Eileen Brennan

Active - 1967 - 2009  |   Born - Sep 3, 1932 in Los Angeles, California, United States  |   Died - Jul 28, 2013   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Comedy Drama

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Biography by Hal Erickson

American actress Eileen Brennan was the daughter of Jean Manahan, a moderately successful silent screen actress. Brennan studied at both Georgetown University and the American Academy of Dramatic Art before making her mark as star of the 1959 off-Broadway musical Little Mary Sunshine.

Brennan was among the first-season stars of TV's Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, essentially doing hilarious variations of her simpering "Mary Sunshine" persona. With her 1970s film appearances in The Last Picture Show (1971), The Sting (1972) and Hustle (1974) came the world-weary, hard-bitten characterizations with which she built her movie following. She was nominated for an Oscar for her expert interpretation of an army sergeant in Goldie Hawn's Private Benjamin (1980), then recreated the role for the 1981 TV sitcom version of this film (which won her an Emmy). While filming the TV Benjamin, Brennan was seriously injured in a car accident. The recovery was long and painful, but by 1985 she was back at work, as caustic as ever in recent films as Clue (1985), White Palace (1991) and the Last Picture Show sequel Texasville (1990). She continued to work steadily in a variety of projects including Murder So Sweet and 1995's Freaky Friday. She also made guest appearances on various T shows including Murder, She Wrote, E/R, Mad About You, and Touched By an Angel. In the 21st century she could be seen in Jeepers Creepers and Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous. Brennan passed away in 2013. She was 80 years old.

Movie Highlights

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  • Honed her talent by performing with Georgetown University's Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society.
  • Studied acting in New York; roomed with Rue McClanahan and Macy Janney (Allison Janney's mother).
  • In 1959, appeared in the off-Broadway production Little Mary Sunshine, for which she received an Obie Award.
  • Teamed with director Peter Bogdanovich for multiple films, including The Last Picture Show (1971) and Texasville (1990).
  • Was struck by a car and seriously injured in October 1982.
  • Overcame her injuries and a subsequent addiction to painkillers, resuming her career in 1984.