Walter Brennan

Walter Andrew Brennan (July 25, 1894 – September 21, 1974) was an American actor and singer.[1] He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performances in Come and Get It (1936), Kentucky (1938), and The Westerner (1940), making him one of only three male actors to win three Academy Awards (the other two are Jack Nicholson and Daniel Day-Lewis). Brennan was also nominated for his performance in Sergeant York (1941). Other noteworthy performances were in To Have and Have Not (1944), My Darling Clementine (1946), Red River (1948), and Rio Bravo (1959).

Walter Brennan
Brennan in 1958
Walter Andrew Brennan

(1894-07-25)July 25, 1894
Lynn, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedSeptember 21, 1974(1974-09-21) (aged 80)
Resting placeSan Fernando Mission Cemetery, Los Angeles, U.S.
OccupationActor, singer
Years active1925–1974
Known forCome and Get It (1936)
Kentucky (1938)
The Westerner (1940)
Sergeant York (1941)
Ruth Wells
(m. 1920)
AwardsThree Academy Awards

Early life

Brennan was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, less than two miles from his family's home in Swampscott, Massachusetts.[2] His parents were both Irish immigrants.[3] His father was an engineer and inventor, and young Brennan also studied engineering at Rindge Technical High School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.,[4]

While in school, Brennan became interested in acting. He began to perform in vaudeville at the age of 15.

While working as a bank clerk, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as a private with the 101st Field Artillery Regiment in France during World War I.[2][5] He served in France for two years.[6] “While there, he suffered an injury to his vocal cords from exposure to mustard gas that left him with his screen trademark: a distinctively reedy, high-pitched voice that became a favorite for celebrity impersonators for decades.”[7]

After the war, he worked as a financial reporter for a newspaper in Boston.[8] He intended to move to Guatemala and grow pineapples but only made it as far as Los Angeles. During the early 1920s, he made a fortune in the real estate market, but lost most of his money during the 1925 real estate slump.[4]


Early work

Brennan in Affairs of Cappy Ricks

Finding himself penniless, Brennan began taking parts as an extra in films at Universal Studios in 1925, starting at $7.50 a day. He wound up working at Universal off and on for the next ten years.[9]

His early appearances included Webs of Steel (1925), Lorraine of the Lions (1925), and The Calgary Stampede (1925), a Hoot Gibson Western. Brennan was also in Watch Your Wife (1926), The Ice Flood (1926), Spangles (1926), The Collegians (1926, a short), Flashing Oars (1926, a short), Sensation Seekers (1927), Tearin' Into Trouble (1927), The Ridin' Rowdy (1927), Alias the Deacon (1927), Blake of Scotland Yard (1927) (a serial), Hot Heels (1927), Painting the Town (1928), and The Ballyhoo Buster (1928). The latter was directed by Richard Thorpe who would use Brennan as an extra several times on films.

Brennan could be glimpsed in The Racket (1928) from Howard Hughes, The Michigan Kid (1928), Silks and Saddles (1929), The Cohens and the Kellys in Atlantic City (1929), and Smilin' Guns (1929) and The Lariat Kid (1929) with Gibson. He also worked as a stand in.[10]

Brennan was in His Lucky Day (1929), Frank Capra's Flight (1929), One Hysterical Night (1929) (a bigger role), The Last Performance (1929), The Long Long Trail (1929) with Gibson and The Shannons of Broadway (1929).

Other Brennan appearances included Dames Ahoy! (1930), Captain of the Guard (1930), King of Jazz (1930) (Brennan said he played nine parts but when he saw the film "I sneezed and I missed myself"),[9] The Little Accident (1930), Parlez Vous (1930), (a short), See America Thirst (1930) with Harry Langdon and Slim Summerville and Ooh La-La (1930), (another short).

The following year Brennan could be glimpsed in Hello Russia (1931, a short with Slim Summerville), Many a Slip (1931) with Summerville, Heroes of the Flames (1931) a serial with Tim McCoy, Honeymoon Lane (1931), Dancing Dynamite (1931), Grief Street (1931) directed by Richard Thorpe, and Is There Justice? (1931).

Brennan had a decent-sized role in Neck and Neck (1931), directed by Richard Thorpe. His parts tended to remain small, however: A House Divided (1931) for director William Wyler, Scratch-As-Catch-Can (1931, a Bobby Clark short directed by Mark Sandrich), and Texas Cyclone (1931, a Tim McCoy Western featuring a young John Wayne).

In 1932 Brennan was in Law and Order (1932) with Walter Huston, The Impatient Maiden (1932) for James Whale, The Airmail Mystery (1932, a serial), and Scandal for Sale (1932). He did another with John Wayne, Two-Fisted Law (1932) though the star was Tim McCoy.

Brennan was in Hello Trouble (1932) with Buck Jones, Speed Madness (1932), Miss Pinkerton (1932) with Joan Bennett, Cornered (1932) with McCoy, The Iceman's Ball (1932, another short for Sandrich), Fighting for Justice (1932) with McCoy, The Fourth Horseman (1932) with Tom Mix, The All American (1932), Once in a Lifetime (1932), Strange Justice (1932), Women Won't Tell (1932) for Richard Thorpe, Afraid to Talk (1932) and Manhattan Tower (1932).

Brennan was in Sensation Hunters (1933) for Charles Vidor, Man of Action (1933) with McCoy, Parachute Jumper (1933), Goldie Gets Along (1933), Girl Missing (1933), Rustlers' Roundup (1933) with Mix, The Cohens and Kellys in Trouble (1933) for director George Stevens, Lucky Dog (1933), and The Big Cage (1933). His scenes in William Wellman's Lilly Turner (1933) were deleted.

Brennan did another serial, The Phantom of the Air (1933), then Strange People (1933) for Thorpe, Meet the Champ (1933, a short), Sing Sinner Sing (1933), One Year Later (1933), Sailors Beware! (1933, a short), Golden Harvest (1933), Ladies Must Love (1933), Saturday's Millions (1933), Curtain at Eight (1933), and My Woman (1933).

James Whale gave him a bit part in The Invisible Man (1933), and he could be seen in King for a Night (1933), Fugitive Lovers (1933), Cross Country Cruise (1934), Beloved (1934), You Can't Buy Everything (1934), Paradise Valley (1934), Radio Dough (1934, a short), The Poor Rich (1934), The Crosby Murder Case (1934), George White's Scandals (1934), Good Girl (1934), Riptide (1934), Uncertain Lady (1934), I'll Tell the World (1934), and Fishing for Trouble (1934, a short).

Brennan was in the Three Stooges short Woman Haters (1934), then did Half a Sinner (1934), The Life of Vergie Winters (1934), Murder on the Runaway Train (1934), Whom the Gods Destroy (1934), Gentlemen of Polish (1934, a short), Death on the Diamond (1934), Great Expectations (1934), Luck of the Game (1934), Tailspin Tommy (1934, a serial), There's Always Tomorrow (1934), and Cheating Cheaters (1934).

Brennan was back with McCoy for The Prescott Kid (1934) and could be seen in The Painted Veil (1934), Biography of a Bachelor Girl (1935), Helldorado (1935), Brick-a-Brac (1935) an Edgar Kennedy short, Northern Frontier (1935), The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935), and Law Beyond the Range (1935) with McCoy. He also had a brief uncredited role in Bride of Frankenstein (1935) starring Boris Karloff as Frankenstein's monster.

Around this time Brennan had what he later described as "the luckiest break in the world". He was taking part in a fight scene when an actor kicked him in the face and all his teeth were knocked out. He had to put in false teeth. "I looked all right off the set", he said. "But when necessary I could take 'em out  and suddenly look about 40 years older."[6]

Brennan did another Three Stooges short, Restless Knights, and a short called Hunger Pains in (1935).

Work at MGM

An early break for Brennan came when he was cast in The Wedding Night (1935), produced by Sam Goldwyn, alongside Gary Cooper (it was actually their second film together). He was only an extra, but his part was expanded during filming and it resulted in Brennan's getting a contract with Goldwyn.[6][11][12]

Goldwyn mostly loaned out Brennan's services to other studios. MGM put him in West Point of the Air (1935). He was reunited with Whale in Bride of Frankenstein (1935), in which he had a brief speaking part and also worked as a stuntman.

Brennan's parts remained small in Party Wire (1935), Spring Tonic (1935), The Gay Lady (1935), Man on the Flying Trapeze (1935), and Welcome Home (1935). He did a short, The Perfect Tribute (1935) and was in George Stevens' Alice Adams (1935), but his scenes were deleted.

He could be seen in We're in the Money (1935) and She Couldn't Take It (1935).

Move to Supporting Actor

Brennan finally moved up to significant roles with a decent part in Goldwyn's Barbary Coast (1935), directed by Howard Hawks and an uncredited William Wyler.[13] "That really set me up", he said later.[6]

He followed it with small appearances in Metropolitan (1935) and Seven Keys to Baldpate (1935).

He had one of the leads in Three Godfathers (1936) playing one of the title outlaws.

He had a small role in These Three (1936) with Wyler and a bigger one in Walter Wanger's The Moon's Our Home (1936) and Fury (1936), directed by Fritz Lang.

First Oscar: Come and Get It (1936)

Brennan's breakthrough part came when cast by Howard Hawks as Swan Bostrom in the period film Come and Get It (1936), playing the sidekick of Edward Arnold who eventually marries the girl Arnold abandons (played by Frances Farmer). Producer Sam Goldwyn fired Hawks during filming and replaced him with William Wyler. Brennan's performance earned him the first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Brennan followed it with support parts in Banjo on My Knee (1936) at Fox, She's Dangerous (1937), and When Love is Young (1937). Goldwyn announced him for a role in The Real Glory in 1936, but he ended up not appearing in the final film.[14]

Brennan had his first lead role in Affairs of Cappy Ricks (1937) at Republic Pictures. He followed it with the co-starring part in Fox's Wild and Woolly (1937), billed second after Jane Withers. He was in The Buccaneer (1938), directed by Cecil B. DeMille.[15]

Brennan portrayed town drunk and accused murderer Muff Potter in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938).

Brennan followed it with The Texans (1938), Mother Carey's Chickens (1938), and Goldwyn's The Cowboy and the Lady (1938) with Gary Cooper – the first time Brennan played Cooper's sidekick.

Second Oscar: Kentucky (1938)

Brennan won his second Best Supporting Oscar for Kentucky (1938), a horse racing film from 20th Century Fox with Loretta Young.

He supported Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939). Brennan also appeared in Melody of Youth (1939), and Stanley and Livingstone (1939) at Fox.[12] At MGM he was in Joe and Ethel Turp Call on the President (1939).

Throughout his career, Brennan was frequently called upon to play characters considerably older than he was. The loss of many teeth in the 1932 accident, rapidly thinning hair, thin build, and unusual vocal intonations all made him seem older than he was. He used these features to great effect. In many of his film roles, Brennan wore dentures; in MGM's Northwest Passage (1940) – a film set in the late 18th century – he wore a dental prosthesis which made him appear to have rotting and broken teeth. Brennan was billed third in Northwest Passage after Spencer Tracy and Robert Young.

Zanuck at Fox announced he wanted to make The Man from Home, once a vehicle for Will Rogers, with Brennan.[16] Instead Brennan was top-billed in Fox's Maryland (1940), an attempt to repeat the success of Kentucky.[17] Brennan said he had been working constantly since Christmas 1937. "I'm just plain punch drunk", he said.[18]

Third Oscar: The Westerner (1940)

Brennan had one of his best ever roles in Goldwyn's The Westerner (1940), playing the villainous Judge Roy Bean opposite Gary Cooper. William Wyler directed and the film earned Brennan another Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

Goldwyn bought Trading Post to be a vehicle for Brennan but it was never made.[19]

Instead he supported Deanna Durbin in Nice Girl? (1941), then Cooper again in Frank Capra's Meet John Doe (1941) and Hawks' Sergeant York (1941). Sergeant York, which earned Brennan a fourth Oscar nomination, was an enormous hit. He could also be seen in This Woman is Mine (1941), as a sea captain.

Brennan played the top-billed lead in Swamp Water (1941), the first American film by the director Jean Renoir, a drama also featuring Walter Huston and starring Dana Andrews. He was in Rise and Shine (1941) then played the reporter Sam Blake, who befriended and encouraged Lou Gehrig (played by Cooper) in Pride of the Yankees (1942).

Brennan was in some war films, Stand By for Action (1942) and Hangmen Also Die! (1943), in which he played a Czechoslovak professor. He was in Slightly Dangerous (1943), The Last Will and Testament of Tom Smith (1943, a short), and Goldwyn's Russia-set war epic The North Star (1943).[20]

He was top billed in a follow up to Kentucky and Maryland at Fox, Home in Indiana (1944).

Brennan was particularly skilled in playing the sidekick of the protagonist or the "grumpy old man" in films such as To Have and Have Not (1944), the Hawks-directed Humphrey Bogart film which introduced Lauren Bacall.

Brennan was a comic pirate in the Bob Hope film The Princess and the Pirate (1944). He was teamed with John Wayne for the first time since both men obtained stardom in Dakota (1945), directed by Joseph Kane. He supported Bette Davis in A Stolen Life (1946) and was in a musical at Fox, Centennial Summer (1946), where he played a family paterfamilias.

Westerns roles

Brennan returned to villainy as Old Man Clanton in My Darling Clementine (1946), opposite Henry Fonda for director John Ford.

Brennan followed this with parts in Nobody Lives Forever (1946) at Warners,[21] and a girl-and-dog story at Republic, Driftwood (1947).

He did another Americana film at Fox, Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! (1948), then was in one of the best films in his career, Red River (1948), playing John Wayne's sidekick for Howard Hawks.

After supporting Robert Mitchum in Blood on the Moon (1948) he played another kindly father role in The Green Promise (1949). Brennan was billed second to Rod Cameron in Brimstone (1949), directed by Kane, and he supported Gary Cooper in Task Force (1949).

Brennan focused on Westerns: Singing Guns (1950) with Vaughn Monroe, A Ticket to Tomahawk (1950), Curtain Call at Cactus Creek (1950), The Showdown (1950) with Wild Bill Elliot, Surrender (1950), Along the Great Divide (1951), Best of the Badmen (1951), and Return of the Texan (1952).

The Wild Blue Yonder (1951) was a non-Western, a war film. So too was Lure of the Wilderness (1952), a remake of Swamp Water with Brennan reprising his role, though given less screen time on this occasion.

Brennan was in Sea of Lost Ships (1953) with John Derek, Drums Across the River (1954) with Audie Murphy, The Far Country (1954) with James Stewart, and Four Guns to the Border (1954) with Rory Calhoun.[22] He had a good part in Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) at MGM.

Later work

Work on television

Brennan began to work on television, guest starring on episodes of Screen Directors Playhouse, Lux Video Theatre, Schlitz Playhouse, Ethel Barrymore Theater, Cavalcade of America, and The Ford Television Theatre. He played an old outlaw, Joe, in the 1956 episode, "Vengeance Canyon", on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre. In the story line, Joe tries to convince a young Clint Harding (Ben Cooper), that vengeance is not productive. Sheb Wooley played another outlaw, Brock, this episode.[23]

He appeared as himself as a musical judge in the 1953–1954 ABC series Jukebox Jury. Brennan later said he preferred doing television to movies because there were not "long lay offs between jobs."[11]

He continued to appear in movies such as Gunpoint! (1955) and The Proud Ones (1956) and was in a short about Israel, Man on a Bus (1955).

Brennan was in "Americana" films such as Glory (1956), Come Next Spring (1956) and in Batjac's Good-bye My Lady (1956) with 14-year-old Brandon deWilde with whom he recorded The Stories of Mark Twain that same year. In the latter film he was top billed and directed by William Wellman but the film was not widely seen.[24]

He appeared in The Way to the Gold (1957) and was in a big hit playing Debbie Reynolds's grandfather in the romantic comedy Tammy and the Bachelor (1957).

Brennan was given another lead role in God Is My Partner (1957), a low budget movie that was a surprise hit.[25]

The Real McCoys

Brennan in Rio Bravo

Brennan had resisted overtures to star in a regular TV series but relented for The Real McCoys, a sitcom about a poor West Virginia family that relocated to a farm in Southern California.[26] It was a hit and ran from 1957 to 1963.[27]

Brennan continued to appear in films and other TV shows during the series' run such as Colgate Theatre and another Howard Hawks' picture, Rio Bravo (1959), in support to John Wayne and Dean Martin.

After five years on ABC, The Real McCoys switched to CBS for a final season. Brennan joined with the series creator, Irving Pincus, to form Brennan-Westgate Productions.[24] The series was co-produced with Danny Thomas's Marterto Productions. It also featured Richard Crenna, Kathleen Nolan, Lydia Reed, and Michael Winkelman.[28]

For Brennan Productions, Brennan starred in Shoot Out at Big Sag (1962). He appeared as a villainous river pirate up against James Stewart in MGM's epic How the West Was Won (1963).

Singing career

Brennan's success with The Real McCoys led to him making a few recordings, the most popular being "Old Rivers", about an old farmer and his mule, which was released as a single in 1962 by Liberty Records with "The Epic Ride of John H. Glenn" on the flip side. "Old Rivers" peaked at number five in the U.S. Billboard chart, making the 67 year-old Brennan the oldest living person to have a Top 40 hit at the time, in fact, the oldest living person to have a top 5 hit.[29] At age 68, Brennan reached the Top 40 again, this time with "Mama Sang a Song" on November 17, 1962.

In his music, he sometimes worked with Allen "Puddler" Harris, a Louisiana native who was a member of the original Ricky Nelson Band.

After The Real McCoys ended, Brennan provided the voice for a cartoon of The Shooting of Dan McGrew.

Walter Brennan was among hundreds of artists whose material was destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[30]

Other TV roles and Disney

Brennan starred as the wealthy executive Walter Andrews in the short-lived 19641965 ABC series The Tycoon, with Van Williams.

Brennan had a support part in Those Calloways (1965), his first film for the Disney Organisation, where he was again paired with Brandon deWilde. He had a small role in The Oscar (1966).

Walter Brennan in the Guns of Will Sonnett, 1967

In 1967, he starred in another ABC series, The Guns of Will Sonnett (1967–1969), as an older man in search of his gunfighter son, James Sonnett, with his grandson, Jeff, played by Dack Rambo. It ran for two seasons.[31]

Brennan was top billed in Disney's The Gnome-Mobile (1967) and did a pilot for a TV series Horatio Alger Jones that was not picked up.[32]

After a support role in Who's Minding the Mint? (1967), he returned to Disney for The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968).

Brennan had a part as the villain in Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969) with James Garner.

Later career

Brennan received top billing over Pat O'Brien in the TV movie The Over-the-Hill Gang (1969) and Fred Astaire in The Over-the-Hill Gang Rides Again (1970).

He joined the second season of the CBS sitcom To Rome with Love (1969–1971), with John Forsythe.[33] This was Brennan's last television series as a member of the permanent cast, although he did make a number of appearances on Alias Smith and Jones.[34]

Around this time he also starred in the TV movies The Young Country (1970), Two for the Money (1972) and Home for the Holidays (1972). He was announced for a Western, One Day in Eden[34] but it does not appear to have been made.

He started filming Herbie Rides Again (1973) for Disney but fell ill and had to be replaced.[35]

Brennan's last screen appearance was in the Western Smoke in the Wind (1975), directed by Joseph Kane.

Personal life

The Real McCoys (1962), L-R: Tony Martínez, Walter Brennan, Richard Crenna

In 1920, Brennan married Ruth Caroline Wells (1897-1997). They had three children in their 54 year marriage. Lademan's husband, Dixon McCully Lademan, was a captain in the U.S. Navy in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Brennan's son Arthur Wells "Big Mike" Brennan and his wife, Florence Irene (Whitman) Brennan, lived in Joseph, Oregon.

In 1940, Brennan purchased the 12,000-acre Lightning Creek Ranch, 20 miles north of Joseph, Oregon. He built the Indian Lodge Motel, a movie theater, and a variety store in Joseph, and continued going there between film roles until his death. Some members of his family continue to live in the area.

Religious and political views

Brennan, a Roman Catholic, did not publicize his own religious affiliation, but declared, "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."[36] In 1964, Brennan spoke at "Project Prayer", a rally attended by 2,500 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The gathering, hosted by Anthony Eisley, sought to flood Congress with letters in support of mandatory school prayer, following two decisions of the Supreme Court in 1962 and 1963 that had struck down the practice of mandatory prayer in public schools as being in conflict with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.[36]

According to his biographer Carl Rollyson, Brennan was fiercely opposed to Communism and reportedly branded people as Communists if they supported John Fitzgerald Kennedy. "He thought that the Watts riots could have been stopped 'with a machine gun.'” and expressed satisfaction at the murder of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Rollyson also reported that Brennan's home "included a bunker stocked with weapons and food in anticipation of a Soviet invasion."[37]


Brennan's grave at San Fernando Mission Cemetery

Brennan spent his last years mostly in retirement at his ranch in Moorpark in Ventura. He died of emphysema at the age of 80 in Oxnard, California.[38] His remains were interred at San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Los Angeles.


Film historians and critics have long regarded Brennan as one of the finest character actors in motion picture history. While the roles he was adept at playing were diverse, he is probably best remembered for his portrayals in Western movies, such as Judge Roy Bean in The Westerner, trail hand Nadine Groot in Red River, and Deputy Stumpy in Rio Bravo. He was the first actor to win three Academy Awards and remains the only person to have won Best Supporting Actor three times. However, he remained somewhat embarrassed as to how he won the awards; in the early years of the Academy Awards, extras were given the right to vote. Brennan was popular with the Union of Film Extras, and since their numbers were overwhelming, he won every time he was nominated. His third win led to the disenfranchisement of the union from Oscar voting. Following this change, Brennan lost his fourth Best Supporting Actor nomination in 1941 for Sergeant York (the award went to Donald Crisp for How Green Was My Valley).

In all, Brennan appeared in more than 230 film and television roles during a career that spanned nearly five decades. For his contributions to the film industry, he has a motion pictures star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6501 Hollywood Boulevard.[39] In 1970, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, where his photograph hangs prominently.



Year Title Role Notes
1925Webs of SteelPerformeruncredited
Lorraine of the LionsMinor Roleuncredited
The Calgary StampedeRacing Spectatoruncredited
1926Watch Your WifePerformer
The Ice FloodLumberjackuncredited
SpanglesLunch Countermanuncredited
1927Sensation SeekersBelow Deck Yacht Crewmanuncredited
Tearin' Into TroubleBilly Martin
The Ridin' RowdyPerformer
Alias the DeaconCashier at Cunningham's Rinkuncredited
Blake of Scotland YardHenchmanuncredited
Hot HeelsPool Hall Inhabitantuncredited
1928The Ballyhoo BusterPerformer
The Michigan KidMinor Roleuncredited
The RacketMan in Front of Barber Shop uncredited
1929Silks and SaddlesUndetermined Roleuncredited
The Cohens and Kellys in Atlantic CityMan at Police Stationuncredited
Smilin' GunsRanch Foreman
The Lariat KidPat O'Shea
His Lucky DayRoad House Thuguncredited
FlightMarine Pilotuncredited
One Hysterical NightPaul Revere
The Last PerformanceClownuncredited
The Long Long TrailSkinny Rawlins
The Shannons of BroadwayHez
1930Dames Ahoy!Side Show Barkeruncredited
Captain of the GuardPeasantuncredited
King of JazzVarious Roles
The Little AccidentMilkmanuncredited
See America ThirstSpumoni Bodyguarduncredited
Many a SlipMinor Roleuncredited
1931Honeymoon LaneDriver
Dancing DynamiteHenchman
Grief StreetWalt
Is There Justice?Rollins
Neck and NeckHector
Scratch-As-Catch-CanPerformerShort film
A House DividedMusicianuncredited
1932Horse Feathersfootball commentatoruncredited
Texas CycloneSheriff Lew Collins
Law and OrderLanky Smithuncredited
The Impatient MaidenCigar Stand Proprietoruncredited
The Airmail MysteryHolly
Scandal for SaleNewspapermanuncredited
Two-Fisted LawDeputy Sheriff Bendix
Hello TroubleA Texas Rangeruncredited
Miss PinkertonPolice Dispatcheruncredited
Speed MadnessJoe
CorneredCourt Bailiffuncredited
Fighting for JusticeCowhand Fletcheruncredited
The Fourth HorsemanToothless Town Drunkuncredited
The All AmericanNews Commentator at Gameuncredited
Once in a LifetimeLighting Technicianuncredited
Strange JusticeEddie – Mechanicuncredited
Women Won't TellDump Workmanuncredited
Afraid to TalkProtester Sign Carrieruncredited
Manhattan TowerMechanicuncredited
1933Sensation HuntersStuttering Waiter
Man of ActionCashier Summers
Parachute JumperCounterman at Jewel Dineruncredited
Goldie Gets AlongStuttering Waiteruncredited
Girl MissingJoe-Garage Attendantuncredited
Rustlers' RoundupWaltuncredited
The Cohens and Kellys in TroubleBit Roleuncredited
Lucky DogDrunk #2
The Big CageTicket-Takeruncredited
Lilly TurnerPerformerscenes deleted
The Phantom of the Air'Skid'uncredited
Strange PeopleThe Radio Repairman
Sing Sinner SingHenchman Riordan
One Year LaterYokeluncredited
Golden HarvestFarmhand at Weddinguncredited
Ladies Must LoveFlute Playeruncredited
Saturday's MillionsReporteruncredited
Curtain at EightSilent Detectiveuncredited
My WomanStuttering Animal Imitatoruncredited
The Invisible ManBicycle Owneruncredited
King for a NightSoda Jerkuncredited
1934Fugitive Lovers2nd Bus Driveruncredited
Cross Country CruiseNiagara Falls Boatmanuncredited
BelovedStuttering Boarder
You Can't Buy EverythingTrain Vendoruncredited
Paradise ValleyFarmer Hiram
The Poor RichDr. Johnson the Coroneruncredited
The Crosby CaseShip's Officeruncredited
George White's ScandalsHickuncredited
Good DameElmer Spiceruncredited
Uncertain LadyGas Station Attendantuncredited
I'll Tell the WorldOtto – Bicycle Repair Manuncredited
Woman HatersTrain Conductoruncredited
Short film
Half a SinnerRadio Announcer
The Life of Vergie WintersRoscoe – a Gossiperuncredited
Murder in the Private CarSwitchmanuncredited
Whom the Gods DestroyClifforduncredited
Death on the DiamondHot Dog Vendoruncredited
Great ExpectationsPrisoner on Shipuncredited
Gridiron FlashDiner Proprietoruncredited
There's Always TomorrowMechanicuncredited
Cheating CheatersShip's Telegrapheruncredited
The Prescott KidZeke (Stage Driver)
The Painted VeilPerformerscenes deleted
1935Biography of a Bachelor GirlReporter on Shipuncredited
HelldoradoPete, the Waiteruncredited
Northern FrontierStuttering Cook
The Mystery of Edwin DroodFirst Gossipuncredited
Law Beyond the RangeAbner
Restless KnightsFatheruncredited
Short film
The Wedding NightBill Jenkins
West Point of the AirSoldier at Kelly's Wreckageuncredited
Bride of FrankensteinNeighboruncredited
Party WirePaul – Railroad Telegrapheruncredited
Spring TonicBumuncredited
Lady TubbsJosephuncredited
Man on the Flying Trapeze'Legs' Garnett
Welcome HomeWalteruncredited
Alice AdamsPerformerscenes deleted
We're in the MoneyWedding Witnessuncredited
She Couldn't Take ItPeddleruncredited
Barbary CoastOld Atrocity
Seven Keys to BaldpateStation Agent
1936Three GodfathersSam "Gus" Barton
These ThreeTaxi Driver
The Moon's Our HomeLem
Fury'Bugs' Meyers
Come and Get ItSwan Bostrom
Banjo on My KneeNewt Holley
1937She's DangerousOte O'Leary
When Love Is YoungUncle Hugo
Affairs of Cappy RicksCappy Ricks
Wild and WoollyGramp 'Hercules' Flynn
1938The BuccaneerEzra Peaves
The Adventures of Tom SawyerMuff Potter
The TexansChuckawalla
Mother Carey's ChickensMr. Ossian Popham
The Cowboy and the LadySugar
KentuckyPeter Goodwin
1939The Story of Vernon and Irene CastleWalter
They Shall Have MusicProfessor Lawson
Stanley and LivingstoneJeff Slocum
Joe and Ethel Turp Call on the PresidentJim
1940Northwest Passage"Hunk" Marriner
MarylandWilliam Stewart
The WesternerJudge Roy Bean
1941Nice Girl?Hector Titus
Meet John DoeThe 'Colonel'
Sergeant YorkPastor Rosier Pile
This Woman Is MineCapt. Jonathan Thorne
Swamp WaterTom Keefer
Rise and ShineGrandpa
1942The Pride of the YankeesSam Blake
Stand By for ActionChief Yeoman Henry Johnson
1943Hangmen Also DieProf. Stephen Novotny
Slightly DangerousCornelius Burden
The North StarKarp
1944Home in IndianaJ. F. "Thunder" Bolt
To Have and Have NotEddie
The Princess and the PirateFeatherhead
1945DakotaCapt. Bounce of the Riverbird
1946A Stolen LifeEben Folger
Centennial SummerJesse Rogers
My Darling ClementineNewman Haynes Clanton
Nobody Lives ForeverPop Gruber
1948Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!Tony Maule
Red RiverNadine Groot
Blood on the MoonKris Barden
1949The Green PromiseMr. Matthews
BrimstoneBrimstone "Pop" Courteen
Task ForcePete Richard
1950Singing GunsDr. Jonathan Mark
A Ticket to TomahawkTerence Sweeny
Curtain Call at Cactus CreekRimrock Thomas
The ShowdownCap Mackellar
SurrenderSheriff Bill Howard
1951Along the Great DivideTimothy 'Pop' Keith
Best of the Badmen"Doc" Butcher[40]
The Wild Blue YonderMajor General Wolfe
1952Return of the TexanGrandpa Firth Crockett
Lure of the WildernessJim Harper
1953Sea of Lost ShipsC.P.O. "Chief" O'Malley
1954Drums Across the RiverSam Brannon
Four Guns to the BorderSimon Bhumer
1955The Far CountryBen Tatum
Bad Day at Black RockDoc Velie
At GunpointDoc Lacy
1956GloryNed Otis
Come Next SpringJeffrey Storys
The Proud OnesJake
1956Good-bye, My LadyUncle Jesse Jackson
1957The Way to the GoldUncle George Williams
1957Tammy and the BachelorGrandpa
1957God Is My PartnerDr. Charles Grayson
1959Rio BravoStumpy
1962Shoot Out at Big Sag"Preacher" Hawker
1962How the West Was WonCol. Jeb Hawkins
1965Those CallowaysAlf Simes
1966The OscarOrrin C. Quentin
1967The Gnome-MobileD.J. Mulrooney/Knobby
1967Who's Minding the Mint?Pop Gillis
1968The One and Only, Genuine,
Original Family Band
Grandpa Bower
1969Support Your Local Sheriff!Pa Danby
1975Smoke in the WindH. P. Kingmanfinal film role


Year Title Role Notes
1931Heroes of the FlamesBit Part[Ch. 12] – uncredited
1934Tailspin TommyHospital Orderly[Ch. 8] – uncredited
1953–56Schlitz Playhouse of StarsSimmons/Ezra Jenkins3 episodes
1955Screen Directors PlayhouseGrandpaEpisode: The Brush Roper
1956Ethel Barrymore TheatrePerformerEpisode: The Gentle Years
1956Cavalcade of AmericaLink MorleyEpisode: Woman's Work
1956The Ford Television HourDuffyEpisode: Duffy's Man
1956–57Dick Powell's Zane Grey TheatreSheriff John Larson/Joe2 episodes
1958Colgate TheatreMr. TuttEpisode: Mr. Tutt
1957–63The Real McCoysGrandpa Amos McCoy224 episodes
1964–65The TycoonWalter Andrews32 episodes
1967–69The Guns of Will SonnettWill Sonnett50 episodes
1969–70The Red Skelton HourVarious Roles3 episodes
1969The Over-the-Hill GangNash CrawfordTelevision Movie
1970The Over-the-Hill Gang Rides AgainNash CrawfordTelevision Movie
1970The Young CountrySheriff Matt FenleyTelevision Movie
1970–71To Rome with LoveAndy Pruitt17 episodes
1971Alias Smith and JonesSilky O'Sullivan/Gantry3 episodes
1972Home for the HolidaysBenjamin MorganTelevision Movie
1972Two for the MoneyCody GuilfordTelevision Movie


YearProgramEpisodeCo Star
1944Lux Radio Theatre"Home In Indiana"w/ Charlotte Greenwood
1945Lux Radio Theatre"Kentucky"w/ Laraine Day
1955Lux Radio Theatre"The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre"w/ Edmund O'Brien



Year Album US Label
1960 Dutchman's Gold Dot
1962 Old Rivers 54 Liberty
Mama Sang a Song Liberty
'Twas the Night Before Christmas... Back Home Liberty


Year Single Chart Positions Album
US Country
1960 "Dutchman's Gold" 30 Dutchman's Gold
1962 "Old Rivers" 5 2 3 Old Rivers
1962 "Houdini" 100 Mama Sang a Song
1962 "Mama Sang a Song" 38 14 Mama Sang a Song

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Film Result
1936 Academy Award Best Supporting Actor Come and Get It Won
1938 Kentucky Won
1940 The Westerner Won
1941 Sergeant York Nominated
1959 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series The Real McCoys Nominated

See also

  • List of actors with Academy Award nominations


  1. Obituary Variety, September 25, 1974.
  2. World War I Draft Records, Essex County, Massachusetts, Roll 1684678, Draft Board 24.
  3. "Member Profile, Walter Brennan". Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. Retrieved October 7, 2020.
  4. Bruce Eder (2016). "Walter Brennan – Full Biography". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Baseline & All Movie Guide. Archived from the original on March 7, 2016. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  5. "Dickinson Research Center".
  6. FRANK, D. O., & Thackrey, T.,Jr. (September 22, 1974). "Walter brennan, oscar winner, dies". Los Angeles Times.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. "Walter Brennan". Retrieved March 10, 2021. While there, he suffered an injury to his vocal chords from exposure to mustard gas that left him with his screen trademark: a distinctively reedy, high-pitched voice that became a favorite for celebrity impersonators for decades.
  8. "Walter brennan finance expert". Los Angeles Times. October 30, 1946.
  9. T. S. (June 9, 1940). "NOT ON A GRECIAN URN". New York Times.
  10. "TEACHER OF SCREEN TECHNIQUES". Los Angeles Times. November 29, 1959.
  11. W. M. (September 23, 1974). "Walter brennan dead at 80; winner of 3 academy awards". New York Times.
  12. L. N. (June 4, 1939). "He works anywhere to earn an honest academy award". The Washington Post.
  13. "Goldwyn still picking winners". The Times of India. December 28, 1935.
  14. "News from hollywood". New York Times. October 29, 1936.
  15. Schallert, E. (August 3, 1937). "Scott and MacMurray leads in air feature". Los Angeles Times.
  16. Schallert, E. (February 16, 1939). "Zanuck plans stardom for walter brennan". Los Angeles Times.
  17. Schallert, E. (December 6, 1939). "DRAMA". Los Angeles Times.
  18. Frederick C Othman (February 24, 1940). "Brennan ready to collapse as work piles on". The Washington Post.
  19. "SCREEN NEWS HERE AND IN HOLLYWOOD". New York Times. July 15, 1940.
  20. Schallert, E. (April 8, 1943). "DRAMA AND FILM". Los Angeles Times.
  21. Schallert, E. (August 15, 1944). "Bellamy signs pact with hunt stromberg". Los Angeles Times.
  22. Schallert, E. (April 8, 1954). "Drama". Los Angeles Times.
  23. "Vengeance Canyon on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  24. Hopper, H. (July 17, 1960). "Walter brennan: Saga of reluctant performner is offbeat story of success". Los Angeles Times.
  25. Scheuer, Philip K. (September 5, 1960). "Showman Divulges First-Aid Program: 'Forgotten Fans in Sticks' Have Champion in Lippert". Los Angeles Times. p. 25.
  26. V. A. (May 6, 1957). "WALTER BRENNAN TO BE STAR ON TV". New York Times.
  27. O. G. (July 27, 1958). "THE REAL M'COYS". New York Times.
  28. L. L. (April 9, 1960). "At 65, walter brennan's just hitting his prime". The Washington Post, Times Herald.
  29. Casey Kasem, "American Top 40", November 6, 1982
  30. Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  31. J. L. (September 30, 1968). "Walter brennan is A spry gunfigher". The Washington Post, Times Herald.
  32. V. S. (November 22, 1965). "Walter brennan just won't slow up". The Washington Post, Times Herald.
  33. "Walter brennan joins 'rome' cast". The Washington Post, Times Herald. September 6, 1970.
  34. Norma, L. B. (August 9, 1970). "Hollywood today". Chicago Tribune.
  35. "Walter brennan in hospital". New York Times. November 24, 1972.
  36. ""The Washington Merry-Go-Round", Drew Pearson column, May 14, 1964" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on January 16, 2013. Retrieved February 10, 2013.
  37. Daniel, Douglass K. (September 20, 2015). "Book Review: Bad grandpa? Book downplays actor Walter Brennan's dark side". Tulsa World. Associated Press. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  38. Chawkins, Steve (October 8, 1999). "Camarillo Decides on the 'Real McCoy'". Los Angeles Times..
  39. "Walter Brennan Inducted to the Walk of Fame". Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. February 8, 1960. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  40. Comcast-Encore Western Channel


Further reading

  • Rollyson, Carl E. (2015). A real American character : the life of Walter Brennan. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 9781628460476.
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