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Liam O’Brien; Movie Writer, TV Producer

Liam O’Brien, a screenwriter and playwright who penned a series of hit films in the 1950s and went on to produce major television series such as “Police Story” and “Miami Vice,” has died. He was 83.

O’Brien, the brother of the late actor Edmond O’Brien, died Sunday of heart failure at his Los Angeles home.

Born in New York and educated at Fordham University and Manhattan College, O’Brien was a poet and cartoonist and then worked as a labor organizer before turning to writing plays. He served in the Army Signal Corps during World War II, and soon after wrote the Broadway comedy that first brought him fame, “The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker.”

He earned even faster success writing for the silver screen when one of his first efforts, “Here Comes the Groom,” was nominated for an Academy Award for best original motion picture story. The 1951 film was directed by the legendary Frank Capra, and starred Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman.

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O’Brien also wrote or co-wrote screenplays for “Chain Lightning” starring Humphrey Bogart, “Diplomatic Courier” with Tyrone Power, “Young at Heart” starring Doris Day and Frank Sinatra, “Elephant Walk” with Elizabeth Taylor, “Trapeze” with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, “The Great Imposter” starring Curtis, and “The Devil at 4 O’Clock” with Spencer Tracy and Frank Sinatra.

More recently, O’Brien wrote or produced, sometimes both, episodes for “Police Story,” “Miami Vice” and “Gibbsville.” He also co-wrote the script, which The Times praised as “literate and compelling,” for the 1978 miniseries “The Awakening Land” starring Elizabeth Montgomery as a frontier woman. O’Brien produced the television specials “Two Miles Down” in 1993, and “Flamingowatch” and “In the Land of the Grizzlies” last year.

Throughout his long career, O’Brien remained active in the Writers Guild of America, serving as a negotiator and board member. He was a founding director of the Humanitas Awards.

O’Brien is survived by his wife, Claudette, and son, Devin. Another son, Colin, died in 1981.

Requiem services are scheduled at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Westwood.


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