Dennis O'Keefe

For the mayor of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, see Dennis O'Keefe (politician).
Dennis O'Keefe

Dennis O'Keefe in The Kid From Texas (1939)
Born Edward Vance Flanagan
(1908-03-29)March 29, 1908
Fort Madison, Iowa, U.S.
Died August 31, 1968(1968-08-31) (aged 60)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Cause of death lung cancer[1]
Occupation actor
Years active 19301967
Spouse(s) Steffi Duna (1940-1968) (his death) 1 son
Louise Stanley (1937-1938) (divorced)[2]
Children James O'Keefe[3]

Dennis O'Keefe (29 March 1908 31 August 1968) was an American actor. Born as Edward Vance Flanagan, he was the son of Irish vaudevillians working in the United States. As a small child, he joined his parents' act and later wrote skits for the stage.[4]


A native of Fort Madison, Iowa,[4] O'Keefe started in films as an extra in the early 1930s and appeared in numerous films under the name Bud Flanagan. After a small but impressive role in Saratoga (1937), Clark Gable recommended O'Keefe to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which signed him to a contract in 1937 and renamed him Dennis O'Keefe. His film roles were bigger after that, starting with The Bad Man of Brimstone (1938) opposite Wallace Beery, and the lead role in Burn 'Em Up O'Connor (1939).

O'Keefe left MGM around 1940 but continued to work in mostly lower budget productions. He often played the tough guy in action and crime dramas, but was also known as a comic actor as well as a dramatic lead.

He gained great attention with a showy role in The Story of Dr Wassell and became a comedy star. He expressed interest in expanding into direction.[5]

In the mid-1940s, he was under a five-year contract to Edward Small.[6] O'Keefe starred in film-noir classics such as T-Men and Raw Deal, both directed by Anthony Mann.

In the 1950s, he did some directing and wrote mystery stories. He appeared on NBC's legal drama Justice and on the network's The Martha Raye Show. On October 3, 1957, he was a guest star on another NBC variety show, The Ford Show, starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. From 1957 to 1958, he was the host of Suspicion, a TV series produced by Alfred Hitchcock. From 1959-1960, he was the star of the CBS Television situation comedy, The Dennis O'Keefe Show.

Personal life

Dennis O'Keefe with Carmen Miranda, in Doll Face (1946).

A heavy cigarette smoker, O'Keefe died of lung cancer in 1968 at the age of sixty. Ironically, in his film The Diamond Wizard (1954), he directed and stars in, he played a U.S. Treasury Agent in London. In the film, O'Keefe's character is trying to quit smoking. Throughout the film, he is prevented from lighting up by different characters in the film. After the rousing finale, however, as a reward for his heroism, he is finally allowed to light up. He takes a deep puff and joyously exhales.


In a 1946 newsreel following Howard Hughes' calamitous plane wreck into a neighbor's Beverly Hills home, O'Keefe can be seen walking through the home inspecting damages.(see Hughes XF-11)


O'Keefe died at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California and was buried at Wee Kirk O' the Heather, Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale).[4]

Partial filmography

As Bud Flanagan:

As Dennis O'Keefe:


  4. 1 2 3 "Actor Dennis O'Keefe, 60, Dies; Was Native of Iowa". The Des Moines Register. September 2, 1968. p. 11. Retrieved May 21, 2015 via
  5. O'Keefe Achieves Stardom; Seeks Director's Post Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 12 Oct 1944: 11
  6. Dennis O'Keefe Costar of Small's 'Dark Page;' Carmen, Wally Reunited Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 23 Aug 1948: 11.

External links

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