For providing quality family entertainment and serving his country during World War I, O'Brien received the Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1976.
Accustomed to the spotlight, O'Brien, a Navy veteran, was nevertheless humble when accepting the award. "The pride in all of our hearts as Legionnaires is something that is beyond description in words," he said. "I have been a Legionnaire since 1927. That's practically 50 years."
The Irish-American O'Brien grew up in Milwaukee as an altar boy before the acting world, where he amassed more than 100 screen credits. He appeared with James Cagney in eight films, including "Angels with Dirty Faces" and Cagney's last film, "Ragtime." Some of O'Brien's more well-known roles include a police detective in "Some Like It Hot" and a football coach in "Knute Rockne, All American," in which he gave the famous "win just one for the Gipper" speech.
He earned numerous honorary degrees, including one from his alma mater, Marquette University. He was also named a Knight of Malta and a Knight of Papal Charity by the Catholic Church.
O'Brien died in California in 1983, at 83.
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