Friday, April 17, 2020


Brian Dennehy has died at the age of 81. A bland-looking, versatile character actor who could muster up viciousness in a role if needed, Dennehy is yet another fixture from my childhood. He was one of those burly-looking guys who, despite being fat, somehow managed to pass himself off as "barrel-chested." I never knew Dennehy the Tony Award-winning stage actor, but I knew him for several of his film roles. He was evil Sheriff Teasle in 1982's "First Blood," starring Sylvester Stallone. I next saw him in the role of a benevolent alien in Ron Howard's 1985 "Cocoon," starring the gruff-but-kind Wilford Brimley. Playing a baddie yet again, Dennehy featured in 1992's "Gladiator," a boxing movie starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. and James Marshall. In "Gladiator," Dennehy's character steps rather implausibly into the ring to duke it out with Marshall. It's a hilarious and ridiculous moment, and it's played with absolute seriousness, making it all the weirder. I also recall Dennehy as another evil sheriff, Cobb, in 1985's "Silverado," facing off against Kevin Kline's Paden, a phlegmatic loner.

So Dennehy could be both devil and angel. And despite his generic looks, or perhaps because of them, Dennehy often seemed to be everywhere. I remember seeing some of the early versions of Thanos in the first two Avengers movies and in "Guardians of the Galaxy," and Thanos's look—with that square face and that piercing gaze—reminded me, for whatever reason, of Brian Dennehy. Echoes of the man, even accidental ones like Thanos, will live on now that he's gone. RIP, Mr. Dennehy. You will be missed.

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