Shame on all the lazy headline writers who posted items like this one from TMZ: “Wilford Brimley Dead at 85: Diabetes, Quaker Oats Spox.”
While Brimley did have a career doing TV commercials, he was much better known as one of this country’s great character actors. There was a period of at least 15 years when it seemed as if there was a law mandating he appear in every major motion picture.
Brimley was great no matter how big the part was. Go back and watch his small supporting roles in “The Electric Horseman” and “The China Syndrome” (both in 1979) or “Tender Mercies” (1983). By then, his talent was getting noticed by more directors and producers, who gave him bigger parts like the baseball manager Pop Fisher in “The Natural” (1984). That led to him leading the “Cocoon” (1985) ensemble that included Don Ameche, Gwen Verdon, Maureen Stapleton, Jack Gilford, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, and Brian Dennehy. Later, he appeared opposite Tom Cruise in “The Firm” (1993).
Brimley worked on the small screen, too, including a starring role in the short-lived TV series “Our House,” and as the Postmaster General in a “Seinfeld” episode. Those were just some of the dozens of roles he played until he “retired” three years ago.
That’s a helluva lot more to be remembered for than a few TV commercials.
Here’s my favorite Wilford Brimley performance. He only had one scene in “An Absence Of Malice” (1981), but stole the movie out from under no less than Paul Newman, Sally Field, and Bob Balaban…