Monday, July 16, 2012

From my collection: Kenny or Kevin? O'Morrison

Kenny O'Morrison played one of the GIs in the delightful 1947 William Holden-Joan Caulfield comedy Dear Ruth (Holden Caulfield you say? yes, it was a marquee promoting this film that inspired the name of J.D. Salinger's protagonist in his classic “Catcher in the Rye”!), and he actually starred in Footlight Rhythm (1948), the second of Paramount's Musical Parade shorts. O'Morrison took time out in 1949 to explain, in exhaustive detail, to UPI scribe Patricia Clary how cumbersome a name like O'Morrison could been. Explained Miss Clary:

An actor who's been known during his short life by six different names says you folks who are born and remain John Jones are lucky. This man was born Kenny O'Morrison. But nobody believes it. Not even the nurse who made out his birth certificate. 'I'm legally registered,' he said, 'as Kenneth Eugene Morrison. That name was entirely the idea of the recording nurse at the hospital. When my father said ”Kenny O'Morrison,” she thought he was too excited to know what he was telling her." The 'O' before the 'Morrison,' he added, throws more people than just the nurse at the hospital. 'People won't question O'Shea or O'Donnell,' he said, 'but when you say O'Morrison, they think it's your middle initial.' , Kenny, he adds, is not a diminutive for Kenneth. It's a good Irish clan name.

Name Changed

When Kenny was four, the father who named him was killed in World War I. His mother married again and the boy became Kenny Elliot In school, he added, teachers called him Kenneth, even though it wasn't his name. Later his mother married another man named Mandel. Kenny became Kenny Mandel. By the time he got to high school his mother was divorced and had resumed her maiden name of Adams. Kenny became Kent Adams. 'These troubles were nothing,' he says, 'compared to trying to explain to the army why I called myself Kenny O'Morrison when my birth certificate said Kenneth Eugene Morrison.' It took the government five weeks to adjust to the situation. Now he is working in Filmakers' 'Never Fear,' produced and directed by Ida Lupino, under the name of Kevin O'Morrison. 'Richard Conte suggested the name,' he said. 'I hope it's the last one I have.'”

But, alas, when Ida Lupino's drama was released, Kenny O'Morrison had become Kevin O'Morrison, yes, another name, and he remained Kevin for a screen and television career that lasted well into the 1990s and included such more recent comedy hits as Funny Farm (1988) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993). Along the way, the actor had a much publicized and very much un-scripted, brawl in a Chicago hotel lobby with Dewey Martin, a fellow actor with whom he had just appeared in The Golden Gloves Story (1950) which, perhaps not coincidentally, was a movie about prizefighters. The two had been in the Windy City to promote the film but refused to even be on the same train going back to Hollywood. Reeks a bit of publicity stunt, don't you think?

O'Morrison, who in the meantime had penned several television episodes, turned to play writing in the 1970s and his plays are still being performed today. The former actor even has a webpage:

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