Eileen Brennan, born as Verla Eileen Regina Brennan, was an American actress. She first came into prominence for her supporting role in the 1971 drama film ‘The Last Picture Show’ which garnered her a BAFTA Award nomination. She achieved further success with her role as Doreen Lewis in the 1980 comedy ‘Private Benjamin’ for which she earned an Oscar nomination. Brennan also worked in television, earning Emmy Award nominations for her guest appearances in ‘Thirtysomething,’ ‘Taxi,’ ‘Newhart,’ and ‘Will & Grace.’ Born to a doctor and a silent film actress, she studied at Georgetown University and later attended American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She started her career during her college days, initially appearing in theatrical productions and eventually transitioning to films. From 1968 to 1974, the talented actress was married to British photographer cum poet David Lampson with whom she had two sons. In 1990, she was diagnosed with breast cancer for which she was successfully treated. Brennan eventually died in July 2013 due to bladder cancer, at the age of 80.
Childhood & Early Life
Eileen Brennan was born as Verla Eileen Regina Brennan on September 3, 1932, in Los Angeles, California, USA, to John Gerald Brennen, a doctor, and Regina Menehan, a silent film actress.
Following high school, she attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She later studied at American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.
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Eileen Brennan started her acting career during her college days, initially appearing in the stage production of ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’. Soon after this, she landed the titular role in the off-Broadway musical ‘Little Mary Sunshine’ and earned an Obie Award for her performance.
In 1961, she played the role of Annie Sullivan in Arthur Penn’s ‘The Miracle Worker’ and then went on to appear in ‘Hello, Dolly’.
Brennan made her film debut in 1967 when she was cast in the satirical comedy ‘Divorce American Style’. The following year, she became a semiregular on ‘Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In’. She next starred as Genevieve in the drama flick ‘The Last Picture Show’ for which she earned a BAFTA Award nomination.
In the following years, she appeared in the movies ‘The Sting’, ‘Murder by Death’ and ‘The Cheap Detective’. The actress next played Felicia Winters in the 1979 sitcom ‘13 Queens Boulevard’.
In 1979, she joined the cast of ABC’s ‘A New Kind of Family’ as Kit Flanagan. Two years later, she guest-starred in an episode of ‘Taxi’ and earned a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for her appearance.
Following her appearances in ‘The Love Boat’ and ‘Off the Rack’, Brennan earned another Emmy nomination for her guest role in the drama ‘Newhart’.
In 1990, she featured as Mrs. Wilkerson in ‘Stella’, a drama film about an unsophisticated single mother who makes a selfless sacrifice to give her daughter all the opportunities she never had.
In 1991, Brennan once again was nominated for an Emmy for her guest appearance in an episode of ‘Thirtysomething’. Soon after this, she had a voice role in the animated series ‘All-New Dennis the Menace’.
In 1995, she played Sister Margaret in the dark comedy ‘Reckless’. She was cast as Gladys Bink in the drama series ‘7th Heaven’.
From 2001 to 2006, she starred as Zandra in the sitcom ‘Will & Grace’. During this time, Brennan also had roles in the films ‘Jeepers Creepers’, ‘Comic Book Villains’ and ‘The Hollow’.
From 1981 to 1983, Eileen Brennan played Captain Doreen Lewis in ‘Private Benjamin’, a series about a spoiled young socialite who strives hard to adjust to her new life as a private in the army. Brennan’s performance was appreciated and she won various awards including a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress and an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress.
Family & Personal Life
Eileen Brennan married British poet cum photographer David John Lampson in 1968. She had two sons with him, Sam, a future singer, and Patrick, a future actor, before divorcing him in 1974.
In 1982, she suffered massive injuries following a road accident and took years to recover completely. In 1989, she fell from the stage, breaking her leg. A year later, the actress was diagnosed with breast cancer which was eventually successfully treated.
On July 28, 2013, she died at her home in California of bladder cancer, at the age of 80.