Arthur O'Connell

Active - 1938 - 1975  |   Born - Mar 29, 1908 in New York City, New York, United States  |   Died - May 18, 1981   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Romance

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Biography by AllMovie

A veteran vaudevillian, American actor Arthur O'Connell made his legitimate stage debut in the mid '30s, at which time he fell within the orbit of Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre. Welles cast O'Connell in the tiny role of a reporter in the closing scenes of Citizen Kane (1941), a film often referred to as O'Connell's film debut, though in fact he had already appeared in Freshman Year (1939) and had costarred in two Leon Errol short subjects as Leon's conniving brother-in-law. After numerous small movie parts, O'Connell returned to Broadway, where he appeared as the erstwhile middle-aged swain of a spinsterish schoolteacher in Picnic -- a role he'd recreate in the 1956 film version, earning an Oscar nomination in the process. The somewhat downtrodden-looking O'Connell was frequently cast as fortyish losers and alcoholics; in the latter capacity he appeared as Jimmy Stewart's boozy attorney mentor in Anatomy of a Murder (1959), and the result was another Oscar nomination. O'Connell continued appearing in choice character parts on both TV and films during the '60s (he'd graduated to villainy in a few of these roles), but avoided a regular television series, holding out until he could be assured top billing. The actor accepted the part of a man who discovers that his 99-year-old father has been frozen in an iceberg on the 1967 sitcom The Second Hundred Years, assuming he'd be billed first per the producers' agreement. Instead, top billing went to newcomer Monty Markham in the dual role of O'Connell's father (the ice had preserved his youthfulness) and his son. O'Connell accepted the demotion to second billing as well as could be expected, but he never again trusted the word of any Hollywood executive. Illness forced O'Connell to cut down on his appearances in the mid '70s, but the actor stayed busy as a commercial spokesman for a popular toothpaste. At the time of his death, O'Connell was appearing solely in these commercials -- by his own choice. For a mere few hours' work each year, Arthur O'Connell remained financially solvent 'til the end of his days.

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