Eileen Brennan, the actress who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her work as tough drill captain Doreen Lewis in the 1980 Goldie Hawn comedy Private Benjamin, died Sunday at her home in Burbank of bladder cancer. She was 80.
Although her first role was in the 1967 comedy Divorce American Style, it was her turn as the kindhearted waitress Genevieve in Peter Bogdanovich’s 1971 classic The Last Picture Show that really brought her to the public’s attention. She would reprise the role for Bogdanovich in 1990 for the sequel Texasville. She also worked with the director on two other films – Daisy Miller (1974) and At Long Last Love (1975).
Despite her strong dramatic performance in The Last Picture Show, Brennan is probably best known to the public for her numerous comedic roles. She reprised her Private Benjamin Captain Lewis role for the television adaptation of the film which ran for two years. In the 1973 caper comedy The Sting she played brothel madam Billie. For writer Neil Simon she played Peter Falk’s long-suffering secretary Tess Skeffington in the spoof Murder by Death (1976) and Betty DeBoop in The Cheap Detective (1978). In 1985’s Clue, she played the fizzy-haired Mrs. Peacock.
Although her career transitioned more to television in the 1990s, she continued to appear in such films as Stella (1990) with Bette Midler, Jeepers Creepers (2001) and Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous (2005).