George O’Hara: From Sennett to “The Sea Beast”

In a world in which there is also a George O’Brien and a George Murphy, it is easy to see where a George O’Hara (George Bolger, 1899-1966) might get lost in the shuffle. But he too was a popular star, at least in the silent days.

A local LA kid, O’Hara got his start with Mack Sennett in a small role in The Speakeasy (1919) with Charlie Murray and Marie Prevost. By the following year he was co-starring with Prevost in the feature Love, Honor and Behave (1920). He both acted in, and was associate producer of A Small Town Idol (1921) with Ben Turpin. His last Sennett picture was the short The Duck Hunter (1922) with Billy Bevan. After the features The Crossroads of New York (1922) with Noah Beery and Shirley of the Circus (1922) with Shirley Mason, O’Hara played a boxer named Gale Galen in a series of boxing comedies called Fighting Blood through 1923. The following year he went over to FBO, where his frequent co-star in dozens of shorts was Alberta Vaughn, through the end of 1925. Starring and co-starring roles in several features took him through the silent era, including The Sea Beast (1926) with John Barrymore and Dolores Costello and the circus story Bigger Than Barnum’s (1926). Pirates of the Pines (1928) was his last starring part.

O’Hara got some work as a screenwriter during 1929 but after this he couldn’t get a foothold in talkies. He returned to the screen a decade later as a mere bit player, in things like Jesse James (1939), The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and The Cowboy and the Blonde (1941). He played Frank Tinney in The Dolly Sisters (1945), and did some behind the scenes work on The Bullfighters (1945) with Laurel and Hardy. His last picture was When My Baby Smiles At Me (1948), which, like The Dolly Sisters, was produced by Georgie Jessel — yet another famous George.

For more on silent comedy please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube,