Walter Brennan Poster


Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (3)  | Trade Mark (4)  | Trivia (46)  | Personal Quotes (9)  | Salary (1)

Overview (4)

Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, USA
Died in Oxnard, California, USA  (emphysema)
Birth NameWalter Andrew Brennan
Height 6' (1.83 m)

Mini Bio (1)

In many ways the most successful and familiar character actor of American sound films and the only actor to date to win three Oscars for Best Supporting Actor, Walter Brennan attended college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studying engineering. While in school he became interested in acting and performed in school plays. He worked some in vaudeville and also in various jobs such as clerking in a bank and as a lumberjack. He toured in small musical comedy companies before entering the military in 1917. After his war service he went to Guatemala and raised pineapples, then migrated to Los Angeles, where he speculated in real estate. A few jobs as a film extra came his way beginning in 1923, then some work as a stuntman. He eventually achieved speaking roles, going from bit parts to substantial supporting parts in scores of features and short subjects between 1927 and 1938. In 1936 his role in Come and Get It (1936) won him the very first Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. He would win it twice more in the decade, and be nominated for a fourth. His range was enormous. He could play sophisticated businessmen, con artists, local yokels, cowhands and military officers with apparent equal ease. An accident in 1932 cost him most of his teeth, and he most often was seen in eccentric rural parts, often playing characters much older than his actual age. His career never really declined, and in the 1950s he became an even more endearing and familiar figure in several television series, most famously The Real McCoys (1957). He died in 1974 of emphysema, a beloved figure in movies and TV, the target of countless comic impressionists, and one of the best and most prolific actors of his time.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jim Beaver

Family (3)

Spouse Ruth Wells Brennan (17 October 1920 - 21 September 1974)  (his death)  (3 children)
Children Arthur Wells 'Mike' Brennan
Andy Brennan
Ruth Wells Brennan
Parents William John Brennan
Margaret Elizabeth Flanagan

Trade Mark (4)

His unmistakable high-pitched, croaking voice
Frequently worked with director Howard Hawks.
Roles in Westerns.
His unique walk, seeming like he has a rock in his shoe.

Trivia (46)

First actor to accumulate three Academy Awards and to date still the only actor to win three Oscars as Best Supporting Actor.
Interred at San Fernando Mission Cemetery, San Fernando, Los Angeles County, CA.
Had four top-100 singles, including the Top 5 hit "Old Rivers" (Liberty Records) which first charted on 4/7/62. The single spent 11 weeks on the Billboard charts and peaked at #5.
Won the first Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Come and Get It (1936).
Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1970.
His relatives still live in and around Joseph, OR, where he maintained a functioning ranch and the Indian Lodge Motel, which displays several of his portraits in the office.
Owned a ranch and several businesses in Joseph, Oregon, including the Indian Lodge Motel which still displays several of his portraits in the office.
Hardly ever played the villain, usually being cast as the somewhat eccentric pal to the hero. An exception was his turn as the heartless Old Man Clanton in My Darling Clementine (1946), directed by the prickly John Ford. Ford and Brennan did not get along, and Ford was one of the few directors Brennan didn't collaborate with more than once throughout his career.
Always fiscally and ideologically conservative, he became politically active in later life when he believed that many of the things he held dear were being eroded by the counterculture movement. He supported George Wallace's presidential campaign in 1968 and in 1972 supported extreme right-wing Republican Rep. John Schmitz (father of Mary Kay Letourneau), as the incumbent President Richard Nixon was viewed as too progressive by many Republicans.
After his military service during World War I, he moved to Los Angeles, where he got involved in the real-estate market and made a fortune. Unfortunately, the market took a sudden downturn and he lost almost all of his money. Broke, he began taking bit parts in films in order to earn money, and his career progressed from there.
Had already worked in vaudeville when he enlisted in the army at age 22 for World War I. He served in an artillery unit and, although he got through the war without being wounded, his exposure to poison gas ruined his vocal cords, leaving him with the high-pitched scratchy voice that made him a natural for old man roles, while still in his 30s.
The Real McCoys (1957) was such a hit that John Wayne's production company, Batjac, was persuaded to release a previously shelved film, William A. Wellman's Good-bye, My Lady (1956), about a boy, an old man and a dog, during the show's run.
Actively supported Ronald Reagan's campaign to become Governor of California in 1966.
Campaigned for Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election, after the senator had voted against the Civil Rights Act.
There was some controversy over the Academy Awards Brennan won because in that period of time the rules of the Academy permitted extras to cast votes for the nominees, and Brennan--who had been an extra for some time before his more substantial roles came along--was popular among his fellow extra workers, and they felt they were voting for one of their own.
Howard Hawks related the story that, after completing Red River (1948), he was approached by an actor but couldn't quite place the face. The actor removed his teeth and said, "Do you recognize me now?" Hawks immediately recognized him as Brennan.
In 1925 Gary Cooper befriended another young, struggling, would-be actor named Walter Brennan. At one point they were even appearing as a team at casting offices, and although Cooper emerged in major and leading roles first, they would work together in the good years, too. Most memorably they starred in The Westerner (1940) together, where the general critical consensus was that Brennan's underplayed performance as Judge Roy Bean had stolen the film from Cooper.
Although he was known for playing "old-coot" Southerners complete with a cackling laugh and thick Southern accent, in reality he had somewhat of a New England accent, being born and raised in Massachusetts.
Was offered the supporting role of Mr. Judson in Herbie Rides Again (1974), but was too ill with emphysema to take the job. It was then recast with John McIntire. Brennan died 90 days after the movie was released to theaters, on 6/6/74.
He and Katharine Hepburn are the only actors to win three Oscars on three consecutive nominations.
Holds the record for winning the most acting Oscars in the shortest amount of time (three in four years).
Two of his three Oscar-winning performances were directed by William Wyler. This makes him one of four actors to win two Oscars under the same person's direction. The other three are: Jack Nicholson for Terms of Endearment (1983) and As Good as It Gets (1997) (both directed by James L. Brooks), Dianne Wiest for Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and Bullets Over Broadway (1994) (both directed by Woody Allen) and Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds (2009) and Django Unchained (2012) (both directed by Quentin Tarantino).
In June 1928, filming a scene in San Diego, CA, he accidentally drove a automobile into the harbor.
His third Oscar win led to the disenfranchisement of the Extras Union from voting.
During the 1960s he was convinced that the anti-Vietnam War and civil rights movements were being run by overseas Communists, and said as much in interviews. He told reporters that he believed the civil rights movement in particular, and the riots in places like Watts (CA) and Newark (NJ), and demonstrations in Birmingham (AL), were the result of perfectly content "negroes" being stirred up by a handful of troublemakers and Communist agitators with an anti-American agenda.
Members of the cast and crew on the set of his last series, The Guns of Will Sonnett (1967)--in which he played the surprisingly complex role of an ex-army scout trying to undo the damage caused by his being a mostly absentee father--said that he cackled with delight and danced a little jig upon learning of Martin Luther King's assassination.
Son of William (9/2/1868-8/17/1936) and Margaret (née Flanagan) Brennan ((6/4/1869-2/1/1955). Both parents were born in Massachusetts and died in California.
Paternal grandson of William (1844-1925), born in Scotland, and Helen (née Griffith) Brennan (1848-1903), born in England. Both died in Massachusetts.
Maternal grandson of Michael (1846-1903) and Margaret (née Hewett) Flanagan (1849-1904). Both were born in Ireland and died in Massachusetts.
Maternal great-grandson of John (1807-1882) and Bridget (née Neagle) Hewett (1817-1858). Both were born in Ireland and died in Massachusetts.
Appeared in four Oscar Best Picture nominees: The Racket (1928), Sergeant York (1941), The Pride of the Yankees (1942) and How the West Was Won (1962), and also had his filmed scenes (which were deleted) in another: Alice Adams (1935).
Of all the actors and actresses who won at least three acting Oscars, he is the only one not to have won for a role in a Best Picture nominee, as none of Come and Get It (1936), Kentucky (1938) and The Westerner (1940) were nominated for Best Picture.
Of all the actors and actresses who won at least three Acting Oscars, he is the only one not to have won the awards in three different decades. He won Best Supporting Actor in 1936, 1938 and 1940.
He has appeared in ten films that have been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant: King of Jazz (1930), The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Fury (1936), Sergeant York (1941), My Darling Clementine (1946), Red River (1948), Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), Rio Bravo (1959) and How the West Was Won (1962).
On 8/27/2019 he was honored with a day of his film work during the Turner Classic Movies Summer Under the Stars.
Along with John Wayne, James Stewart, Dean Jagger and others, Brennan was known for his ultra-conservative views on politics and social issues, especially race.
He refused to have anything to do with Ward Bond because of Bond's alcoholism and general loutish behavior. He turned down the role of Jeeter Lester in Tobacco Road (1941) because of the character's shiftlessness.
He implored his daughter not to give his grandchildren records by The Beatles lest they be infected by decadent modernity.
Had a bunker on his Los Angeles estate fully outfitted with firearms and survival supplies in case there was an invasion by the Soviets.
In his later years he was known to canvass co-workers about their voting habits.
Film editor Stanley Frazen, who was on the set of Brennan's TV series The Guns of Will Sonnett (1967) when Brennan celebrated the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, said Brennan later had another jubilant moment when Robert F. Kennedy was murdered in June 1968. Frazen recalled the cast and crew were "incredulous" at the jig danced by the elderly Brennan when he was told of King's death.
In 1965 he made a record claiming that Communists and beatniks were plotting to take over the US through President Lyndon B. Johnson's "War on Poverty" program. That record was called "He's Your Uncle, Not Your Dad".
He once said the 1965 Watts (CA) riots could have been stopped "with a machine gun".
He largely copied his screen persona from George "Gabby" Hayes.

Personal Quotes (9)

When I see a good western . . . I just sit there. I was thrilled with Red River (1948), because I believed in it, [John Wayne] was so good, I believed in him.
[advice to young actors] Go ahead and learn how to act, but don't get caught at it.
I never made a movie I would not take my family to see.
[in 1964] I'm too old not to be a religious fella. It appears we are losing something a lot of people made a lot of sacrifices for.
I'm an American, first and last and always. I served in the trenches for nine months during World War I and I haven't regretted it until the last two or three years. It's the lefties, that's what. Everyone in this country ought to have a chance, Jew, Protestant, and . . . .. I'm sure all this trouble with the Negroes is caused by just a few of them. I've known many Negroes, many of them; they, they . . .
I'd rather do television than movies because there aren't any long layoffs between working days. You make a movie and then wait around for another good part. Not in television. You go to work five days a week for most of the year. That's what I like. By Sunday night I can hardly wait to get started on Monday morning. It's a shame most people don't feel the same way about their jobs.
Boy, let me tell you, there's no risque stuff in my show. No sir, I won't allow it. In a TV series, you're going right into the living room, and families are watching you. It sure burns me up to see some of the stuff they let get by on other shows.
Heck, I never wanted anything out of this business except a good living. Never wanted to be a star, or a glamorous figure. Just wanted to be good at what I was doing.
[on "The King of Jazz"] When I went to the preview I sneezed and missed myself.

Salary (1)

Glory (1956) $18,000

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