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Ex-Queen of Iran, Hugh O'Brian, Champion
Melody Ranch | Placerita Canyon

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November 24, 1960 — Actor Hugh O'Brian brings his date, the ex-Mrs. Shah of Iran, to Gene Autry's Melody Ranch studio in Placerita Canyon where O'Brian was currently starring in the long-running TV series, "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp." (Then as now, most shows didn't survive six seasons.) The newspapers apparently didn't feel a need to identify the horse; readers would know it's Autry's famous mount, Champion.

7x8¼-inch Associated Press wire photo from the (Chicago?) Tribune archive, where it was filed under "Horse." Cutline reads:

THE OLD WEST

Princess [sic] Soraya of Iran, who has shown an unusual interest in the old West since meeting Hugh O'Brian, visited the actor as he filmed a "Wyatt Earp" TV show near Newhall, Calif. The former Iranian queen and O'Brian have been seen together frequently during recent weeks.


Soraya Esfandiary-Bakhtiary was born in Germany in 1932 to a Persian father (Iran's ambassador to West Germany) and a German Catholic mother. Soraya was neither Muslim nor Catholic. She would become the second wife of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (1919-1980), and as such, queen consort of Iran.

Shah Pahlavi came to power in 1941 upon the abdication of his father, Reza Shah. Pahlavi needed a male heir before he could be crowned King of Kings (Shahanshah), aka Emperor of Iran. After Allah allegedly told him to divorce his first wife, who had given him a daughter, Pahlavi met and married Soraya in 1951. By 1958, however, she had borne no children, so the Shah presented her with an ultimatum: divorce, or consent to a second (simultaneous) wife. She opted for divorce (which took the "queen" title away). Pahlavi then married his third and last wife, Farah Diba (1938—), who gave him four children.

Soraya left Iran and moved to France where she pursued an acting career, using only her first name (like Cher). She was in Los Angeles in October and November 1960 when word came that Farah had given birth to a son, the crown prince, on Halloween. At the time, Soraya was dating actor Hugh O'Brian (1925-2016), who was then starring in the hit television series, "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp," which was based at Gene Autry's Melody Ranch studio in Placerita Canyon. O'Brian accompanied her to Hollywood parties and a Las Vegas-Lake Mead getaway before returning in late November and showing her where he worked. (O'Brian was single, if you're wondering.)

In 1968, Shah Pahlavi was coronated King of Kings (emperor), and his wife, Farah, became empress (which Soraya never was, because the Shah was not yet emperor).

By many accounts, Soraya was the Shah's only true love. She never remarried. She died in Paris in 2001. She was 69. Her younger brother and confidante, Bijan, 64, died of loneliness a week later.







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LW3401: 9600 dpi jpeg from original photograph purchased 2018 by Leon Worden.
THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF WYATT EARP
Melody Ranch
1955-1961

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Dell Comic No. 1

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TV Guide 4/12/1958

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TV Guide 5/2/1959

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Soraya, Ex-Queen of Iran, 1960

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