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Walter Brennan

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1 Walter Brennan on Thu Jan 20, 2011 1:17 pm

Finding himself broke, he began taking extra parts in 1929 and then bit parts in as many films as he could, including The Invisible Man (1933) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and also worked as a stunt man. 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 very 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 in real life. The loss of many teeth in a 1932 accident, rapidly thinning hair, thin build, and gravelly voice all made him seem older than he really was. He used these physical features to great effect. In many of his film roles, Brennan wore dentures; in Northwest Passage--a film set in the late 18th century, when most people had bad teeth—he wore a special dental prosthesis which made him appear to have rotting and broken teeth.
Director Jean Renoir gave the character actor a leading role in 1941: Brennan played the top-billed lead in Swamp Water, a drama directed by Renoir and featuring Walter Huston.
In the 1941 Sergeant York, he played a sympathetic preacher and dry goods store owner who advised the title character played by Gary Cooper. He was particularly skilled in playing the hero's sidekick or as the "grumpy old man" in a picture. Though he was hardly ever cast as the villain, notable exceptions were his roles as Old Man Clanton in the classic 1946 film My Darling Clementine opposite Henry Fonda, the 1962 Cinerama production How the West Was Won as the murderous Colonel Jeb Hawkins, and as Judge Roy Bean in The Westerner, for which he won his third best supporting actor Academy Award, in 1940.
From 1957-1963, he starred in the ABC television series The Real McCoys, which costarred Richard Crenna, and Kathleen Nolan. The comedy about a poor West Virginia family that relocated to a farm in southern California ran on ABC from 1957 to 1962 before switching to CBS for a final season as The McCoys. In the last season, Janet De Gore and Butch Patrick joined the cast as a widow and son; she being the new romantic interest of the recently widowed Luke McCoy, played by Richard Crenna. The revised format of The McCoys was no match in the ratings for NBC's powerhouse western series, Bonanza.

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