R.I.P. Brian Dennehy
Article by Ray Schillaci
One of the most recognizable presences in film, TV and stage has passed away at the age of 81, Brian Dennehy. Most of the time, Dennehy came across on screen like a man’s man, especially in one of his most famous roles as Sheriff Teasle in the first of Stallone’s Rambo series, First Blood. But, he also displayed a knack for comedy playing Chris Farley’s father in Tommy Boy.
You never forgot him once you saw him either playing the crooked sheriff you loved to hate in Silverado, replacing Kirk Douglas as Harrison in the sequel to the Australian hit movie The Man From Snowy River or as the rowdy football player in Semi-Tough. In fact, Dennehy played football and rugby in college, and served as a marine while playing football in Okinawa. The man was a hefty 6’ 3” and used that frame to his advantage as an intimidating factor on screen and stage.
He was nominated six times for Emmy awards for television movies he appeared in. Most notable was his role in Showtime’s Our Fathers about the Roman Catholic Church sex scandal. He would also be remembered as Elizabeth Keen’s grandfather on NBC’s The Blacklist. His distinctive voice narrated many TV programs, and voiced the rat, Django, in Disney/Pixar’s Ratatouille. In fact, Dennehy was so popular he would be parodied in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut and in an episode of the animated hit series The Simpsons.
The man also won two Tony awards as Best Lead Actor. One was for Death of a Salesman, the other was Long Day’s Journey into Night. He won accolades for several performances in high profile productions including Inherit the Wind, Desire Under the Elms and The Iceman Cometh to name just a few. Whether it be stage, TV or the big screen, the man was highly respected.
One of my personal favorites is the 1987 indie adeptly directed by John Flynn with a very clever script by Larry Cohen, Best Seller. James Woods plays a hitman who wants his story told by a famous author and one time police officer played by Dennehy. The problem being, Dennehy’s character has doubts about the assassin’s illustrious history that he is so quick to brag about. Woods and Dennehy’s chemistry in the movie ignites the screen and keeps the film going in a dizzying pace.
Larry Cohen originally wrote the script with Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster in mind. But, Woods and Dennehy proved to be great substitutions leaving the writer quite happy except for the ending that he completely disagreed with. Either way, the film is a must for any Dennehy, Woods or Larry Cohen fan.
Brian Dennehy worked all the way up to his passing with three productions listed to his credit for this year; Son of the South, Long Day Journey and The Adventures of Buddy Thunder. His daughter Elizabeth summed him up beautifully in a tweet, “Larger than life, generous to a fault, a proud and devoted father and grandfather, he will be missed by his wife Jennifer, family and many friends.” His legacy continues on with the brilliant performances he left us with.