Private Benjamin star Eileen Brennan dies of bladder cancer


Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The actress best known for her Oscar-nominated role as Goldie Hawn’s tormentor in 1980 comedy Private Benjamin has died aged 80.

Eileen Brennan died of bladder cancer at her home in Burbank, Los Angeles on Sunday.

“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.”

Hawn paid tribute to her “old friend Eileen Brennan” on Twitter and in a statement.

 “No one ever made me laugh more!  Now I cry.  Please keep singing darling from on high. Rest,” she tweeted.

"Our world has lost a rare human,” she added in a statement. "Eileen was a brilliant comedian, a powerful dramatic actress and had the voice of an angel."

Brennan, who had a famously husky voice and was known for playing cantankerous and opinionated women, also appeared in The Last Picture Show, Clue and The Sting. Between 2001 and 2006 she was a regular as Zandra in TV comedy Will & Grace.

She was nominated for a best supporting Oscar for her memorable role as US Army Captain Doreen Lewis in Private Benjamin, was Bafta-nominated for playing Genevieve the waitress in The Last Picture Show and received seven Emmy nominations in her lifetime.

Brennan and Hawn also appeared together in the first series of American sketch TV show Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.

The actress was seriously injured in 1982 when she was hit by a car following a dinner with Hawn in Los Angeles.

She later became addicted to painkillers and entered the Betty Ford clinic in 1984.

“It was my only hope. I had reached the stage where I was taking anything I could get my hands on,” Brennan told People magazine in 1985.

“Everyone hits bottom their own way. Mine came through my accident, which led to my pill addiction, which led to my birth. I say birth rather than rebirth because I feel born new. I re-established a spiritual connection that is lost when you are taking any kind of drug. Strangely enough I wouldn't have missed my accident. It just knocks me out to say that, but I mean it.”

Born Verla Eileen Regina Brennan in September 1932, she started out on the stage before moving to Hollywood in the 1960s. Her film debut was in the comedy Divorce American Style opposite Debbie Reynolds and Dick Van Dyke.

She also appeared in two Neil Simon comedies, Murder by Death and The Cheap Detective, and in Clue as Mrs Peacock.

Recent roles include Jeepers Creepers (2001) and Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (2005) as William Shatner's mother, even though she was younger than him.

Brennan was married to David John Lampson from 1968 to 1974. She is survived by two sons, Patrick Brennan and Sam Lampson.