Born: 24 July 1894
Died: 21 September 1974 (emphysema)
Birthplace: Swampscott, Massachusetts
Best known as: Three-time Oscar-winning western sidekick
Walter Brennan was a much-loved and much-Oscared character actor in American movies of the 1930s through 1960s. His specialty was cranky-but-good-hearted sidekicks, uncles, bosses and doctors, all played with his distinctively scratchy (and often exasperated) voice. Walter Brennan was born near Boston and joined the US Army in 1917, fighting in France during World War I. In the 1920s he moved to Los Angeles and caught on as a film extra and then moved up to small parts. He made his mark in 1937, when he was awarded the first Oscar ever given in the category of best supporting actor, for the 1936 film Come and Get It. He followed that with Oscars for Kentucky (1938) and The Westerner (1940, with Brennan as Judge Roy Bean). Walter Brennan appeared in more than 100 films but is best remembered for westerns like My Darling Clementine (1946, with Henry Fonda), Red River (1948, with John Wayne), The Far Country (1954, with Jimmy Stewart) and Rio Bravo (1959, again with Wayne). He poked fun at his own image as Grandpappy Amos in the TV sitcom The Real McCoys from 1957-63. He also starred in the TV series The Guns of Will Sonnett from 1967-69.
According to the National Cowboy Museum, Walter Brennan “lost half of his teeth in a World War I gas accident and lost the remaining ones in an early movie accident” — which gave his voice its distinctive whistle… Walter Brennan owned a large cattle ranch near Joseph, Oregon… It’s true: Walter Brennan won three of the first five Oscars given for supporting actor. He was also nominated in year six for Sergeant York (1941) but did not win and was never nominated again. He and Jack Nicholson are the only men to win three acting Oscars.
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