlwind Horseman (1938) with Ken Maynard and Glenn Strange
The Secret of Treasure Island (1938) with Grant Withers
Million Dollar Racket (1937) with Bruce Bennett and Joan Barclay
Rough Riding Rhythm (1937) with Kermit Maynard
Brothers of the West (1937) with Tom Tyler and Dorothy Short
Lightnin' Crandall (1937) with Bob Steele
The Black Coin (1936) with Ralph Graves
Reefer Madness, aka Tell Your Children (1936) with Dorothy Short and Carleton Young
Red Salute (1935) with Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Young
Welcome Home (1935) with James Dunn and Arline Judge

TELEVISION GUEST APPEARANCES
The Red Skelton Hour, episode Appleby, the Witness, originally aired May 26, 1959
The Red Skelton Hour, episode Nobu McCarthy, originally aired April 7, 1959
The Red Skelton Hour, episode Clem in Miami Beach, originally aired March 3, 1959
The Red Skelton Hour, episode Cauliflower and the Kidnappers, originally aired February 3, 1959
The Bob Cummings Show, episode Bachelor Apartment, originally aired March 20, 1955
Climax!, episode Epitaph for a Spy, originally aired December 9, 1954

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Watch Dave O'Brien in the 1940 PRC horror/comedy flick The Devil Bat
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