Friends, I have said it far too many times in the past weeks but it sure does appear that 2020 is attempting it’s level best to keep kicking us in the ribs in regards to the loss of beloved entertainers and artists. We lost the the likes of Alan Bates, Dame Olivia de Haviland as well as John Saxon mere days ago at the end of July. And now we start off August with the news from a friend to the Saturday Frights podcast that we have lost Wilford Brimley too. There are 152 days left in 2020 and I am not so sure that I can handle which icon or performer we might be losing next. I realize that Wilford Brimley was 85 years old when he passed away, I personally consider that to be a very good run to say the very least. In addition we can take some comfort in the fact that he left us with a solid number of film and TV roles as his legacy. The Internet Movie Database says that Brimley received his first of 77 credits back in 1969, an uncredited role in John Wayne’s incredibly popular adaptation of True Grit. The first film I caught him in though was 1979’s The Electric Cowboy – not that I realized who he was at that time – however I did take notice of him just three years later as Dr. Blair in John Carpenter’s The Thing!
You might not be aware of this but Wilford Brimley was a man who did not set out to become an actor – in fact it is completely honest to say that in his lifetime he wore many hats. He dropped out of High School to enlist in the United States Marine Corps – for three years he was stationed in the Aleutian Islands. After that he managed to become a bodyguard for none other than Howard Hughes – moving on to learn horseback riding and wrangling as a ranch hand. Skills that he would later use to his advantage in motion pictures, including becoming a blacksmith – it was his lifelong friend Robert Duvall (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Godfather) that managed to convince him to become a stuntman and extra for Western films and TV shows.
Wilford Brimley would initially appear in television series with the likes of Kung Fu, The Oregon Trail, and The Waltons, until in ’79 he was cast in not just The Electric Cowboy but The China Syndrome. More roles in TV movies and film would follow including The Wild Wild West Revisited, Brubaker, 10 to Midnight, and The Natural. He was perhaps better remembered for those of us of a certain age as Ben Luckett in 1985’s Cocoon and it’s sequel three years later.
And while I can say that one of my favorite roles of his was as Gus Witherspoon in the popular Our House television series – I would be remiss to not point out that he aided the Ewoks as Noa Briqualon in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor!
As always when we lose such an entertainer – we will dim the lights in the auditorium. Did you have a favorite role of Wilford Brimley? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.