Eileen Brennan, an actress who successfully was able to do musical theater and then land somewhat of a niche in comedic roles, and is probably most remembered for her portrayal of a ball busting Captain in Private Benjamin, has died at the age of 80 after a lengthy battle with bladder cancer reports USA Today.
Brennan first cut her teeth in the acting community with various Broadway stints, she had showcased a penchant for singing with light comedy, as evidenced by her Obie winning performance in the 1960 New York production of Little Mary Sunshine. Hello Dolly was also part of her resume, and she then rounded out the decade with some theatrical films and appearances on TV variety programs, mainly the smash hit Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. That led to more TV, programs as genre stretching as All in the Family, the gritty cop drama Kojak, the soppy nautical light fare The Love Boat and others. She exhibited a versatility, which kept her employed prolifically as a utility character actress in Hollywood.
But it may her role as Captain Lewis in the army service comedy Private Benjamin that was her watershed moment of her career. Nominated for an Academy Award for the performance (she also won an Emmy for a TV adaptation of the film), it also created a kind of style for the actress, the gruff, dry humored kind of shrew which always acted as a sort of antagonist in the productions she was in. The 1980 film also began her long standing friendship with the film’s main star, Goldie Hawn. Brennan was the victim of getting hit by a car in 1982 after the two of them had dinner. Brennan suffered smashed legs and lacerations in the accident, and used her anger to ironically heal herself, something that she said increased her motivation to in her words, “not go under, to get well.”
Later roles included Mrs. Peacock in the live action adaptation of the mystery board game Clue, and a role in a Pippi Longstocking retread.
Brennan is survived by her two sons, Patrick and Sam.
[Source: USA Today]