American actress Eileen Brennan was the daughter of Jean Manahan, a moderately successful silent screen actress. Brennan studied at both Georgetown University and the American Academy of Dramatic Art before making her mark as star of the 1959 off-Broadway musical Little Mary Sunshine. On the surface, it would seem that this production was out of character for the earthy, sardonic Brennan most familiar to filmgoers. Not so. A lampoon of insipid 1920s operettas, Little Mary Sunshine was in its own lah-dee-dah way one of the dirtiest musicals ever written (something that doesn't seem to dawn on the many high schools that have since produced it). Brennan was among the first-season stars of TV's Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, essentially doing hilarious variations of her simpering "Mary Sunshine" persona. With her 1970s film appearances in The Last Picture Show (1971), The Sting (1972) and Hustle (1974) came the world-weary, hard-bitten characterizations with which she built her movie following. She was nominated for an Oscar for her expert interpretation of an army sergeant in Goldie Hawn's Private Benjamin (1980), then recreated the role for the 1981 TV sitcom version of this film (which won her an Emmy). While filming the TV Benjamin, Brennan was seriously injured in a car accident. The recovery was long and painful, but by 1985 she was back at work, as caustic as ever in recent films as White Palace (1991) and the Last Picture Show sequel Texasville (1990).
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