Saturday, August 3, 2013

In Memoriam: Eileen Brennan 1932-2013

Actress. Played Irene Malloy in the original Broadway production of Hello, Dolly. Films: Divorce, American Style. The Last Picture Show. The Sting. At Long Last Love. The Death of Richie (TV movie). Murder by Death. The Cheap Detective. Private Benjamen. Clue. And many, many TV appearances.

"I love meanies, and this goes back to Capt. Lewis in Private Benjamin...You know why? Because they have no sense of humor. People who are mean or unkind or rigid--think about it--cannot laugh at themselves. If we can't laugh at ourselves and the human condition, we're going to be mean."

Eileen Brennan was a cast member of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In for about two months in 1968It was here that she first worked with Goldie Hawn, her Private Benjamen co-star. Hawn's not in the above video, so you'll just have to make do with Judy Carne and special-guest star Cher (though it's the 1960s, these three women don't exactly come off as hippies in this clip, do they?)

Brennan played Genevieve, the cafe waitress in The Last Picture Show (1971). I believe she's the only character in that movie who doesn't have sex, which may account for the sour expression on her face.

Brennan, as brothel madame Billie, chats with police lieutenant Snyder, played by Charles Durning, in this dimly lit still from The Sting (1973). Believe it or not, she was one of the good guys, while he played a baddie. You can imagine the moral compass THAT movie had!

Brennen plays Lauren Bacall to Peter Falk's Humphrey Bogart in this clip from Neil Simon's very funny whodunit parody Murder by Death (1976).

In another Simon/Falk Bogart parody The Cheap Detective (1978), Brennan channels Edith Piaf, who I don't believe was ever in a Bogart, or for that matter, ANY Hollywood movie. Nevertheless, she sings "La Vie en Rose", focusing on those lyrics that we all remember best.

Here's Brennan in her most famous role, as Captain Doreen Lewis in the very funny first half of Private Benjamen (1980).


  1. Goodness it seems all the actors I know are dieing. I just heard about the death of Micheal Ansara. Many people know him from Star Trek but I remember him from my childhood watching Broken Arrow.
    I feel old today.

    cheers, parsnip

    1. I've never seen the TV version of BROKEN ARROW, parsnip, but I've seen Ansara on various things over the years, including STAR TREK. Good journeyman actor.

  2. Kirk! That Laugh-In clip. WTF? it's so wierd. I never realized Brennan was on that show! She definitely went on to greener pastures. Thanks for the memories. What a lovely woman and a great actress.

    1. Patricia, I didn't realize Brennan was on LAUGH-IN until I read her obit and found a clip on YouTube. She was very, very good at comedy, so I shouldn't be surprise. I guess the real surprise is she was on the show such a short time. I haven't been able to track down the reason she left so early. Oh, well, Rowen and Martin's loss was the rest of ours gain.