Walter Brennan - Rotten Tomatoes

Walter Brennan

Highest Rated:   100% How the West Was Won (1963)
Lowest Rated:   18% The Oscar (1966)
Birthday:  
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

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Highest Rated Movies

Filmography

MOVIES

RATING TITLE CREDIT BOX OFFICE YEAR
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
69% 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
18% The Oscar
  • Orrin C. Quentin
1966
No Score Yet Those Calloways
  • Alf Simes
1965
100% 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 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
83% Hangmen Also Die
  • Prof. Novotny
1943
92% 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
67% 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
100% 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 Phantom of the Air
  • 'Skid'
1933
No Score Yet Man of Action
  • Actor
1933
No Score Yet One Year Later
  • Yokel
1933
No Score Yet Sing, Sinner, Sing
  • Henchman Riordan
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

Quotes from Walter Brennan's Characters