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Acclaimed character actress Eileen Brennan dies

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 31st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Raspy-voiced actress Eileen Brennan, best known for her Oscar-nominated role as the irascible drill captain in 1980's "Private Benjamin," has passed away from bladder cancer. She was 80. 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Brennan over the weekend at her Burbank, California home. "Our family is so grateful for the outpouring of love and respect for Eileen," her family said in a statement. "She was funny and caring and truly one of a kind. Her strength and love will never be forgotten. She will be greatly missed by all of us."

Brennan was usually cast in roles where she was sassy, brassy woman who took no guff. Her brittle surface usually concealed a giving heart. 


One of her earlier roles was as a waitress in "The Last Picture Show" (1971), the companion of Paul Newman's conman in "The Sting" (1973), a wisecracking maid in "At Long Last Love" (1975) and Mrs. Peacock in "Clue" (1985). She was a frequent face on the small screen, including a reprise of her "Private Benjamin" role in the TV series of the same name.


One of her most enjoyable later roles was as the crazy cat lady armed with a rifle in the monster film "Jeepers Creepers" in 2001. Even at this advanced age, she still had those killer laser-beam eyes.


Later TV appearances included guest shots on "Taxi," "thirtysomething," "ER," "Murder, She Wrote," "Mad About You," "Touched by an Angel" and six episodes of "Will & Grace." The latter earned her an Emmy nomination, one of seven she earned in her career.


Born in Los Angeles in 1932, Brennan was the daughter of a doctor and a silent-film actress. She earned good notices for her 1959 off-Broadway turn as "Little Mary Sunshine," for which she won an Obie. Five years later, she gained fame for her performance as Irene Molloy in the 1960s hit musical "Hello, Dolly!"


Brennan's life was touched by ill luck. Brennan was involved in a horrific accident, struck by a car as she exited a restaurant with "Benjamin" co-star Goldie Hawn in 1982. She suffered broken bones in her face, an eyeball pulled from its socket and two broken legs. She suffered an addiction to painkillers during her recovery and entered the Betty Ford Clinic in 1984.


Brennan also survived a bout with breast cancer in 1990. She 
 was married to David John Lampson from 1968 to 1974. She is survived by two sons, Patrick Brennan and Sam Lampson.


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