Childhood & Early Years
Anthony Wilford Brimley was born on September 27, 1934, in Salt Lake City, Utah. His father, Wilford Charles Brimley, a second generation English immigrant, was an insurance agent and real estate broker. His mother, Lola Samantha Nelson, was of half Danish descent.
Born second of his parents’ five children, he has an elder sister named Donna Janeen and three younger siblings, namely, Sterling Nelson, Mary Lucile and Alyce Carol. From his father’s first marriage, he has three half siblings, Donald E., Dorothy and Ruth.
Possibly in 1950 or 1951, he dropped out of his high school to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. Eventually, he took part in the Korean Conflict, serving at the Aleutian Islands for three years.
On being released from his military duty, he began working in various capacities, sometime as a farmer, at other times as a wrangler, ranch hand, horse trainer, rodeo rider and blacksmith. Towards the end of 1950s, he also served as bodyguard to Howard Hughes.
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In early 1960s, Wilford Brimley began his career in the film industry as a farrier, shoeing horses for films and television productions. Eventually from 1965, he began to appear as a stuntman in various films including 'Bandolero!' (1968), 'True Grit' (1969), and ‘Lawman' (1971).
In 1974, he got his breakthrough when he was cast as Horace Brimley in 'The Waltons', a popular television series on CBS, appearing in eight of its episodes till 1977. Meanwhile, he also appeared in one episode of ‘Kung Fu’ (1975) and two episodes of 'The Oregon Trail' (1976, 1977).
In 1979, he got his first credited role in a feature film, appearing as Ted Spindler in 'The China Syndrome'. Another of his film released in the same year was ‘The Electric Horseman’, appearing in it in the role of a farmer.
In 1979, he debuted in television film with 'The Wild Wild West Revisited'. It was followed by several others, such as 'Amber Waves', 'Roughnecks' 'Rodeo Girl', 'The Big Black Pill', 'Murder in Space', 'Ewoks: The Battle for Endor', 'Thompson's Last Run' and 'Act of Vengeance', all released between 1980 and 1986.
In 1980s, he appeared in 22 feature films, making his mark with a brief, but critical, role in ‘Absence of Malice’ (1981), appearing as the cantankerous but honest Assistant U.S. Attorney, James A. Wells.
In 1985, he got his first leading role, appearing as Ben Luckett in the award winning science-fiction fantasy comedy-drama film, ‘Cocoon’. Very soon, he became famous for his portrayal of irritable or difficult old man.
His image as grumpy old man was further accentuated when he played Gus Witherspoon in ‘Our House’, a drama series aired on NBC from September 1986 to May 1988. Meanwhile in 1987, he received his first award nomination for his role in the 1986 television film, ‘Act of Vengeance’.
In 1990s, he appeared in 14 films, notable among them being ‘The Firm’ (1993). In this film, he appeared in the role of the creepy head of security at a law firm, thus departing from his usual grumpy old man image.
In 1997, he decided to move away from Hollywood and thereafter appeared in a string of independent productions, such as ‘Lunker Lake’, 'Chapter Perfect', 'Progeny', 'A Place to Grow' etc. Concurrently, he also continued to appear in television productions, including 'The Boys of Twilight' and 'Tom Clancy's Op Center'.
Concurrently with his film and television roles, Brimley also appeared in advertisements, becoming especially known for his commercials for Quaker Oats throughout 1980s and 1990s. His other important works in this field were for Liberty Medical and Bryan Foods.
Continuing to work, he made a mainstream comeback with ‘Crossfire Trail’, a made-for-television Western film, in 2001. Playing Joe Gill in 'Did You Hear About The Morgans?' (2009) was another of his important works of this decade. His last film, ‘Timber the Treasure Dog’ was released in 2016.
Family & Personal Life
On July 6, 1986, Wilford Brimley married actress Lynne Bagley. They were together till her death on June 14, 2000. The couple had four children, James Charles, John Michael, William Carmen, and Lawerence Dean. Among them, Lawerence died early and John became a successful actor.
On October 31, 2007, Wilford Brimley married Beverly Berry.