John B. O'Brien

John B. "Jack" O'Brien (December 13, 1884 August 15, 1936) was an American actor and film director of the silent era. He appeared in 88 films between 1909 and 1936. He also directed 53 films between 1914 and 1926.

John B. O'Brien
Detail of advertisement showing
O'Brien in the 1920 film Bride 13
Born(1884-12-13)December 13, 1884
DiedAugust 15, 1936(1936-08-15) (aged 51)
Years active1909-1936


O'Brien was born in Roanoke, Virginia. He attended St. John's College[1] in Brooklyn, New York, and was planning on becoming a lawyer.[2] However, Daniel Frohman persuaded him to change his mind and try a stage career instead.[2]

He performed as a juvenile lead for the Augustus Thomas Company, beginning with the play Alabama,[1] and later for Essanay Studios.[2] He also worked as a cameraman for Broncho Billy Anderson and wrote scenarios for Essanay.[2]

According to two sources, in July 1911, O'Brien was lured away from Essanay to direct the film The Life of Buffalo Bill, featuring Buffalo Bill himself.[2][3] According to one of these sources, the book Buffalo Bill on the Silver Screen: The Films of William F. Cody, O'Brien had to shoot the film while the Wild West show was on tour.[3] It was supposedly the first[2] or one of the first[3][4] five-reel feature movies. However, the opening credits of the film itself state that it is only three reels long.[5] (To confuse the issue even further, there is another 1912 film with exactly the same title, directed by Paul Panzer.[6])

Some sources state he worked on D. W. Griffith's ground-breaking epic The Birth of a Nation.[2][4] He directed for Famous Players and later Metro Pictures.[1]

He died in Hollywood, California.[2] He was survived by his wife.[2]

Partial filmography

As actor
As director


  1. "John B. O'Brien Signs as Metro Director". Altoona Tribune. November 8, 1916 via
  2. Q. David Bowers (1995). "O'Brien, John B." Thanhouser Company.
  3. Sagala, Sandra K. (August 13, 2013). Buffalo Bill on the Silver Screen: The Films of William F. Cody. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 41–42. ISBN 9780806150802. Retrieved July 4, 2017.
  4. "Obituary". Pittsburgh Press. August 17, 1936.
  5. The Life of Buffalo Bill. 1912. Blackhawk Films. Retrieved July 4, 2017.
  6. "The Life of Buffalo Bill".
  7. Katchmer, George A. (May 8, 2002). A Biographical Dictionary of Silent Film Western Actors and Actresses. McFarland. p. 284. ISBN 9780786446933. Retrieved July 4, 2017.
  8. Fleming, E.J. (October 25, 2013). Wallace Reid: The Life and Death of a Hollywood Idol. McFarland. p. 67. ISBN 9780786482665. Retrieved July 6, 2017.
  9. Goble, Alan (January 1, 1999). The Complete Index to Literary Sources in Film. Walter de Gruyter. p. 893. ISBN 9783110951943. Retrieved July 6, 2017.
  10. Goble, Alan (January 1, 1999). The Complete Index to Literary Sources in Film. Walter de Gruyter. p. 309. ISBN 9783110951943. Retrieved July 6, 2017.
  11. Zmuda, Michael (April 30, 2015). The Five Sedgwicks: Pioneer Entertainers of Vaudeville, Film and Television. McFarland. p. 130. ISBN 9781476617817. Retrieved July 6, 2017.
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