Brennan, Walter, 1894-1974

Alternative names
Birth 1894-07-25
Death 1974-09-21

Biographical notes:

Film actor.

From the description of Reminiscences of Walter Brennan : oral history, 1971. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 122481048

Born on July 24, 1894 in Swampscott, Massachusetts, Walter Andrew Brennan graduated from Rindge Technical School and enlisted in the U.S. army at the age of 23. As a private in the 101st Regiment Field Artillery, Brennan spent two years fighting in France during World War I. After discharge in 1919, he spent some time working in Guatemala before settling in southern California. Wanting to be a film actor in the emerging entertainment industry, he became a movie extra in 1929 and took part in such famous early films as "The Lariat Kid." His versatility and outstanding acting ability was evident early on in his career through the numerous character roles he portrayed. After only 5 years of film experience, Brennan received the Academy Award's first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in "Come and Get It." His unique talent to portray older men before turning 40 years old helped him receive unusual character roles, and subsequently propelled him to notoriety. His ability to adapt to older roles and characters was partially due to two serious accidents before becoming an established actor. In a gas accident while serving in World War I, he lost half of his teeth and lost the remaining ones in an early movie accident. That fact, coupled with his enormous talent, enabled Brennan to receive 3 Best Supporting Actor Oscars in his lifetime. Besides 1936, Brennan once again received Best Supporting Oscars in 1938 and 1940 for "Kentucky" and "The Westerner." Even though he was well known as an outstanding character actor, he was most widely recognized for his extraordinary work in western films. Films such as "Rio Bravo," "The Westerner,""The Texan," and others starring John Wayne and Gary Cooper created his distinctive persona and legendary status. By 1959, at his 35th film year anniversary celebration, Brennan had been credited with 100 films. With the explosion of television productions in the 1950s, he gained further popularity through the 1959-1961 series, "The Real McCoys." Brennan's character of Grampa Amos McCoy appeared weekly in millions of homes and became a familiar household character. Continuing through the 1960s and 1970s, Brennan appeared in over 50 feature films, television films, and series including "The Guns of Will Sonnett." At his death of emphysema on September 21, 1974, he had achieved the status, notoriety, and distinctiveness few actors realize in their lifetime.

From the description of Walter Brennan papers, 1895-1974. (National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum). WorldCat record id: 58795214


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  • Television actors and actresses--Biography
  • Motion picture acting
  • Motion picture industry
  • Actors--Interviews
  • Actors--Biography
  • Western television programs
  • Motion picture actors and actresses
  • Western films


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  • United States (as recorded)