Michael O’Shea was a versatile actor who appeared in many films and TV shows in the 1940s and 1950s. He was also a former vaudeville performer, a musician, and a comedian. But did you know that he also worked as a CIA operative in the 1960s? Here is the story of his life and his tragic death.
From Vaudeville to Hollywood
Michael O’Shea was born Edward Francis Michael Patrick Joseph O’Shea on March 17, 1906, in Hartford, Connecticut. He was the youngest of six brothers, all of whom became policemen, except for him. He dropped out of school at age 12 and joined the vaudeville circuit, touring with boxing legend Jack Johnson’s show. He also worked as a soda jerk, a bricklayer, a private detective, and a bodyguard.
He eventually made his way to Broadway, where he changed his name to Michael O’Shea. He starred in the hit play The Eve of St. Mark in 1942, which caught the attention of Hollywood producers. He was offered the role of Barbara Stanwyck’s boyfriend in the film Lady of Burlesque in 1943, which launched his film career.
He went on to appear in more than 30 films, mostly in the genres of comedy, musical, and crime. Some of his notable films include Jack London, The Eve of St. Mark, Something for the Boys, It’s a Pleasure, Mr. District Attorney, and The Underworld Story. He also met his second wife, actress Virginia Mayo, on the set of Jack London in 1943. They married in 1947 and had one daughter, Catherine.
From Hollywood to CIA
By the early 1950s, O’Shea’s film career began to decline. He turned to television, where he starred in the sitcom It’s a Great Life from 1954 to 1956. He also appeared in guest roles in shows such as The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Untouchables.
However, O’Shea had another career that was not known to the public. He became a plainclothes operative for the CIA in the 1960s, according to his wife Virginia Mayo. He was assigned to spy on the activities of the mobster Johnny Rosselli at the Friars Club in Los Angeles, where he was a member. Rosselli was allegedly involved in the CIA’s plot to assassinate Fidel Castro, as well as the JFK assassination conspiracy.
O’Shea never revealed the details of his CIA work to his family or friends. He kept his double life a secret until his death.
How He Died
In 1973, O’Shea was in Dallas, Texas, preparing to go on tour with his wife in a stage production of Forty Carats. He suffered a massive heart attack and died on December 4, 1973, at the age of 67. He was buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.
His death was a shock to his fans and colleagues, who remembered him as a talented and charismatic actor. His wife Virginia Mayo said that he was “the most wonderful husband and father in the world”. She also said that he was “a very brave man” who “did a lot of things that people don’t know about”.
Michael O’Shea was a man of many talents and secrets. He left behind a legacy of entertainment and mystery. He was one of the few actors who became a CIA spy, and died of a heart attack.