Wilford Brimley, ‘The Natural’ and ‘Cocoon’ Star, Dies at 85
Wilford Brimley, best known for his roles in “The Natural,” the 1982 remake of “The Thing,” “The Firm” and “Cocoon,” died on Saturday. He was 85. His…
, best known for his roles in “The Natural,” the 1982 remake of “The Thing,” “The Firm” and “Cocoon,” died on Saturday. He was 85.His agent, Lynda Bensky, told The New York Times that he had been sick with a kidney problem for two months.Brimley was also famous for the series of commercials for Quaker Oats in which he appeared.
Pauline Kael ably summed up his appeal in a few words. Reviewing “Cocoon” for the New Yorker in 1985, she said, “Wilford Brimley, with his walrus mustache and friendly belly, brings an ornery impudence to his role.”Brimley, who seemed to enter old age several decades ago, appeared perfectly at home in the Ron Howard-directed movie about senior citizens unintentionally rejuvenated by an alien life force in the pool where they do water aerobics even though he was only 51 at the time. Brimley’s Ben Luckett doing cannonballs in the pool is one of the most memorable moments in the film. Brimley returned for the 1988 sequel.
The actor had a habit of creating memorable performances even in relatively small roles. In Barry Levinson’s nostalgic period baseball movie “The Natural” (1984), Brimley brought a welcome characterfulness to his role as the team manager Pop Fisher that the bland hero played by Robert Redford utterly lacked.
In Sydney Pollack’s 1981 journalistic ethics drama “Absence of Malice,” starring Sally Field and Paul Newman, for example, Brimley had essentially one scene — but it was the key one, and he truly dominated it. Roger Ebert singled him out for praise for his work as “a lawman who takes brusque command of an informal hearing” in the climactic scenes of the movie “and reduces everyone but Newman to quivering surrender.”
John Carpenter’s 1982 horror film “The Thing” saw Brimley bring a very different energy to his role as Dr. Blair — intelligent but lugubrious.Brimley appeared in the Robert Duvall-dominated “Tender Mercies” (1983) but still found room to make an impression as the Duvall character’s old manager, patient but truth-telling, and the same year, the actor was the best thing in the long-forgotten Tom Selleck adventure vehicle “High Road to China,” in which he played the gone-missing father of Bess Armstrong’s character.
During the 1990s, Brimley reteamed with director Pollack for the adaptation of John Grisham’s “The Firm” (1993), starring John Cruise; Brimley effectively played the sinister law firm’s chief of security — a rare outing for him as a villain. He also appeared in 1996 political comedy “My Fellow Americans,” starring Jack Lemmon, James Garner and Dan Aykroyd, as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and as Kevin Kline’s character’s father in the 1997 sexuality comedy “In and Out.” He also appeared in a number of TV movies.
In Richard Dutcher’s 2001 film “Brigham City,” Brimley played a retired sheriff involved in the investigation of a serial killer amid a backdrop of Mormon piety. More recently he appeared in the Hugh Grant-Sarah Jessica Parker urbanites-in-the-sticks comedy “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” in 2009.
The actor also had a long history in television.After an uncredited role in “True Grit” with John Wayne, Brimley made his small screen debut in an episode of “Kung Fu” in 1975 and recurred on “The Waltons” as Horace Brimley.The year 1979 was a busy one for Brimley: He appeared in the miniseries “How the West Was Won,” played President Grover Cleveland in the reunion telepic “The Wild Wild West Revisited,” and had roles in two Jane Fonda films: “The Electric Horseman,” also starring Robert Redford, and “The China Syndrome; a couple of years later he reunited with Redford on “Brubaker,” in which Brimley had a small role.
From 1986-88 Brimley starred in the family drama “Our House” as a grandfather who takes in his daughter, played by Deidre Hall, and her children (one of whom was played by Shannen Doherty).In a memorable 1994 episode of “Homicide: Life on the Street,” Brimley appeared as an old man dying of cancer who wants to be relieved of his burden through euthanasia but doesn’t trust his own son to get the job done; a 1997 episode of “Seinfeld” in which Brimley played the Postmaster General showed the actor’s facility with comedy and also parodied his great scene in “Absence of Malice.”Read more: Variety »
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He was the first to tell me of Diabetes. He didn’t by chance die of diabetes did he? One quibble: “High Road to China” is certainty not long-forgotten. That said, Brimley is the most memorable thing about it. ;) RIP, Dr Blair. Nooooo!!! Nooooooo I still haven’t been the same since his role in The Firm. He really went hard against type.
bobfescoe you lost your hero today. RIP Wilford Brimley He will be missed. I liked him in the movie ' The Firm '. Not to sound insensitive.... But he was alive in 2020!?! CampKari Legend May his soul rest peace 🙌❤💐 R.I.P. Cowboy He was 85! Twice! He did More for the Persons with Diabetes than you Will ever know.. He NEVER took a Dime for Any of the Diabeteees Commercials/Ads/Lectures Ever.. Not a Penny..
One of absolute greats. I don't believe I ever saw him give a bad performance, and often saw him give a great performance. He will be missed but remembered fondly. May he Rest In Peace. RIP Wilford 😢 Honestly I thought he already passed some time ago. RIP I've enjoyed many a joke about oatmeal and diabeetus.
He looked 85 y/o 30 years ago We’ll keep the line around in his memory Diabeetus? Sad.
Wilford Brimley Dies: ‘Cocoon’, ‘The Natural’ Actor Was 85Wilford Brimley, the actor known for his work in Cocoon, The Natural and The Thing, has died. He was 85. Brimley, whose additional credits include The Electric Horseman and The Hotel New Hampshire,… So sad.. RIP 😢 Sad Rest in peace
Wilford Brimley, Curmudgeonly Actor Known for 'Cocoon' and 'The Natural,' Dies at 85Wilford Brimley, the actor with the walrus mustache whose down-home geniality seen in such films as 'Cocoon,' 'The Natural' and 'Absence of Malice' endeared him to moviegoers, has died. He was 85. What he did this time? Don’t forget the John Carpenter classic, “The Thing”. RIP Wilford Brimley , face of Quaker Oats and Diabetes Campaigns , dead at 85.
Wilford Brimley, Face of Quaker Oats & Diabetes Campaigns, Dead at 85Brimley was a staple in the health and food ad space for years. Oh man wilford passed away. Wow. I remember when he played in movies
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