In Memoriam: Brian Dennehy, Golden Globe Winner, 1938-2020

by Patricia Danaher April 16, 2020
Actor Brian Denenhy, Golden Globe winner 2001

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Golden Globe, Tony and Emmy winner Brian Dennehy died of natural causes at his home in Connecticut. The widely admired Irish-American actor, who was 81, had been a stalwart of stage, screen, and television in a decades-long, successful career. Not only was he titanic in frame at 6 foot 3 and weighing 250lbs, and with a booming voice, he was a huge presence in any of the many roles that he dominated.

His 2001 Golden Globe award was for his role of Willie Loman in the adaptation of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”, a powerful, emotional performance that riveted audiences. He also starred in over 40 movies during his career, such as in First Blood where he pursued Sylvester Stallone’s character, John Rambo. With Harrison Ford, he starred in Presumed Innocent and with Dudley Moore in 10. He also had roles as lawmen in Gorky Park, Best Seller and The Last of the Finest.   He also played a tough as nails detective, Jack Reed in a series of NBC movies, several of which he also wrote and directed.

Although he thrived in Hollywood, theater was his first and enduring love and he memorably starred in the works of Shakespeare, Chekov, O’Neill, Brecht, and Miller. He won two Tonys. “Movies used to be fun, but those days are gone,” he said.

For his television work, he was nominated for a total of six Emmys.

After the news was announced on Twitter by his daughter Elizabeth Dennehy, tributes flooded in. Lin Manuel Miranda called him “a colossus”; Dana Delaney said simply, “they don’t make his kind anymore.”

Dennehy was born in July 1938, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and was the eldest of three boys. He began amateur dramatics at 14, something which baffled his immigrant parents. “Anyone raised in a first or second-generation immigrant family knows that you are expected to advance the ball down the field,” Dennehy told Columbia College Today in 1999. “Acting didn’t qualify in any way.”

Brian Dennehy is survived by his first and second wives and by his three children and five grandchildren.