Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
Ex-Queen of Iran, Hugh O'Brian, Champion
Melody Ranch | Placerita Canyon

Click image to enlarge | Download archival scan

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:


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.

Click image to enlarge.

LW3401: 9600 dpi jpeg from original photograph purchased 2018 by Leon Worden.
Melody Ranch


Dell Comic No. 1


TV Guide 4/12/1958


TV Guide 5/2/1959


Soraya, Ex-Queen of Iran, 1960


Bob Boze Bell Sings Theme Song 2011

RETURN TO TOP ]   RETURN TO MAIN INDEX ]   PHOTO CREDITS ]   BIBLIOGRAPHY ]   BOOKS FOR SALE ] is another service of SCVTV, a 501c3 Nonprofit • Site contents ©SCVTV
The site owner makes no assertions as to ownership of any original copyrights to digitized images. However, these images are intended for Personal or Research use only. Any other kind of use, including but not limited to commercial or scholarly publication in any medium or format, public exhibition, or use online or in a web site, may be subject to additional restrictions including but not limited to the copyrights held by parties other than the site owner. USERS ARE SOLELY RESPONSIBLE for determining the existence of such rights and for obtaining any permissions and/or paying associated fees necessary for the proposed use.
comments powered by Disqus