PACIFICA, Calif. — Plattsburgh native Bryan Jay O'Byrne, a respected acting coach and character actor in dozens of television shows and movies, died last month at his home after suffering a heart attack. He was 78.
The son of Elmer and Bessie M. Ducatte O'Byrne, Bryan O'Byrne was born in Plattsburgh in 1931. He attended St. Peter's Elementary School and Plattsburgh High School and went on to graduate from Plattsburgh State.
O'Byrne worked as an elementary school teacher but eventually moved to New York City to pursue his dream of acting.
His career took off in the late 1950s when he starred alongside Vivien Leigh in "Duel of Angels" on Broadway. He found his niche as a comedic actor and, being an old movie buff, moved to Hollywood with hopes of breaking into television — then a new frontier.
In his pursuits, he learned from the greatest. He studied dance and movement with Martha Graham and acting with Stella Adler.
O'Byrne befriended other aspiring student actors, including Marlon Brando and James Farentino, who lived in the same apartment building before they became stars.
"He really made his dreams happen," said Janet Walsh, a 1982 graduate of Plattsburgh State who met O'Byrne in the early '80s when he returned to the area for a funeral and stayed for several weeks.
"He knew what he was, and he knew how to make his voice and his looks work for him. And yet, because of who he was and who he became, he was not cast in many serious roles. But he had a serious side, and that is what he helped to bring out in a lot of young actors."
Walsh, an English major actively involved in the theater department at the time, went to acting seminars O'Byrne held at the college during his visit.