Brefni O'Rorke was born in 1889 in Dublin and began studying acting with his mother, the actress Jane (Morgan) O'Rorke, at the start of the 20th century. He made his professional debut in 1912 at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin in a production of John Bull's Other Island. In 1916 while still living in Dublin, he became the companion and later the second husband to Alice Cole, a chorus girl-turned-actress who had divorced her husband and emigrated from South Africa with her young son named Cyril Cusack. O'Rorke began training the boy as an actor even as his own career advanced. In 1921, O'Rorke made his first appearance on a London stage in a production of Mr. Malatestra, and he became very prominent in the London theater world in the decades that followed. His earliest film appearance dated from 1918, though he had his greatest impact during the sound era. O'Rorke also worked in four British television productions early in 1939 during the medium's experimental period before the worsening political situation on the European continent forced the British government to switch its efforts to perfecting defensive radar. He had a small role in Love on the Dole (1941) starring Deborah Kerr and bigger parts in the thriller Cottage to Let (1941) and the melodrama Hatter's Castle (1942). His best work and biggest part was probably in Harold French's patriotic wartime thriller Unpublished Story (1942) as Denton, the dour but defiant newspaper editor; he not only had a lot of screen time and excellent scenes but gave the movie's quietly rousing final speech. O'Rorke also appeared as himself in a documentary entitled Men of Rochdale (1944). He was a busy character actor up to his death in late 1946, and his legacy lay not only in several memorable performances but also, to some extent, in the subsequent success of his stepson -- from the late 1940s thru the 1980s, Cyril Cusack was one of the most renowned stage actors of his generation, as well as an acclaimed film actor, and he founded an acting dynasty to rival that of the Redgrave family through his actress daughters.