'Private Benjamin' actress Eileen Brennan dies

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 30, 2013 at 8:43 pm •  Published: July 30, 2013
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Eileen Brennan, who went from musical comedy on Broadway to wringing laughs out of memorable characters in such films as "Private Benjamin" and "Clue," has died. She was 80.

Brennan's managers, Jessica Moresco and Al Onorato, said she died Sunday at home in Burbank after a battle with bladder cancer.

"Our family is so grateful for the outpouring of love and respect for Eileen," her family said in a statement. "She was funny and caring and truly one of a kind. Her strength and love will never be forgotten."

Brennan got her first big role on the New York stage in "Little Mary Sunshine," a musical comedy that won her the 1960 Obie award for best actress. Along with her "excellent singing voice," her performance was "radiant and comic," said a New York Times review.

But it was a series of sharp-tongued roles that won her fans on television and in movies, including gruff Army Capt. Doreen Lewis in 1980's "Private Benjamin," aloof Mrs. Peacock in 1985's "Clue" and mean orphanage superintendent Miss Bannister in 1988's "The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking."

"I love meanies, and this goes back to Capt. Lewis in 'Private Benjamin,'" Brennan said a 1988 interview with The Associated Press. "You know why? Because they have no sense of humor. People who are mean or unkind or rigid — think about it — cannot laugh at themselves. If we can't laugh at ourselves and the human condition, we're going to be mean."

"Private Benjamin" brought her a supporting actress nomination for an Oscar. She also won an Emmy for repeating her "Private Benjamin" role in the television version and was nominated six other times for guest roles on such shows as "Newhart," ''thirtysomething," ''Taxi" and "Will & Grace."

"Our world has lost a rare human," said "Private Benjamin" star Goldie Hawn in a statement. "Eileen was a brilliant comedian, a powerful dramatic actress and had the voice of an angel. I will miss my old friend."

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