Walter Brennan

Highest Rated: 100% Rio Bravo (1959)
Lowest Rated: 17% The Oscar (1966)
Birthday: Jul 25, 1894
Birthplace: Swampscott, Massachusetts, USA
It had originally been the hope of Walter Brennan (and his family) that he would follow in the footsteps of his father, an engineer; but while still a student, he was bitten by the acting bug and was already at a crossroads when he graduated in 1915. Brennan had already worked in vaudeville when he enlisted at age 22 to serve in World War I. He served in an artillery unit and although he got through the war without being wounded, his exposure to poison gas ruined his vocal chords, leaving him with the high-pitched voice texture that made him a natural for old man roles while still in his thirties. His health all but broken by the experience, Brennan moved to California in the hope that the warm climate would help him and he lost most of what money he had when land values in the state collapsed in 1925. It was the need for cash that drove him to the gates of the studios that year, for which he worked as an extra and bit player. The advent of the talkies served Brennan well, as he had been mimicking accents in childhood and could imitate a variety of different ethnicities on request. It was also during this period that, in an accident during a shoot, another actor (some stories claimed it was a mule) kicked him in the mouth and cost him his front teeth. Brennan was fitted for a set of false teeth that worked fine, and wearing them allowed him to play lean, lanky, virile supporting roles; but when he took them out, and the reedy, leathery voice kicked in with the altered look, Brennan became the old codger with which he would be identified in a significant number of his parts in the coming decades. He can be spotted in tiny, anonymous roles in a multitude of early-'30s movies, including King Kong (1933) (as a reporter) and one Three Stooges short. In 1935, however, he was fortunate enough to be cast in the supporting role of Jenkins in The Wedding Night. Directed by King Vidor and produced by Samuel Goldwyn, it was supposed to launch Anna Sten (its female lead) to stardom; but instead, it was Brennan who got noticed by the critics. He was put under contract with Goldwyn, and was back the same year as Old Atrocity in Barbary Coast. He continued doing bit parts, but after 1935, his films grew fewer in number and the parts much bigger. It was in the rustic drama Come and Get It (1936) that Brennan won his first Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor. Two years later, he won a second Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in Kentucky (1938). That same year, he played major supporting roles in The Texans and The Buccaneer, and delighted younger audiences with his moving portrayal of Muff Potter, the man wrongfully accused of murder in Norman Taurog's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Brennan worked only in high-profile movies from then on, including The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, Stanley and Livingston, and Goldwyn's They Shall Have Music, all in 1939. In 1940, he rejoined Gary Cooper in The Westerner, playing the part of a notoriously corrupt judge. Giving a beautifully understated performance that made the character seem sympathetic and tragic as much as dangerous and reprehensible, he won his third Best Supporting Actor award. There was no looking back now, as Brennan joined the front rank of leading character actors. His ethnic portrayals gradually tapered off as Brennan took on parts geared specifically for him. In Frank Capra's Meet John Doe and Howard Hawks' Sergeant York (both 1941), he played clear-thinking, key supporting players to leading men, while in Jean Renoir's Swamp Water (released that same year), he played another virtual leading role as a haunted man driven by demons that almost push him to murder. He played only in major movies from that point on, and always in important roles. Sam Wood used him in Goldwyn's The Pride of the Yankees (1942), Lewis Milestone cast him as a Russian villager in The North Star (1943), and he was in Goldwyn's production of The Princess and the Pirate (1944) as a comical half


Highest Rated Movies



No Score Yet End of the Trail Actor 2002
No Score Yet Smoke in the Wind H.B. Kingman 1975
No Score Yet Home for the Holidays Actor 1972
No Score Yet The Over-the-Hill Gang Rides Again Nash Crawford 1970
No Score Yet The Over-the-Hill Gang Nash Crawford 1969
71% Support Your Local Sheriff! Pa Danby 1969
No Score Yet The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band Grandpa Bower 1968
No Score Yet Who's Minding the Mint? Pop Gillis 1967
No Score Yet The Gnome-Mobile D.J. Mulrooney / Knobby 1967
17% The Oscar Orrin C. Quentin 1966
No Score Yet Those Calloways Alf Simes 1965
90% How the West Was Won Col. Hawkins 1963
100% Rio Bravo Stumpy 1959
No Score Yet Tammy and the Bachelor Grandpa 1957
No Score Yet The Proud Ones Jake 1956
No Score Yet Goodbye, My Lady Uncle Jesse 1956
No Score Yet Come Next Spring Jeffrey Storys 1956
No Score Yet Glory Ned Otis 1956
No Score Yet At Gunpoint (Gunpoint!) Doc Lacy 1955
100% The Far Country Ben Tatum 1955
97% Bad Day at Black Rock Doc Velie 1955
No Score Yet Drums Across the River Sam Brannon 1954
No Score Yet Four Guns to the Border Actor 1954
No Score Yet Lure of the Wilderness Jim Harper 1952
No Score Yet Along the Great Divide Timothy 'Pop' Keith 1951
No Score Yet Golden Age of TV Dramas Actor 1951
No Score Yet Best of the Badmen `Doc' Butcher 1951
No Score Yet A Ticket to Tomahawk Terence Sweeny 1950
No Score Yet The Showdown Cap MacKellar 1950
No Score Yet Task Force Pete Richard 1949
No Score Yet The Green Promise Mr. Matthews 1949
No Score Yet Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay!, (Summer Lightning) Tony Maule 1948
No Score Yet Blood on the Moon Kris Barden 1948
100% Red River Groot 1948
No Score Yet Driftwood Murph 1947
100% My Darling Clementine Old Man Clanton 1946
No Score Yet Nobody Lives Forever Pop Gruber 1946
No Score Yet A Stolen Life Eben Folger 1946
No Score Yet Dakota Capt. Bounce of the Riverbird 1945
No Score Yet The Princess and the Pirate Featherhead 1944
97% To Have and Have Not Eddie 1944
No Score Yet Home in Indiana J. F. 'Thunder' Bolt 1944
No Score Yet The North Star (Armored Attack) Karp 1943
No Score Yet Slightly Dangerous Cornelius Burden 1943
85% Hangmen Also Die Prof. Novotny 1943
93% The Pride of the Yankees Sam Blake 1942
No Score Yet Stand By for Action Chief Yeoman Henry Johnson 1942
No Score Yet Rise and Shine Grandpa 1941
85% Sergeant York Pastor Rosier Pile 1941
No Score Yet Nice Girl? Hector Titus, Postman 1941
89% Meet John Doe The Colonel 1941
No Score Yet Swamp Water Tom Keefer 1941
No Score Yet Maryland William Stewart 1940
100% Northwest Passage Marriner 1940
100% The Westerner Judge Roy Bean 1940
No Score Yet Stanley and Livingstone Jeff Slocum 1939
No Score Yet They Shall Have Music Prof. Lawson 1939
71% The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle Walter 1939
No Score Yet Land of Liberty Actor 1939
No Score Yet Kentucky Peter Goodwin 1938
No Score Yet The Cowboy and the Lady Sugar 1938
No Score Yet The Texans Chuckawalla 1938
No Score Yet Mother Carey's Chickens Mr. Popham 1938
No Score Yet The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Muff Potter 1938
No Score Yet The Buccaneer Ezra Peavey 1938
No Score Yet Affairs of Cappy Ricks Cappy Ricks 1937
No Score Yet Banjo on My Knee Newt Holley 1936
90% Come and Get It Swan Bostrom 1936
100% Fury Buggs Meyers 1936
100% These Three Taxi Driver 1936
No Score Yet Three Godfathers Actor 1936
No Score Yet The Moon's Our Home Lem 1936
92% Barbary Coast Old Atrocity 1935
100% The Bride of Frankenstein Neighbor 1935
No Score Yet The Wedding Night Bill Jenkins 1935
No Score Yet Man on the Flying Trapeze "Legs" Garnett 1935
No Score Yet Northern Frontier Stuttering Cook 1935
No Score Yet Riptide Chauffeur 1934
No Score Yet Great Expectations Ship Prisoner 1934
No Score Yet The Prescott Kid Stage Driver 1934
No Score Yet From Headquarters Actor 1933
100% The Invisible Man Man With Bike 1933
80% Female Actor 1933
100% Baby Face Actor 1933
No Score Yet The Kiss Before the Mirror Actor 1933
No Score Yet The Keyhole Actor 1933
No Score Yet One Year Later Yokel 1933
No Score Yet Phantom of the Air 'Skid' 1933
No Score Yet Sing, Sinner, Sing Henchman Riordan 1933
No Score Yet Man of Action Actor 1933
No Score Yet Rustlers' Roundup Actor 1933
No Score Yet Two-Fisted Law Bendix 1932
No Score Yet Law and Order Lamny Smith 1932
No Score Yet Texas Cyclone Lew Collins 1932
No Score Yet A House Divided Man 1931
No Score Yet The King of Jazz Himself 1930
No Score Yet The Long, Long Trail "Skinny" Rawlins 1929


No Score Yet The Three Stooges
Train Conductor Father
  • 1935
  • 1934