Born Hugh Charles Krampe on the 19th April 1925 in Rochester, New York State USA, Hugh O’Brian was an award-winning actor and humanitarian, remembered for his roles as Wyatt Earp in the TV series “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp” (1955-1961), as Hugh Lombard in the film “Ten Little Indians” (1965), and as Granger in “Twins” (1988), among many other appearances. His career was active from 1948 until 2000. He passed away in 2016.
Have you ever wondered how rich Hugh O’Brian was at the time of his death? According to authoritative sources it has been estimated that O’Brian’s net worth was as high as $10 million, an amount earned through his successful career in the entertainment industry, during which he made more than 100 film and TV appearances.
Hugh O’Brian Net Worth $10 Million
Hugh was the son of Hugh John Krampe and his wife Edith Lillian (née Marks), and was of German, English and Scottish ancestry. Although born in Rochester, he and his family moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1930, due to his father’s position at the Armstrong Cork Company. Four years later they moved to Chicago, Illinois, again because of his father’s promotion. He went to New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, and then transferred to Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri, where he excelled in football, wrestling, basketball and track. After high school matriculation, Hugh enrolled at the University of Cincinnati, however after only one semester he dropped out of studies and enlisted in the US Marine Corps after World War II started, and soon became the youngest Marine drill instructor at only 17 years old.
Having returned from the Marines, Hugh settled in Los Angeles and enrolled Yale University, studying to become a lawyer. However, at the time he was dating an actress and would often follow her on her classes and rehearsals, which led to Hugh reading lines of the “Home and Beauty” play for director Ida Lupino, after the lead actor didn’t show up. Eventually he became a replacement on stage and the play received rave reviews. The next thing was Hugh being signed by an agent, and changing the name from Hugh Krampe to Hugh O’Brien, his mother’s last name, however it was misspelled and he became Hugh O’Brian.
Ida Lupino then gave him a role in the drama “Never Fear” (1949), which marked the start of his professional career, as he signed a contract with the Universal Pictures. In the early ‘50s Hugh appeared in numerous films, mostly westerns, including “Vengeance Valley” (1951), “The Lawless Breed” (1952), “The Raiders” (1952), and the Golden Globe Award- winning “The Man from the Alamo” (1953), starring Glenn Ford, Julie Adams, and Chill Wills. Two years later, he made his breakthrough with the role of legendary lawman Wyatt Earp, in the TV series “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp” (1955-1961), which increased his net worth to a large degree. During his stint in the show, Hugh remained active in other endeavors, including a supporting role in the film “The Twinkle in God’s Eye” (1955) starring Mickey Rooney, and the lead role in the film “The Brass Legend” (1956), among several other one-time appearances in TV series, such as “Date with the Angels” (1957). Although he established himself for his roles in western films, from the start of the ‘60s, Hugh differed from his typecast character by appearing in such productions as “Feathertop” (1961), “Come Fly with Me” (1963), “Ten Little Indians” (1965), and “Wild Woman” in 1970.
Throughout the ‘70s he made several notable appearances all of which certainly increased his net worth, including in the thriller “Probe” (1972), then the Academy Award- nominated “The Shootist”, starring John Wayne and Lauren Bacall, “Game of Death” (1978), with the legendary Bruce Lee, among other appearances.
From the end of the ‘70s he started slowly to retreat from the acting scene, but still appeared in several productions such as the sci-fi comedy “Doin’ Time on Planet Earth”, and another comedy “Twins” (1988), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito. Before his full-retirement, Hugh featured as Wyatt Earp in several productions, including the TV series “Guns of Paradise” (1989), television films “The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw” (1991), “Wyatt Earp: Returns to Tombstone” (1994), all maintaining his net worth.
Regarding his personal life, he was married to Virginia Barber from 2006 until his death; this was his only marriage – the couple previously dated for 18 years. He has a son, which is a result of his relationship with photographer Adina Etkes. Hugh O’Brian passed away from natural causes at the age of 91 on the 5th September 2016, at his estate in Beverly Hills, California.
Hugh will also be remembered for his philanthropic endeavors; he started the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Foundation, which is a non-profit organization that focuses on establishing scholarships for disadvantaged high school children.
Handsome, square-jawed and athletically fit, the dark-haired Hugh O'Brian appeared in a string of films and television anthology series in the years before he became a star portraying the real-life most celebrated peace officer and lawman of the Old West - "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp," which ran on ABC Television from 1955-1961. Until "The life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" debuted in September 1955, most TV Westerns - "The Lone Ranger," "Hopalong Cassidy," the singing cowboys' series - were aimed at adolescent boys. "Wyatt Earp," on the other hand, was based on a real-life Western hero, and some of it's stories were authentic. The real Earp lived from 1848 to 1929. TV's first adult western, "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" became a top-20-rated television network (ABC) hit series until 1960, but it was canceled the following year after being supplanted by the avalanche of other adult Westerns. Critics quickly praised it making O'Brian a household name. Portraying what the show's theme song described as the "brave, courageous and bold" frontier lawman, O'Brian wore a black frock coat, a gold brocade vest, a string black tie and a flat-brimmed black hat - and he kept the peace with the help of a "Buntline Special"; a .45 revolver with an extra-long barrel. In portraying the sheriff Wyatt Earp, O'Brian at age 30, became known for his quick draw. "I didn't want to force the cinema photographer and the director into having to cut away whenever that happened; I wanted it to be realistic," O'Brian reported in a 2005 "EMMY Archive of American Television" interview. O'Brian spent hundreds of hours practicing the draw, the result of which, he said, "became a very big promotional tool ... and everybody talked about my quick draw." During the series' run, O'Brian separated from Earp. He did it by doing a lot of out-side acting - on anthology television series such as "Playhouse 90" and "Desilu Playhouse." O'Brian continued to work frequently in movies, television and theater through the 1990s, although he never again achieved the prominence he enjoyed as Wyatt Earp. A stint on Broadway, replacing the original star Andy Griffith for Griffith's one week vacation from the musical, (01/04/1960-to-01/10/1960) performing the lead role of "Destry" (at his age of 35) opposite Dolores Gray as "Frenchy" starring in the stage musical comedy "Destry Rides Again" (04/23/1959-06/18/1960; 472 performances). Opening on December 25, 1961 in an extremely short run, closing after 24 performances on January 13, 1962, O'Brian was the lead role performing as "Romain" in the Broadway play "First Love." Decades later, O'Brian showed up as Wyatt Earp in two 1989 television episodes of the TV western "Paradise." He also appeared as Earp in the 1991 Kenny Rogers TV miniseries "The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw." And he starred in "Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone," a 1994 TV movie that included flash-backs to scenes from his original filmed ABC television series. As O'Brian once said of the TV western that made him a star: "It's been a great horse, and she keeps coming around the corral." Among his post-"Wyatt Earp" film credits were "Come Fly With Me," "Africa - Texas Style," "The Shootist" and "Twins." He also starred in the 1972-73 NBC adventure series "Search," did more stage work and made guest appearances on television series such as Irwin Allen's "Fantasy Island" and Aaron Spelling's "The Love Boat".
O'Brian's most enduring legacy is off-screen. More than 375,000 high school sophomores selected by their schools have gone through his "Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership" organization, which was founded "to inspire and develop our global community of youth and volunteers to a life dedicated to leadership, service and innovation." The non-profit organization grew out of an invitation to O'Brian from Dr. Albert Schweitzer to visit the medical missionary, a 1952 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, at his famed Africa hospital. O'Brian, at age 33, spent nine days working as a volunteer at the hospital on the banks of the Ogooue River in Gabon during the summer of 1958. For O'Brian, it was a life-changing experience. After dinner each evening, O'Brian and Schweitzer would spend hours talking. As O'Brian was getting ready to depart down river, he later recalled, Schweitzer took his hand and asked, "Hugh, what are you going to do with this?" On his flight back to the United States, O'Brian reflected on Schweitzer's comment that "the most important part of education is teaching young people to think for themselves".
In what was described as "the wedding to die for," in June 2006, at age 81, O'Brian wed 54-year-old Virginia Barbara for the first time. He and his long-time girlfriend wed at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. "I said goodbye, early this Monday morning, (September 5, 2016), to my favorite cowboy," his wife wrote upon his death at 91 years of age, "I was one lucky cowgirl." O'Brian is survived by his wife Virginia, his brother, Don Krampe; and several nieces and nephews.
Born Hugh Krampe in Rochester, N.Y., on April 19, 1925, Hugh enlisted in the Marine Corps at 18 years of age in 1943 and was assigned as a drill instructor in San Diego. With hopes of becoming a lawyer, O'Brian was scheduled to begin attending Yale University on the G.I. Bill in the fall of 1947. He spent the spring and summer in Los Angeles, working to earn enough money to buy a car to drive east, including working at Schwab's Sunset Strip Drugstore as a ice-cream-soda-bar-jerk, but had an unexpected change of plans when the actress he was dating began rehearsals for the Somerset Maugham play "Home and Beauty" at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. "If I wanted to see her, I had to go to rehearsals," recalling in a 2009 Los Angeles Times interview. When the leading man didn't show up on the second or third night of rehearsals, O'Brian was asked to read the leading man's role. "After about four days, they realized the guy wasn't going to come back ... We did the show and a reporter for the L.A. Times came down to see it and the next day, he wrote a tremendous review... That's how I got started." The show's playbill, however, misspelled his name. "They left the 'm' out of Krampe," O'Brian said in a 2013 L.A.Times interview. "I decided right then I didn't want to go through life being known as 'Hugh Krape,' so I decided to take my mother's family name, 'O'Brien.' But they misspelled it as 'O'Brian' and I just decided to stay with that." A third-billed starring role as a wheelchair-bound paraplegic in the Ida Lupino-directed 1950 movie drama "Never Fear" marked what O'Brian, at age 25, later described as his "real beginning" as an actor. A contract with Universal Studios followed.
Hugh O'Brian was one of the founders of the Thailans, a show-business charitable organization formed in 1955 to raise money for children with mental health problems. In 1964, he established the "Hugh O'Brian Acting Awards" competition at Westwood's University of California, Los Angeles.
He was known to be a very private person.
He was a staunch Republican and conservative.
Hugh's paternal grandparents, Frederick Krampe and Wilhelmina Oldenburger, were German immigrants. Hugh's maternal grandfather, Leo Marks, was born in Ohio, to German Jewish parents, while Hugh's maternal grandmother, Mary Alice Luker, had deep roots in the United States, going back to the 1600s (she had English and Scottish ancestry).
Dedicated much of his life working for the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), a non-profit development program for high school scholars.
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6613 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on February 8, 1960.
Broke into acting by happenstance. Dating an actress in Los Angeles at the time, he visited her at a couple of her rehearsals for a play. The director asked Hugh to step in after the leading man dropped out of the show. An Los Angeles Times reporter saw the production and gave Hugh excellent reviews.
He became the youngest drill instructor in the Marine Corps, and during his four years of service received a coveted Fleet appointment to the Naval Academy, which he declined. In 1972, O'Brian was awarded one of the nation's highest honors, the Freedom Through Knowledge Award, sponsored by the National Space Club in association with NASA. In 1974, he was awarded the George Washington Honor Medal, highest award of the Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge, as well as the Globe and Anchor Award from the Marine Corps. In 1976, the Veterans of Foreign Wars also honored him with an award.
Elected Freshman Class president at Los Angeles City College.
Hugh O'Brian and teacher Virginia Barber had dated for 18 years before their marriage on June 25, 2006, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. This was his first and only marriage; her second. She was 54; he was 81. The Rev. Robert H. Schuller, pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, officiated, and the couple was serenaded by close friend Debbie Reynolds. Dubbed "A Wedding to Die For", the ceremony concluded with a cocktail reception.
Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1992.
Hugh's vast investments over the years have been wise and fruitful with dividends paying well in stocks and bonds, real estate, bowling alleys, a building equipment firm, a theatre-in-the-round, an oil syndicate and his own television production company.
Once recorded an album of popular songs and sang on the Ed Sullivan, Dinah Shore and Jackie Gleason variety shows.
Was awarded one of the space community's highest honors with the 1972 Freedom Award for his variety of space-oriented projects, including the Hugh O'Brien Youth Foundation seminars at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Hugh O'Brian Acting Awards Competition was developed in 1964 at the University of California, Los Angeles with cash awards going to acting talents.
He was one of the first celebrities to frontline tours of Vietnam at the request of the State Department, Hugh once staged and directed a company of "Guys and Dolls" which toured Vietnam, Thailand and Japan for the troops.
Attended the (now defunct) Kemper Military School in Booneville, Missouri.
Attended New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, but did not graduate.
Was once a soda-jerk at Schwab's drug store on Sunset Boulevard.
I believe every person is created as the steward of his or her own destiny with great power for a specific purpose: To share with others, through service, a reverence for life in a spirit of love.