• 18 March 1885
  •  Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Robert Emmett O'Connor


Stalwart Irish-American character actor Robert Emmet O'Connor, who was born on March 18, 1885, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He made his bones performing in circuses and in vaudeville. He made his Broadway debut in the musical "Fritz in Tammany Hall" at the Herald Square Theatre on October 16, 1905, ultimately appearing in 13 musical comedies and operettas on the Great White Way through 1930 (he also appeared in four straight plays during that period, mostly comedies such as "The Old Soak" during the 1922-23 season). After 1930, he never appeared on Broadway again, focusing instead on his movie career. He made his movie debut in 1920 in the Harold Lloyd comedy short His Royal Slyness (1920), directed by Hal Roach. He made six comedies for the Hal Roach Studios in the years 1920-21, including one more Harold Lloyd vehicle, Never Weaken (1921), before taking a five-year hiatus from films. He returned in the Thomas Meighan drama, Tin Gods (1926), directed by Allan Dwan, then spent the next 24 years acting in movies. In 1930, he went back to the Roach Studio to support Laurel and Hardy in two Spanish language shorts, then moved over to Warner Bros. as a bit player. He played the Irish bootlegger Paddy Ryan in the classic The Public Enemy (1931) in support of fellow Irish-American James Cagney, and appeared in another classic, Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933). He then settled into being typecast as Irish cops. After he moved on to MGM, the typecasting led to one of his most famous roles: the plain-clothes detective in pursuit of the Marx Brothers in A Night at the Opera (1935). During the 1940s, still under contract player to MGM, he was kept busy, appearing in every genre, including the "Our Gang" comedies. His last film role was as the Paramount Studios' guard who remembers Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard (1950). He virtually retired from his acting career at the age of 65, though he made some television appearances in the 1950s. Robert Emmett O'Connor died on September 4, 1962, of injuries sustained in a fire. He was 77 years old.