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Donald O'Connor

in I Love Melvin
Born Donald David Dixon Ronald O’Connor
August 28, 1925(1925-08-28)
Chicago, Illinois,
United States
Died September 27, 2003 (aged 78)
Calabasas, California,
United States
Occupation Actor, dancer, singer
Years active 1937–1997
Spouse(s) Gwen Carter (1944-1954)
Gloria Noble (1956-2003)

Donald David Dixon Ronald O’Connor (August 28, 1925 – September 27, 2003) was an American dancer, singer, and actor who came to fame in a series of movies in which he co-starred alternately with Gloria Jean, Peggy Ryan, and Francis the Talking Mule. Perhaps his most famous performance was as Gene Kelly's friend and colleague in Singin' in the Rain (1952).

Contents

Life and career

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Early years

Though he considered Danville, Illinois to be his home town, O’Connor was born in St. Elizabeth Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. His parents were Irish American vaudeville entertainers. When O'Connor was only a few years old, he and his sister Arlene were in a car crash outside a theater in Hartford, Connecticut; O'Connor survived, but his sister was killed. Several weeks later, his father died of a heart attack while dancing on stage in Brockton, Massachusetts. O'Connor at the time was being held in the arms of the theater manager Mr. Maurice Sims.

Career

O'Connor began performing in movies in 1937. He appeared opposite Bing Crosby in Sing, You Sinners, and at age 12 showed excellent comedic timing. Paramount Pictures used him in both A and B films, including Tom Sawyer, Detective and Beau Geste. In 1940, when he had outgrown child roles, he returned to vaudeville.

In 1942 O'Connor joined Universal Pictures. He played roles in four of the Gloria Jean musicals, and achieved stardom with Mister Big (1943).

The handprints of Donald O'Connor in front of The Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park.

In 1944, O'Connor was drafted into the Army. Before he reported for induction, Universal Pictures rushed him through three feature films, done simultaneously and released when he was overseas. After his discharge, Universal (now reorganized as Universal-International) cast him in lightweight musicals and comedies.

In 1949, he played the lead role in Francis, the story of a soldier befriended by a talking mule. The film was a huge success. However, his musical career was constantly interrupted by his making one Francis film a year until 1955. It was because of Francis that O'Connor missed out on playing Bing Crosby's companion in White Christmas. O'Connor was unavailable because he contracted an illness transmitted by the mule, and was replaced in the film by Danny Kaye. O'Connor's role as Cosmo the piano player in Singin' in the Rain earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Comedy or Musical.

Donald O'Connor was a regular host of NBC's popular Colgate Comedy Hour. He hosted a color television special on NBC in 1957, one of the earliest color programs to be preserved on a color kinescope; an excerpt of the telecast was included in NBC's 50th anniversary special in 1976. He also had a television series in the late 1960s.

After overcoming alcoholism in the 1970s, he had a career boost when he hosted the Oscar Awards, which earned him two Primetime Emmy nominations. He appeared as a gaslight-era entertainer in the 1981 film Ragtime, notable for similar encore performances by James Cagney and Pat O'Brien. O'Connor appeared in the short-lived Bring Back Birdie on Broadway in 1981, and continued to make film and television appearances into the 1990s. Donald O'Connor's last feature film was the Jack Lemmon-Walter Matthau comedy Out to Sea, in which he played a dance host on a cruise ship. O’Connor was still making public appearances well into 2003.

Death

Donald O'Connor died from congestive heart failure in 2003 at age 78. He is reported to have expressed tongue-in-cheek "thanks" to the Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement that he expected to receive at a future date. He was cremated and buried at the Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles.

O'Connor was survived by his wife, Gloria, and four children.

Filmography

Film

  • It Can't Last Forever (1937)
  • Men with Wings (1938)
  • Sing You Sinners (1938)
  • Sons of the Legion (1938)
  • Tom Sawyer, Detective (1938)
  • Boy Trouble (1939)
  • Unmarried (1939)
  • Million Dollar Legs (1939)
  • Beau Geste (1939)
  • Night Work (1939)
  • Death of a Champion (1939)
  • On Your Toes (1939)
  • What's Cookin'? (1942)
  • Private Buckaroo (1942)
  • Give Out, Sisters (1942)
  • Get Hep to Love (1942)
  • When Johnny Comes Marching Home (1942)
  • It Comes Up Love (1943)
  • Mister Big (1943)
  • Top Man (1943)
  • Chip Off the Old Block (1944)
  • Follow the Boys (1944)
  • This Is the Life (1944)
  • The Merry Monahans (1944)
  • Bowery to Broadway (1944)
  • Patrick the Great (1945)
  • Something in the Wind (1947)
  • Are You with It? (1948)
  • Feudin', Fussin', and A-Fightin' (1948)

Television

External links


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