Eagle Pennell

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Eagle Pennell (28 July 1952 - 20 July 2002) was an American independent filmmaker. His film The Whole Shootin' Match (1978) is often credited with inspiring Robert Redford to start the Sundance Institute.[1]

Born Glenn Irwin Pinnell in Andrews, Texas, Pennell grew up in Lubbock and College Station. He became interested in film as a teenager and would use his father's Super 8 camera to shoot skits starring his brother and sisters. He graduated from A&M Consolidated High School. Pennell then attended the University of Texas at Austin majoring in Radio-Television-Film but dropped out in 1973 during his junior year to do film work.[2]

He changed his name while in his early twenties. His first name is supposedly based on the story that Pennell was once told his large nose looked like the beak of an eagle. His last name comes from 2nd Lt. Ross Pennell, a character from John Ford's She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949). Ford was one of his father's favorite directors.

Pennell's first film was a short documentary titled Rodeo Cowboys. He co-organized Austin's first film festival in April 1975. He made his first narrative short film, A Hell of a Note, in 1977. This short inspired his most notable film The Whole Shootin' Match.[2]

In the early 1980s, Pennell moved to Houston, where he produced and directed his second feature film Last Night at the Alamo (1984).

Pennell's last feature film, "Doc's Full Service", had its World Première at the SXSW Film Festival in 1994.

Pennell struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction for much of his adult life. For years before his death, he was intermittently homeless and often borrowed or begged for money.[3] Pennell died in Houston and is buried in College Station.


  1. ^ Roger Ebert "The Whole Shootin' Match " rogerebert.com. December 28, 2007.
  2. ^ a b Alison Macor. Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids 30 Years of Filmmaking in Austin, Texas University of Texas Press: Austin, 2010.
  3. ^ Daniel Stuyck. "THE DEFIANT DEFEATIST: The loser lore of the late Eagle Pennell, proto-indie misfit from the Lone Star State" Film Society of Lincoln Center. Nov/Dev 2007.

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