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Joan O'Brien (born February 14, 1936) is an American actress and singer. She made a name for herself acting in television shows in the 1950s and 1960s and as a film co-star with Cary Grant, Elvis Presley, John Wayne, and Jerry Lewis.

Joan O'Brien
Joan O'Brien in It Happened at the World's Fair.jpg
O'Brien in a 1962 publicity photo
Joan Marie O'Brien

(1936-02-14) February 14, 1936 (age 83)
OccupationActress, singer
Years active1958–1965
Spouse(s)Billy Strange (1954–1956) (divorced) 1 child
John F. Meyers (1957–1960) (divorced) 1 child
Harvey Allen Godorov (1963–1964) (divorced)
Dino Kotopoulis (1966–1967) (divorced)
Lt. Col. Malcolm Bernard Campbell (1979–2004) (his death)


Early lifeEdit

Joan Marie O'Brien was born to David and Rita O'Brien on Valentine's Day 1936, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The family moved to California when O'Brien was a child and enrolled her in dance classes when she was eight years old. O'Brien graduated from Chaffey Union High School in Ontario, California.[1]


O'Brien's singing abilities came to the attention of entertainer and Country Music Hall of Fame member Cliffie Stone, who hired her as a regular performer on his television show Hometown Jamboree before her high school graduation. In 1954, she became a regular on The Bob Crosby Show and stayed until shortly before the show's cancellation in 1958.[1] She co-starred with Cary Grant and Tony Curtis in the 1959 film Operation Petticoat.[1]

Lawrence Welk hired O'Brien as a one-week replacement for his champagne lady Alice Lon in July 1959. O'Brien had come to Welk's attention years earlier when she was a singer on Bob Crosby's show, but Welk decided not to hire her at that time because she was still a teenager.[2]

With Raymond Burr in Perry Mason, 1960

O'Brien was cast as survivor Susanna Dickinson in John Wayne's 1960 epic feature film retelling of battle of The Alamo.[3][4] That same year, O'Brien performed as a soloist for composer Buddy Bregman at the Moulin Rouge night club in Los Angeles.[5] In 1961 O'Brien again co-starred with John Wayne as his love interest in The Comancheros.[6]

Actors Sheree North, Sabrina, and Sue Carson joined O'Brien in a tour of Playgirls in 1961, appearing at the Riverside Hotel in Reno, Nevada.[1]

O'Brien played Elvis Presley's girlfriend in the 1963 film It Happened at the World's Fair.[7]

Her most frequent acting performances were in television during the 1960s. She made two guest appearances on Perry Mason: in 1960 she played Betty Roberts in "The Case of the Singing Skirt", and in 1965 she played Jill Fenwick in "The Case of the Lover's Gamble". In 1964 O'Brien guest starred in an episode of The Man from UNCLE. Series star Robert Vaughn subsequently cast her as Ophelia in Hamlet at the Pasadena Playhouse.[8]

After her acting career ended, O'Brien sang with the Harry James band in 1968.[9]


Year Title Role Notes
1949 Hometown Jamboree Herself as Joanie O'Brien
1954 The Bob Crosby Show Herself Regular performer
1955 The Easter Seal Teleparade of Stars Herself as Joanie O'Brien, singer
1957 Shower of Stars Herself as Joanie O'Brien
1958 M Squad Marla Ross The Take Over
1959 Riverboat Sonja Torgin The Fight Back
1959 Markham Julia Conrad We Are All Suspect
1959 Man Without a Gun Ellen Duncan Face of the Moon
1959 Bat Masterson Dolores Clark One Bullet from Broken Bow
1959 Bat Masterson Dora Miller Shakedown at St. Joe
1960 Bat Masterson Eileen McDermott High Card Loses
1960 Wagon Train Candy O'Hara The Candy O'Hara Story
1960 Cheyenne Selma Dawson Incident at Dawson Flats
1960 Wagon Train Victoria The Luke Grant Story
1960 The Westerner Libby The Courting of Libby
1960 The Islanders Ann Brenner The Terrified Blonde
1960 Lock-Up Claudia Scott Flying High
1960 The Deputy Emily Price Meet Sergeant Tasker
1960 The Chevy Mystery Show Susan Hudson Enough Rope
1960 Bronco Judith Castle La Rubia
1960 The Alaskans Fay Campbell Kangaroo Court
1960 Perry Mason Betty Roberts The Case of the Singing Skirt
1960 Bachelor Father Janice McCleery Kelly, the Matchmaker
1960 Bachelor Father Janice McCleery Dear Bentley
1961 Bachelor Father Janice McCleery Kelly's Graduation
1961 Surfside 6 Linda Faris Jonathan Wembley Is Missing
1961 The Roaring 20's Mona Fenton No Exit
1961 Whispering Smith Marilyn Manning The Idol
1961 Adventures in Paradise Lila Simmons Wild Mangoes
1961 Bringing Up Buddy Ruth Grayson The Singer
1961 G.E. True Meryle Tippy-Top
1962 Rawhide Melinda Stimson The Pitchwagon
1962 Bus Stop Julie The Ordeal of Kevin Brooke
1962 Follow the Sun Nita Parker Annie Beeler's Place
1962 The Tall Man The Impatient Brides
1962 Outlaws Laurie A Bit of Glory
1963 The Dick Van Dyke Show Jane Leighton The Foul Weather Girl
1964 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Chris Brinel The Green Opal Affair
1964 The Virginian Joan The Dark Challenge
1964 The Lieutenant Ruth Lament for a Dead Goldbrick
1965 Perry Mason Jill Fenwick The Case of the Lover's Gamble


Year Title Role Notes
1958 Handle with Care Mary Judson
1959 Operation Petticoat Lt. Dolores Crandall RN
1960 The Alamo Susanna Dickinson
1961 The Comancheros Melinda Marshall
1962 Six Black Horses Kelly
1962 Samar Cecile Salazar
1962 It's Only Money Wanda Paxton
1962 We Joined the Navy Lt. Carol Blair
1963 It Happened at the World's Fair Diane Warren
1964 Get Yourself a College Girl Marge Endicott


  1. ^ a b c d Lisanti, Tom (2001). Fantasy Femmes of 60's Cinema: Interviews with 20 Actresses from Biker, Beach, and Elvis Movies. McFarland & Company. pp. 27–39. ISBN 978-0-7864-0868-9.
  2. ^ "Joan O'Brien Hired by Welk". The Milwaukee Journal. 19 July 1959.
  3. ^ "Wayne's Alamo in Town on Nov 10". The Montreal Gazette. 29 October 1960. p. 42. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  4. ^ "On the Set of The Alamo". Texas Archive of the Moving Image. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
  5. ^ "Newcomer Joan O'Brien Wants Twin Success – Acting, Singing". The Milwaukee Sentinel. 30 October 1960. p. 39. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  6. ^ "Paramount to Open The Comancheros Friday". Youngstown Vindicator. 10 December 1961. p. 24. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  7. ^ "On the Esquire Screen". The Southeast Missourian. 26 April 1963. p. 7. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  8. ^ Vaughn, Robert (2008). A Fortunate Life. Thomas Dunne Books. pp. 122–128. ISBN 978-0-312-37112-8.
  9. ^ "Joan O'Brien to Sing with the James Band". St. Joseph Press-News. 12 June 1968. p. 12. Retrieved 30 June 2011.

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