Actress Eileen Brennan, best known for her role in The Last Picture Show as a waitress with a generous soul, and as a martinet officer in Private Benjamin, has died at the age of 80. She passed away this past Sunday according to her manager, Kim Vasilakis. Vasilakis said that Ms Brennan had been suffering from bladder cancer.
She was born in Los Angeles and acting was in her bloodline. Her mother, Jeanne Menehan was an actress during the era of silent films. While working at Georgetown University she was bit by the acting bug and began appearing in plays. She moved to off-Broadway productions and then onto Broadway in “Hello Dolly”
Divorce American Style in 1967 marked her debut on the big screen. From there she went in to working regularly in supporting roles in film, and did a two month stint as a semi-regular on the television show “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-in.” She garnered a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 1971’s The Last Picture Show, while her work in The Sting as the brothel madam who was close to Paul Newman’s ‘Henry Gondorf’ earned her very positive reviews.
Peter Bogdanovich was just one of the directors who thought highly of Brennan and cast her in their films when possible. Before 1980, her main film work was Murder By Death, The Cheap Detective and her starring role in FM.
Then she landed the role of the gruff military officer in 1980’s Private Benjamin and she was nominated for an Oscar for that movie. The following year she went on to star in a TV adaptation of the film alongside Lorna Patterson, who replaced Goldie Hawn in the title role for television.
During the run of the TV show, Brennan went out to dinner one night with Hawn. After dinner Brennan was injured severely by a passing vehicle. This led to her not working for three years and becoming addicted to the drugs she had been prescribed to alleviate her pain. She went into rehab and didn’t go back to work until 1985. After that she continued to work in both film and television into the mid-2000s.