In many ways the most successful and familiar character actor of American sound films and the only actor to date to win three Oscars for Best Supporting Actor, Walter Brennan attended college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studying engineering. While in school he became interested in acting and performed in school plays. He worked some in vaudeville and also in various jobs such as clerking in a bank and as a lumberjack. He toured in small musical comedy companies before entering the military in After his war service he went to Guatemala and raised pineapples, then migrated to Los Angeles, where he speculated in real estate. A few jobs as a film extra came his way beginning in , then some work as a stuntman. He eventually achieved speaking roles, going from bit parts to substantial supporting parts in scores of features and short subjects between and He would win it twice more in the decade, and be nominated for a fourth. His range was enormous.
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He was the only performer to win three Academy Awards for best supporting actor. During his lifetime Brennan offered so many different versions of his early years that it is virtually impossible to separate fact from fancy. He may have left home—which was in Swampscott, Massachusetts—at age 11, or perhaps he remained there until he graduated from high school. He may have trained to be an engineer like his father, but whether he attended college for this purpose is open to speculation. It is very likely that he worked as a lumberjack, ditchdigger, bank messenger, and vaudeville performer. However, it is less likely that he raised pineapples in Guatemala. While he undoubtedly served with the st Field Artillery in World War I , the assertion that he acquired his grating high-pitched voice in a gas attack is probably apocryphal. After the war Brennan sold real estate in California until land prices crashed in
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It had originally been the hope of Walter Brennan and his family that he would follow in the footsteps of his father, an engineer; but while still a student, he was bitten by the acting bug and was already at a crossroads when he graduated in Brennan had already worked in vaudeville when he enlisted at age 22 to serve in World War I. He served in an artillery unit and although he got through the war without being wounded, his exposure to poison gas ruined his vocal chords, leaving him with the high-pitched voice texture that made him a natural for old man roles while still in his thirties. His health all but broken by the experience, Brennan moved to California in the hope that the warm climate would help him and he lost most of what money he had when land values in the state collapsed in It was the need for cash that drove him to the gates of the studios that year, for which he worked as an extra and bit player. The advent of the talkies served Brennan well, as he had been mimicking accents in childhood and could imitate a variety of different ethnicities on request. It was also during this period that, in an accident during a shoot, another actor some stories claimed it was a mule kicked him in the mouth and cost him his front teeth. Brennan was fitted for a set of false teeth that worked fine, and wearing them allowed him to play lean, lanky, virile supporting roles; but when he took them out, and the reedy, leathery voice kicked in with the altered look, Brennan became the old codger with which he would be identified in a significant number of his parts in the coming decades. He can be spotted in tiny, anonymous roles in a multitude of early-'30s movies, including King Kong as a reporter and one Three Stooges short. In , however, he was fortunate enough to be cast in the supporting role of Jenkins in The Wedding Night.
The only actor to win three Best Supporting Actor Oscar awards, he was one of the most successful character actors in American film. While attending college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studying to be an engineer, Brennan became interested in theatre and appeared in school plays. He worked some in vaudeville Exposure to the poison gases in the war ruined his vocal chords. He was turned down for WWII due to his age. Buy and sell electronics, cars, fashion apparel, collectibles, sporting goods, digital cameras, baby items, coupons, and everything else on eBay, the world's online marketplace. Walter Brennan:WW1:was injured by a gas attack permanently affected his vocal chords.