Walter Brennan was an immensely popular character actor, particularly in the late 1930s and early 40s. He awarded with an impressive three Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor for his roles in 1936s Come and Get It, 1938s Kentucky, and 1940s The Westerner.
How is it possible for an actor to win three Academy Awards in five years and then end up being all but forgotten about later on? Walter Brennan’s acting career might have started strong. But being typecast as a cantankerous or lovable grandpa character in addition to overexposure overshadowed his significant contributions to some of the best Golden Age era Hollywood films.
But that’s not the only reason why Brennan has faded into obscurity. After you’ve garnered the reputation as an outspoken racist who’s vehemently opposed to civil rights. And thinks that everyone that doesn’t see eye to eye with you must be a God and country hating communist, it’s kind of hard to turn back. Join Facts verse as we reveal why Walter Brennan was quite possibly one of the evil man to ever find success in Hollywood.
Especially in his later years, Brennan’s outspoken, vitriolic views didn’t exactly earn him many fans. Some people think that Walter Brennan just might be the most dangerous actor who ever lived. You see, guns and knives might be able to inflict a degree of damage, but lies, misinformation. And hate can end up causing widespread carnage.
Join Facts verse as we reveal why Walter Brennan was quite possibly one of the evil man to ever find success in Hollywood. Before we delve into his many misdeeds. Let’s first take a moment to reflect on his early years and rise to fame.
From Wannabe Pineapple Farmer To Hollywood Star
Brennan was born on the 25th of July, 1894, in Lynn, Massachusetts, and grew up in the nearby town of Swampscott. Both of his parents were Irish immigrants. His dad worked as an engineer and dabbled in inventing, while his mother was a homemaker.
While he was studying at Rindge Technical School in Cambridge, Brennan took up an interest in acting. At the age of 15, he began performing in vaudeville productions.
After the first World War broke out in 1914, Brennan enlisted in the Army and served as a private in the 101st Field Artillery Regiment in France. While serving in Europe, Brennan injured after exposed to mustard gas. This injury affected his vocal cords and left him with his distinctly high-pitched, reedy voice.
After the war had ended, Brennan worked as a reporter for a newspaper in Boston. His intention was to eventually move out to Guatemala and work as a pineapple farmer. But he only ever made it as far as LA.
In the early 20s, Brennan made a hefty chunk of change in real estate but ended up losing it all during the devastating real estate slump of 1925. Join Facts verse as we reveal why Walter Brennan was quite possibly one of the evil man to ever find success in Hollywood.
Broke but not defeated, Brennan started working as an extra in Universal Studios films. While that job wasn’t exactly the most illustrious, it led to him landing more substantial roles with the studio. From 1925 to 1935, Brennan appeared in dozens of films as an extra or stand-in. Eventually, he was given speaking parts. And in 1936, he landed one of his career-defining roles when casted in Come and Get It.
As we already mentioned, that role earned him his first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He would win another two Oscars for his roles in Kentucky in 1938 and The Westerner in 1940.
Brennan later nominated for another Academy Award for his performance in 1941s Sergeant York.
A few of his other noteworthy appearances were in films like To Have and Have Not in 1944, My Darling Clementine in 1946, Red River in 1948, and Rio Bravo in 1959.
If you’ve made it this far, hopefully, you’ve been enjoying this video. If so, take a moment to show us a little love by giving this video a like and by subscribing to the Facts Verse channel. Join Facts verse as we reveal why Walter Brennan was quite possibly one of the evil man to ever find success in Hollywood.
Allegations Of Racism
It’s been reported that Brennan danced and shouted with glee when he learned that Martin Luther King Jr had assassinated.What kind of monster does something like that? Even if you didn’t love King, it’s never appropriate to celebrate someone’s ruthless murder!
Throughout the 1960s, Brennan became convinced that the civil rights and anti-war movements were the work of nefarious Communists overseas. To him, activists just pawns with their strings pulled by Marxists hell-bent on taking over the world. Interviews with him from around this time feature him speaking at great length about these conspiratorial views.
In one interview, he told a reporter that the riots in Newark and Watts and protests in Birmingham, Alabama. The result of African Americans who otherwise would have been ‘perfectly content’. Being stirred up and antagonized to take action by trouble-making bad actors with devious anti-American agendas. More troubling is the fact that he once suggested that the Watts riot should have dealt with by the barrel of a machine gun. Yes, you heard that right, Brannen literally suggested gunning down people just because they were standing up for their rights.
The cast and crew that worked alongside him on the set of his final Western series. The Guns of Will Sonnett, said that Brennan celebrated not only when he found out that Martin Luter King had died but also when senator Robert F. Kennedy murdered in 1968.
Brennan Used His Image To Spread Hate
Even though he was a New England-born Yankee through and through. Brennan projected an image of being some kind of kindly country boy. In order to connect with his rural fans and spread his racist, John Birch Society-inspired ideas. He was staunchly anti-Civil Rights, unabashedly biased and full of hatred. And he used his platform to facilitate the spread of these ideals. For someone that claimed to be a Christian, Brannon demonstrated a strikingly sparse amount of brotherly love. What happened to ‘love thy enemy’?
He hid his racist beliefs behind his kindly, man-of-the-people character that audiences absolutely adored.
Evidently, Brennan was so far right ideologically that he even held a deeply-seeded belief that John Wayne was a communist.
In 1965 he recorded several tracks at a John Birch Society convention in which he talked in his Grandpa Amos voice. Telling the attendees how the African Americans of the Civil Rights movement led by Congressman Adam Clayton Powell manipulated to push a communist takeover of the nation. While this might sound pretty nutty, Brennan was able to sell his hatred by tapping into the appeal of his well-known character.
Brenan played Grandpa Amos McCoy on the television series The Real McCoys. But the kindly hillbilly that he portrayed on television was nothing like the man he actually was.
Brennan Was Wildly Paranoid
Brennan was what we would today call a ‘prepper’. But instead of anticipating some kind of natural disaster or religious apocalypse. He convinced that the Soviets were imminently going to invade the US in an attempt to destroy democracy and implement communism. He had a bunker built in his Los Angeles estate. Which he outfitted with an assortment of firearms, food rations, and other survival supplies.
As we touched on earlier, Brennan for some reason thought John Wayne was secretly a communist. But The Duke wasn’t the only celebrity that Brennan thought was out to destroy America. Brennan forbid his daughter from letting his grandchildren listen to the Beatles. He feared that if they did, they would infected with the decadence of modernity and all of it’s sinister woes.
In his later years, he’s known for grilling his co-workers about their voting history. If anyone admitted to voting for a candidate as radical as, say, a Democrat, he would go off on a long-winded tangent about America’s impending doom.
God forbid someone said that they supported JFK. To Brennan, sympathizing with the political views of any Kennedy was basically like aligning yourself with Marx and Lenin.
While not nearly as controversial as his racist beliefs. Brennan saw prayer removed from public schools as being yet another’sign of the times’ pointing to the downfall of the looming country. He attended the Project Prayer rally in 1964 and spoke in front of 2,500 attendees at the Shrine Auditorium in LA.
The event which hosted by fellow actor Anthony Eisley intended to flood congress with letters expressing support for mandatory school prayers. The supreme court had previously ruled in 1962 and 1963 that the practice of mandating prayer in schools was unconstitutional. As it conflicted with the constitution’s Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Join Facts verse as we reveal why Walter Brennan was quite possibly one of the evil man to ever find success in Hollywood.
Brennan’s Final Years And Death
Brennan spent his final years mostly in retirement, living at his ranch in Moorpark, a neighborhood in Ventura County, California. His last screen appearance was in the Western film Smoke In the Wind, which hit theaters in 1975. He never got to see the finished film. Though, as he died of emphysema on September 21, 1974, at the age of 80. He laid to rest at San Fernando Mission Cemetery in LA.
Despite his many negative qualities, backward views, and blatant bigotry, film historians and critics often consider Brennan as being one the best character actors in film history. In total, Brennan appeared in more than 230 films throughout a career that spanned almost five decades.
For his many contributions to the world of cinema, he’s given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And in 1970 he was inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum’s Western Performers Hall of Fame.
Well, that about wraps up this video. If you’ve never heard of Walter Brannon before, you’re not alone. While he was a very prolific star, the world tends to forget about people who were on the wrong side of history.
But, what do you think? Was Walter Brannon really as evil as people say he was? And can you think of any other Hollywood stars who were just as racist and hateful as Brannon? Let us know in the comments. Join Facts verse as we reveal why Walter Brennan was quite possibly one of the evil man to ever find success in Hollywood.
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