The first time I ever heard of Eileen Brennan was when I was a kid listening to the original Broadway cast album of Hello Dolly. I heard this rich, sweet and almost operatic voice of the ingenue character, Irene Molloy.
Little did I know I was listening to the beginning of what would be a very long career of one of the most gifted comedic character actresses of her generation.
Here is the great Eileen showing off both her voice and her comic chops while "singing", "La Vie en Rose" from 1978's The Cheap Detective.
Eileen Brennan passed away in July of this year, but she left a legacy of indelible performances to celebrate.
Eileen Brennan came in third (behind costars Ellen Burstyn and Cloris Leachman) for the New York Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress for her terrific dramatic work as Genevieve in this landmark film. She is riveting in the way she makes the viewer see Genevieve's whole life in just a few moments.
Neil Simon wrote this murder mystery comedy with five famous detectives (all based on famous fictional detectives) being invited to a mansion on a stormy night to solve an unsolvable crime. Brennan shines Tess Skeffington a femme fatale sidekick to Peter Falk. Fans of Brennan will notice some similarities to the later, Clue.
Brennan had her most acclaimed role in Private Benjamin. She received an Academy Award nomination for playing Captain Doreen Lewis, a tough commander who has to mold the hapless Private Benjamin (Goldie Hawn) into being a real soldier. Brennan would go on to win an Emmy award for recreating the character on the television series.
In one of her last roles, Brennan frequently, and hilariously, guest starred on Will and Grace as Jack's intimidating acting teacher, Zandra. A highlight is the two part episode "Flip-Flop" where Will and Grace want to start flipping apartments. Their first client is Zandra.