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Filmography

1925      

Lorraine of the Lions (uncredited)

 

1927      

Blake of Scotland Yard uncredited)

 

1928      

Alias the Deacon

 

1929      

Smilin’ Guns 

The Long Long Trail 

One Hysterical Night 

 

1930      

King of Jazz 

See America Thirst

 

1931      

Scratch-As-Catch-Can

Grief Street

 

1932      

Texas Cyclone 

Law and Order

Two-Fisted Law

Horse Feathers (uncredited)

Manhattan Tower (uncredited)

 

1933      

Sensation Hunters 

My Woman (uncredited)

 

1934      

The Invisible Man (uncredited)

The Life of Vergie Winters (uncredited)

Woman Haters (uncredited)

Riptide (uncredited)

You Can’t Buy Everything (uncredited)

 

1935      

Biography of a Bachelor Girl (uncredited)

Helldorado (uncredited)

Northern Frontier 

The Mystery of Edwin Drood (uncredited)

Law Beyond the Range 

Restless Knights (uncredited)

The Wedding Night

West Point of the Air (uncredited)

Bride of Frankenstein (uncredited)

Party Wire (uncredited)

Spring Tonic (uncredited)

Lady Tubbs (uncredited)

Man on the Flying Trapeze 

Welcome Home (uncredited)

Alice Adams (scenes deleted)

We’re in the Money (uncredited)

She Couldn’t Take It (uncredited)

Barbary Coast

Metropolitan (uncredited)

Seven Keys to Baldpate

 

1936      

Three Godfathers 

These Three 

The Moon’s Our Home

Fury 

Come and Get It 

Banjo on My Knee

 

1937      

She’s Dangerous 

When Love Is Young 

Affairs of Cappy Ricks 

Wild and Woolly 

 

1938      

The Buccaneer 

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 

The Texans 

Mother Carey’s Chickens 

The Cowboy and the Lady 

Kentucky 

 

1939      

The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle 

They Shall Have Music 

Stanley and Livingstone 

Joe and Ethel Turp Call on the President

 

1940      

Northwest Passage 

Maryland 

The Westerner 

Nice Girl? 

 

1941      

Meet John Doe 

Sergeant York 

This Woman Is Mine 

Swamp Water 

Rise and Shine

 

1942      

The Pride of the Yankees

Stand by for Action 

 

1943      

Hangmen Also Die 

Slightly Dangerous 

The North Star

 

1944      

Home in Indiana 

To Have and Have Not

The Princess and the Pirate 

 

1945      

Dakota 

 

1946      

A Stolen Life 

Centennial Summer 

My Darling Clementine 

Nobody Lives Forever 

 

1947      

Driftwood 

 

1948      

Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! 

Red River

Blood on the Moon 

 

1949      

The Green Promise 

Brimstone 

Task Force 

 

1950      

Singing Guns

A Ticket to Tomahawk 

Curtain Call at Cactus Creek 

The Showdown 

Surrender

 

1951      

Along the Great Divide 

Best of the Badmen 

The Wild Blue Yonder 

 

1952      

Return of the Texan 

Lure of the Wilderness 

 

1953      

Sea of Lost Ships

 

1954      

Drums Across the River 

The Far Country

Four Guns to the Border 

 

1955      

Bad Day at Black Rock 

At Gunpoint 

 

1956      

Glory 

Come Next Spring 

The Proud Ones 

Good-bye, My Lady 

 

1957      

Tammy and the Bachelor 

The Way to the Gold 

God Is My Partner 

 

1959      

Rio Bravo 

 

1962      

Shoot Out at Big Sag 

How the West Was Won 

 

1965      

Those Calloways 

 

1966      

The Oscar 

 

1967      

The Gnome-Mobile 

Who’s Minding the Mint? 

 

1968      

The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band 

 

1969      

Support Your Local Sheriff! 

The Over-the-Hill Gang

 

1970      

The Over-the-Hill Gang Rides Again 

 

1972      

Home for the Holidays 

Awards

Walter Brennan was the first actor to win three Academy Awards and remains the only person to have won Best Supporting Actor three times.

  • Come and Get It (1936)
  • Kentucky (1938)
  • The Westerner (1940)

He was also nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for Sergeant York (1941) 

I’m not a glamour boy, and I never get the girl. I like to play old people, because there’s something to them. Did you ever see anybody under 30 with any real character or expression in his face? ~ Walter Brennan

Walter Brennan: Learn more about him, review his filmography and more

Actors, Biographies

Walter Brennan was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, less than two miles from his family’s home in Swampscott, Massachusetts. He was the second of three children born to Margaret Elizabeth (née Flanagan) and William John Brennan. His father was an engineer and inventor, and young Brennan also studied engineering at Rindge Technical High School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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. After the war, he moved to Guatemala and grew pineapples before returning to the U.S. and settling in 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.

Finding himself penniless, Brennan began taking parts as an extra in films in 1925 and then bit parts in as many films as he could, including Texas Cyclone and Two Fisted Law with another newcomer to Hollywood, John Wayne. Brennan also had bit parts in The Invisible Man (1933), Girl Missing (1933), the Three Stooges short Woman Haters (1934), and Bride of Frankenstein (1935), in which he had a brief speaking part and also worked as a stuntman. In the 1930s, he began appearing in higher-quality films and received more substantial roles as his talent was recognized. This culminated with his receiving the first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Swan Bostrom in the period film Come and Get It (1936). Two years later, he portrayed town drunk and accused murderer Muff Potter in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

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

In Sergeant York (1941), he played a sympathetic preacher and dry-goods store owner who advised the title character, played by Gary Cooper. Brennan and Cooper appeared in six films together. In 1942, he played the reporter Sam Blake, who befriended and encouraged Lou Gehrig (played by Cooper) in Pride of the Yankees. He 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 Humphrey Bogart vehicle which introduced Lauren Bacall. Though he was hardly ever cast as the villain, notable exceptions were his roles as Judge Roy Bean in The Westerner (1940) with Gary Cooper, for which he won his third Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor; Old Man Clanton in My Darling Clementine (1946), opposite Henry Fonda; and the murderous Colonel Jeb Hawkins in the James Stewart episode of the Cinerama production How the West Was Won (1962).

From 1957 to 1963, he starred in the ABC television series The Real McCoys, a sitcom about a poor West Virginia family that relocated to a farm in Southern California. After five years on ABC, The Real McCoys switched to CBS for a final season.

He also made 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. In his music, he sometimes worked with Allen “Puddler” Harris, a Louisiana native who was a member of the original Ricky Nelson Band. Brennan appeared as an extremely cantankerous sidekick with John Wayne, Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson in Howard Hawks’s 1959 Western Rio Bravo, and also co-starred with James Garner a decade later in Support Your Local Sheriff!, playing the ruthless head of the villainous Danby family.

Brennan starred as the wealthy executive Walter Andrews in the short-lived 1964–1965 ABC series The Tycoon, with Van Williams. In 1967, he starred in another ABC series, The Guns of Will Sonnett, as an older man in search of his gunfighter son, James Sonnett, with his grandson, Jeff, played by Dack Rambo. After the series went off the air in 1969, Brennan continued working in both television and feature films. He 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 the following year. From 1970 to 1971, he was a regular on the CBS sitcom To Rome with Love, with John Forsythe. This was Brennan’s last television series as a member of the permanent cast.

In 1920, Brennan married Ruth Caroline Wells (December 8, 1897 – January 12, 1997). They had a daughter, Ruth Caroline Brennan Lademan (September 22, 1924 – October 27, 2004).

The two Brennan sons are both in their 90’s. Arthur Mike Brennan (born 1921) and his wife, Florence Irene Brennan (1925–2003), lived in Joseph, Oregon. Brennan’s other son is Walter Andrew “Andy” Brennan Jr. (born 1923) In 1940, Brennan purchased the 12,000-acre Lightning Creek Ranch, 20 miles south of Joseph. 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.

Brennan died of emphysema at the age of 80 in Oxnard, California. His remains were interred at San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Los Angeles.

In Our Bookstore

Real American Character: The Life of Walter Brennan, A (Hollywood Legends Series)