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Arthur O'Connell
Arthur O'Connell in Bus Stop trailer cropped.jpg
From Bus Stop (1956)
Born (1908-03-29)March 29, 1908
New York City, NY, U.S.
Died May 18, 1981(1981-05-18) (aged 73)
Resting place Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York
Occupation Stage, film, and television actor
Years active 1929–1981
Ann Hall Dunlop
(m. 1962; div. 1972)

Arthur Joseph O'Connell (March 29, 1908 – May 18, 1981) was an American stage, film and television actor, who achieved prominence in character roles in the 1950s. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for both Picnic (1955) and Anatomy of a Murder (1959).

Early life

Arthur O'Connell was born to Julia (née Byrne) & Michael O'Connell on March 29, 1908, in Manhattan, New York. His father died when O'Connell was two; he lost his mother when he was 12. He was the youngest of four children. His siblings were William, Kathleen, and Juliette. William, the eldest, became a justice of the New York State Supreme Court and died in 1972.

After his father's death, Arthur was sent to live in Flushing, New York with his mother's sister, Mrs. Charles Koetzner, while his sisters moved in with other relatives and William remained with his mother. Arthur attended St John's College for two years. His early jobs included working in the engineering department of New York Edison, as a salesman at R.H. Macy and as a door-to-door salesman of magazines.


Early roles

O'Connell went into acting in 1929, landing a role in summer stock at the Frankin Stock Company in Dorchester, Massachusetts, playing a role in The Patsy. In 1934 his career was interrupted by a bout of encephalitis, which required a seven-month stay at the Flower Hospital in New York City. He recovered in a sanitarium for the indigent, and for a time was on home relief living in a cheap room, subsisting on "milk, raw eggs and bananas."

He made his legitimate stage debut in the middle 1930s, appearing in various roles in theater and vaudeville in the U.S, and in London.

O'Connell's had small film roles early in his career. His film debut was as a student in Freshman Year (1938) and he appeared in a small role as a reporter in Citizen Kane (1941). He costarred in two Leon Errol short subjects as Errol's conniving brother-in-law.

He entered the army in 1945 and served in the Signal Corps. After his discharge he was spotted in little theatre by Charles Laughton and joined a travelling Shakesperean company. His film roles remained insubstantial, playing a detective in The Naked City (1948) and a reporter the 1948 film State of the Union.

Picnic and success

Bus Stop trailer screenshot 3
Bus Stop (1956)

His career breakthrough came on Broadway, where he originated the role of Howard Bevans, the middle-aged swain of a spinsterish schoolteacher in Picnic. He recreated the Bevans role in the 1955 film version, opposite Rosalind Russell as the schoolteacher, earning an Oscar nomination. As a result of his critically praised performance in the stage and film roles, he was heavily in demand, resulting in "six good roles in rapid succession." O'Connell made more money in one year after Picnic than in the preceding 25 years.

After Picnic, he appeared in another Joshua Logan film, Bus Stop, in 1956, as the commonsensical friend of the lead, played by Don Murray. In that same year he appeared in Solid Gold Cadillac, playing a kindly office manager in love with Judy Holliday. His performance as James Stewart's mentor in Anatomy of a Murder (1959) resulted in a second Oscar nomination.

He also frequently appeared as a paterfamilias in movies starring teen idols such as Elvis Presley, Pat Boone and Fabian.

In 1959, O'Connell played the part of Chief Petty Officer Sam Tostin, engine room chief of the fictional World War II submarine USS Sea Tiger, opposite Cary Grant and Tony Curtis in Operation Petticoat. In 1961, O'Connell played the role of Grandpa Clarence Beebe in the children's film Misty, the screen adaptation of Marguerite Henry's story Misty of Chincoteague. In 1962, he portrayed the father of Elvis Presley's character in the motion picture Follow That Dream, and in 1964 in the Presley-picture Kissin' Cousins. In the same year, O'Connell portrayed the idealist-turned-antagonist Clint Stark in The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, which has become a cult classic, and in which O'Connell's is the only character other than star Tony Randall to appear as one of the "7 faces." O'Connell continued appearing in choice character parts on both television and films during the 1960s, but avoided a regular television series, holding out until he could be assured top billing.

On Christmas Day, 1962, O'Connell was cast as Clayton Dodd in the episode "Green, Green Hills" of the western series Empire, starring Richard Egan as the rancher Jim Redigo. This episode features Dayton Lummis as Jason Simms and Joanna Moore as Althea Dodd. In 1966, he guest-starred as a scientist who regretfully realized that he has created an all-powerful android in an episode of the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, titled "The Mechanical Man." In the February 1967 episode "Never Look Back" of the TV series Lassie, he played Luther Jennings, an elderly ranger who monitors the survey tower at Strawberry Peak and who takes it hard when he finds he'll lose his job when the tower is slated for destruction.

In 1967, O'Connell co-starred with Monte Markham in The Second Hundred Years, playing the aging son of a gold miner who was frozen for a hundred years in Alaska. The series lasted for one season.

He worked in commercials, playing a friendly pharmacist as a spokesperson for Crest. He made his final film appearance in The Hiding Place (1975), portraying a Dutch watch-maker who hides Jews during World War II. Alzheimer's disease forced his retirement in the mid-1970s.

Personal life

In the late 1950s, O'Connell jointly owned a race horse, April Love, with the singer Pat Boone.

In 1962, O'Connell married Ann Hall Dunlop (née Ann Byrd Hall; 1917–2000) of Washington, D.C., widow of William Laird Dunlop III (1909–1960). They met at the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, and divorced in December 1972 in Los Angeles.

On May 18, 1981, O'Connell died of Alzheimer's disease at the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles. He was interred at Calvary Cemetery, Queens, New York.


Year Title Role Notes
1938 Freshman Year Student Uncredited
1939 Murder in Soho Lefty
1940 And One Was Beautiful Moroni's Parking Attendant Uncredited
Two Girls on Broadway Reporter at Wedding Uncredited
I Take This Oath Court Clerk Uncredited
The Golden Fleecing Cameraman Uncredited
Dr. Kildare Goes Home New Interne Uncredited
The Leather Pushers Reporter Uncredited
Hullabaloo Fourth Page Uncredited
1941 Lucky Devils Pilot Uncredited
Citizen Kane Reporter Uncredited
1942 Man from Headquarters Goldie Shores
Law of the Jungle Simmons
Yokel Boy Second Assistant Director Uncredited
Canal Zone New Recruit Uncredited
Shepherd of the Ozarks Bruce Uncredited
Blondie's Blessed Event Interne Uncredited
Fingers at the Window Photographer Uncredited
Hello, Annapolis Pharmacist Mate Uncredited
1948 Open Secret Carter
The Naked City Sgt. Shaeffer Uncredited
State of the Union First Reporter Uncredited
Homecoming Ambulance Attendant Uncredited
One Touch of Venus Reporter Uncredited
The Countess of Monte Cristo Assistant Director Jensen
Force of Evil Link Hall Uncredited
1950 Love That Brute Newspaperman at Funeral Uncredited
1951 The Whistle at Eaton Falls Jim Brewster
1955 Picnic Howard Bevans
1956 The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit Gordon Walker
The Proud Ones Jim Dexter
The Solid Gold Cadillac Mark Jenkins
Bus Stop Virgil Blessing
The Monte Carlo Story M. Homer Hinkley
1957 Operation Mad Ball Col. Rousch
The Violators Solomon Baumgarden
April Love Uncle Jed Bruce
1958 Voice in the Mirror William R. 'Bill' Tobin
Man of the West Sam Beasley
1959 Gidget Russell Lawrence
Anatomy of a Murder Parnell Emmett McCarthy
Hound-Dog Man Aaron McKinney
Operation Petticoat Chief Machinist's Mate Sam Tostin
1960 Cimarron Tom Wyatt
1961 The Great Impostor Warden J.B. Chandler
Misty Clarence Beebe
A Thunder of Drums Sgt. Karl Rodermill
Pocketful of Miracles Count Alfonso Romero
1962 Follow That Dream Pop Kwimper
1964 Kissin' Cousins Pappy Tatum
7 Faces of Dr. Lao Clint Stark
Your Cheatin' Heart Fred Rose
1965 Nightmare in the Sun Sam Wilson
‘’The Big Valley’’ Jubal Tanner Season 1 Episode 5
The Monkey's Uncle Darius Green III
The Great Race Henry Goodbody
The Third Day Dr. Wheeler
1966 Ride Beyond Vengeance The Narrator
The Silencers Joe Wigman
Fantastic Voyage Colonel Donald Reid
Birds Do It Prof. Wald
1967 A Covenant with Death Judge Hockstadter
The Reluctant Astronaut Arbuckle Fleming
1967-1968 The Second Hundred Years Edwin Carpenter TV series
1968 The Power Professor Henry Hallson
If He Hollers, Let Him Go! Prosecutor
1970 Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came Mr. Kruft
There Was a Crooked Man... Mr. Lomax
Do Not Throw Cushions Into the Ring Business Agent
1971 The Last Valley Hoffman
1972 Ben Billy Hatfield
They Only Kill Their Masters Ernie
The Poseidon Adventure Chaplain John
1972 The Jimmy Stewart Show Claude Peebles Episode "Old School Ties"
1973 Wicked, Wicked Mr. Fenley
1974 Huckleberry Finn Col. Grangerford
1975 Emergency! Mr. Metfort Season 5, Episode 9
1975 The Hiding Place Caspar ten Boom

See also

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