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Wilford Brimley

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Wilford Brimley
Wilford Brimley.jpg
Brimley at a screening of The Thing on October 22, 2012
Anthony Wilford Brimley

(1934-09-27) September 27, 1934 (age 84)
Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
ResidenceGreybull, Wyoming, U.S.
Santa Clara, Utah, U.S.
Years active1969–present
Lynne Bagley
(m. 1956; died 2000)

Beverly Berry (m. 2007)

Anthony Wilford Brimley (born September 27, 1934)[1] is an American film and television actor. After serving in the Marines and doing a variety of jobs including ranch hand and wrangler, Brimley became an extra for Westerns, and in little more than a decade he had established himself as a character actor in films such as The China Syndrome (1979), The Thing (1982) and The Natural (1984). His trademark mustache, accent and brusque delivery made Brimley recognizable, but forthrightness on screen was on occasion matched by bluntness on set when his interpretation of a character was being faulted. Brimley's weather-beaten appearance enabled him to be convincing as someone decades older in the film Cocoon (1985).

Brimley was the long-time face of television advertisements for the Quaker Oats Company.[2] He has also promoted diabetes education and appeared in related commercials for Liberty Medical.

Early life[edit]

Brimley was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on September 27, 1934,[2] where his father worked as a real estate broker.[3] Prior to his career in acting, Brimley dropped out of high school to serve in the United States Marine Corps, where he served in the Aleutian Islands for three years. He also worked as a bodyguard for Howard Hughes,[4] a ranch hand, a wrangler, and a blacksmith.[1] He then began shoeing horses for film and television. He began acting in the 1960s as a riding extra in Westerns and a stunt man at the urging of his friend, actor Robert Duvall.[5]

Brimley married his first wife, the former Lynne Bagley, on July 6, 1956. They had four sons together (James Charles, John Michael, William Carmen and Lawrence Dean) and several grandchildren. Brimley and Lynne were married until her death in June 2000.[6]

Brimley married Beverly Berry on October 31, 2007.[7] Together they have lived in Greybull, Wyoming and Santa Clara, Utah. In 2009, they founded nonprofit organization Hands Across the Saddle (HATS) in the Big Horn Basin.[8]


Brimley's onscreen breakthrough came when he was cast in the popular 1970s television series The Waltons as Walton's Mountain resident Horace Brimley; he made seven appearances between 1974 and 1977.

His first credited feature film performance was in The China Syndrome (1979) as Ted Spindler, a friend and coworker of plant shift supervisor Jack Godell (portrayed by Jack Lemmon). Later, Brimley made a brief, but pivotal, appearance in Absence of Malice (1981) as the curmudgeonly, outspoken Assistant U.S. Attorney James A. Wells. He expanded on this cantankerous persona as Pop Fisher, world-weary manager of a slumping baseball team, in The Natural (1984). Shortly thereafter, Brimley secured his first leading role in Ron Howard's Cocoon (1985), portraying Ben Luckett, leader of a group of geriatrics who encounter a magically reinvigorating swimming pool by their retirement home.

Brimley's close friend Robert Duvall (who also appeared in The Natural) was instrumental in securing for him the role of Harry in Tender Mercies (1983). Duvall, who had not been getting along with director Bruce Beresford, wanted "somebody down here that's on my side, somebody that I can relate to."[9] Beresford felt Brimley was too old for the part, but eventually agreed to the casting. Brimley, like Duvall, clashed with the director; during one instance when Beresford tried to advise Brimley on how Harry would behave, Duvall recalled Brimley responding: "Now look, let me tell you something, I'm Harry. Harry's not over there, Harry's not over here. Until you fire me or get another actor, I'm Harry, and whatever I do is fine 'cause I'm Harry."[9]

Through these and other early roles, Brimley became widely known for portraying gruff or stodgy old men, most notably on the 1980s drama series Our House, also starring Deidre Hall, Chad Allen and Shannen Doherty. However, he made a change from such "good guy" roles when he played William Devasher, sinister head of security for the Bendini, Lambert & Locke law firm, in the Tom Cruise film The Firm (1993) (based on the novel by John Grisham).

After portraying the father of Kevin Kline in In & Out (1997), Brimley retreated from Hollywood in favor of involvement in more independent productions. He made an auspicious mainstream comeback with the TNT film Crossfire Trail (2001), co-starring with Tom Selleck (whom he had previously worked with in the '80s film High Road to China). He played an intimidating US Postmaster General in a 1997 episode of Seinfeld (The Junk Mail), who forces Kramer to end his boycott of the mail service. After several more years of independent film and TV acting, Brimley had a supporting role in Did You Hear About The Morgans? (2009), making witty exchanges with star Hugh Grant.

Brimley has frequently appeared in commercials, notably a series of commercials for Quaker Oats[5] Oatmeal throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The Quaker commercials were famous for their slogan: "It's the right thing to do and the tasty way to do it." Brimley is also known for appearing in numerous television advertisements for Liberty Medical, a company specializing in home delivery of medical products such as diabetes testing supplies. He was also the voice-over for a Bryan Foods television commercial campaign, which was created by the New York advertising agency Ally & Gargano, written by A & G group creative director Peter Hoffman, and directed by long-time Hollywood director Howard Zieff.

Brimley has been described as "a fine singer with a warm, rich voice."[10] In 1993, Brimley sang with the Cal State Northridge Jazz Band for a concert benefiting the college's Jazz Endowment Scholarship Fund; in 2004, he released This Time, The Dream's On Me, an album of jazz standards named after the Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer-penned title track.[10][11] He is also an accomplished harmonica player; during his 2011 appearance on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Brimley performed a lively rendition of "Oh! Susanna" much to the delight, and surprise, of Ferguson and the studio audience.[12]

The Brimley/Cocoon Line[edit]

Brimley's role as a senior citizen in the 1985 film Cocoon, when he was just 50 years of age, has drawn attention among movie fans. The Brimley/Cocoon Line has become an internet meme, representing the age of Brimley, in days, on the day of the theatrical release of the film, June 21, 1985. On that date, he was 18,530 days old.[13]. "Crossing the Brimley/Cocoon Line" means being older than Brimley was on that date.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Diagnosed with diabetes mellitus in 1979, he began working to raise awareness of the disease. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) honored Brimley in 2008 with an award to recognize his lifetime of service.[15] The ADA presented the award to him at the Port St. Lucie headquarters of Liberty Medical on December 19, 2008.[16] He has visited Veterans Administration hospitals and communities to advise patients on how to manage their diseases. His talks about diabetes have become an internet phenomenon and a meme due to Brimley's pronunciation of "diabetes" as "diabeetus" and his overall serious tone.[17]

Brimley has supported advertisements to have Utah allow horse-race gambling.[18] He spoke against the banning of cockfighting in New Mexico on the basis of his support of individual rights.[19] Brimley also spoke at a 1998 Phoenix rally opposing an Arizona ballot proposition to ban cockfighting. Brimley argued that a ban could lead to efforts to restrict use of hunting dogs, which opponents of cockfighting called a distraction from the issue.[20] Brimley enjoys playing poker[21] and has played in the World Series of Poker Main Event.[22] Brimley lent his support to John McCain in the 2008 U.S. presidential election.[23] In the days leading up to his selection for vice president, McCain jokingly stated that he would pick Brimley: "He's a former Marine and great guy and he's older than I am, so that might work."[24]

Brimley has resided in Greybull, Wyoming, and Santa Clara, Utah, since 2006.[25] Brimley is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[26]



Year Title Role Notes
1968 Bandolero! Stuntman (uncredited)[citation needed]
1969 True Grit Uncredited[citation needed]
1971 Lawman Marc Corman Uncredited[citation needed]
1979 The China Syndrome Ted Spindler
1979 The Electric Horseman Farmer
1980 Brubaker Rogers
1980 Borderline USBP Agent Scooter Jackson
1981 Absence of Malice Assistant U.S. Attorney General James A. Wells
1982 Death Valley The Sheriff
1982 The Thing Dr. Blair
1983 Tender Mercies Harry
1983 10 to Midnight Captain Maline
1983 High Road to China Bradley Tozer
1983 Tough Enough Bill Long
1984 Harry & Son Tom Keach
1984 The Hotel New Hampshire Iowa Bob
1984 The Stone Boy George Jansen
1984 The Natural Pop Fisher
1984 Country Otis
1984 Terror in the Aisles Archive footage
1985 Cocoon Benjamin 'Ben' Luckett
1985 Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins Agency Director Harold Smith
1986 Jackals Sheriff Mitchell
1986 Shadows on the Wall Floyd Buckman
1986 American Justice Sheriff Mitchell
1987 End of the Line Will Haney
1988 Cocoon: The Return Benjamin 'Ben' Luckett
1990 Eternity King/Eric
1992 Where the Red Fern Grows: Part II Grandpa Will Direct-to-video
1993 The Firm William Devasher
1993 Hard Target Uncle Douvee
1994 Heaven Sent Al (Security Guard)
1995 Mutant Species Devro
1995 Last of the Dogmen Narrator Uncredited[citation needed]
1996 My Fellow Americans Joe Hollis
1997 In & Out Frank Brackett
1997 Lunker Lake The Storyteller
1998 Chapter Perfect Chief Hawkins
1998 Progeny Dr. David Wetherly
1998 A Place to Grow Jake
1998 Summer of the Monkeys Grandpa Sam Ferrans
2000 Comanche
2001 Brigham City Stu
2001 PC and the Web
2002 Resurrection Mary Morty
2003 The Road Home Coach Weaver
2009 The Path of the Wind Harry Caldwell
2009 Did You Hear About the Morgans? Earl Granger
2016 Timber the Treasure Dog Hawk Jones


Year Title Role Notes
1974–77 The Waltons Horace Brimley 8 episodes
1975 Kung Fu Horace Brimley Episode: "One Step to Darkness"; as A. Wilford Brimley
1976–77 The Oregon Trail Ludlow Episodes: Pilot, "Hard Ride Home"; as A. Wilford Brimley
1979 The Wild Wild West Revisited President Grover Cleveland Television film; as Wilford A. Brimley
1980 Amber Waves Pete Alberts Television film
1980 Roughnecks Willie Clayton Television film
1980 Rodeo Girl Bingo Gibbs Television film
1981 The Big Black Pill Wally Haskell Television film; aka. Joe Dancer
1985 Murder in Space Dr. Andrew McCallister Television film
1985 Ewoks: The Battle for Endor Noa Television film
1986 Thompson's Last Run Red Haines Television film
1986 Act of Vengeance Tony Boyle Television film
1986–88 Our House Gus Witherspoon
1989 Billy the Kid Gov. Lew Wallace Television series
1991 Blood River U.S. Marshal Winston Patrick Culler Television film
1992 The Boys of Twilight Deputy Bill Huntoon Television series
1995 Walker, Texas Ranger Burt Mueller Episode: "War Zone"
1995 Op Center Admiral Troy Davis
1995 The Good Old Boys C.C. Tarpley Television film
1997 Seinfeld United States Postmaster General Henry Atkins Episode: "The Junk Mail"
2001 Crossfire Trail Joe Gill Television film
2001 The Ballad of Lucy Whipple Deputy Sheriff Ambrose Scraggs Television film
2011 The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson' Guest Late Night Talk Show

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1987 CableACE Awards Actor in a Movie or Miniseries Act of Vengeance Nominated
2005 Golden Boot Awards Golden Boot N/A Won
2013 Maverick Movie Awards Best Supporting Actor: Short Masque Nominated


  1. ^ a b "Wilford Brimley biography". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved June 22, 2009.
  2. ^ a b "Wilford Brimley Biography". Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  3. ^ "Wilford Brimley Biography". Retrieved June 22, 2009.
  4. ^ Lawrence, Tom, ‘Just a feller,’ Actor Wilford Brimley reflects on long career, stars he’s known and the music he loves to sing, Powell Tribune, 20 March 2014. Retrieved 26 May 2015. "Of course, Brimley has been around a lot of famous people. He was a bodyguard for reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, although he doesn't care to discuss that very much. "He was a good guy," he said, adding that Hughes paid him well. Hughes preferred to hire members of the Church of Latter-day Saints as aides and staffers, and Brimley himself is a member of the LDS church."
  5. ^ a b "Wilford Brimley Biography". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  6. ^ "Obituary: Lynne Bagley Brimley". Deseret News. June 17, 2000. Retrieved December 9, 2013.
  7. ^ "Wilford Brimley Reflects". Powell Tribune. March 20, 2014. Retrieved March 29, 2016.
  8. ^ "Hands Across the Saddle". HATS. June 1, 2009. Retrieved March 29, 2016.
  9. ^ a b Bruce Beresford (actor), Robert Duvall (actor), Gary Hertz (director) (April 16, 2002). Miracles & Mercies. West Hollywood, California: Blue Underground. Retrieved February 1, 2008.
  10. ^ a b Fowler, James E. (February 26, 1993). "Actor Feeling His Oats as Singer: Wilford Brimley will perform with a jazz band at a benefit concert Saturday for a new CSUN scholarship fund". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  11. ^ "Wilford Brimley: This Time the Dream's on Me". CDTracks. 2004. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  12. ^ TVsCraigFerguson2 (November 25, 2011). "Craig Ferguson 11/23/11E Late Late Show Wilford Brimley XD". Retrieved December 22, 2016 – via YouTube.
  13. ^ Crouch, Ian (August 11, 2018). "The Wilford Brimley Meme That Helps Measure Tom Cruise's Agelessness". ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved September 2, 2019.
  14. ^ "Brimley/Cocoon Line (@BrimleyLine) | Twitter". Retrieved September 2, 2019.
  15. ^ "Wilford Brimley Biography".
  16. ^ Blandford, Laurie K. (December 19, 2008). "Actor Wilford Brimley surprised with award from American Diabetes Association in Port St. Lucie". The St. Lucie News-Tribune. TCPalm. Retrieved June 22, 2009.
  17. ^ Butterman, Matthew (May 6, 2018). "Wilford Brimley: Mr. Diabeetus". Diabetes Daily. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  18. ^ Wilford Brimley on IMDb
  19. ^ Barnes, Peter (February 23, 2005). "Cockfighting still legal in New Mexico. N.M. Panel Rejects Cockfighting Ban Plan". Retrieved June 22, 2009.
  20. ^ Molloy, Tim (November 1, 1998). "Wilford Brimley endorses cockfighting". Today's News-Herald. Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Associated Press. Retrieved March 2, 2014.
  21. ^ "Wilford Brimley Biography". Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  22. ^ "Event #27 - WSOP World Championship - No Limit Hold'em (Day 4) Results & Report". May 14, 2001. Archived from the original on March 3, 2014. Retrieved March 3, 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  23. ^ Sabloff, Nick (January 5, 2008). "McCain's Unveils His Answer To Chuck Norris". The Huffington Post.
  24. ^ "Carolina Decides". Time Warner Cable News North Carolina. August 28, 2008. Archived from the original on July 26, 2013. Retrieved March 3, 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  25. ^ Matray, Margaret (December 26, 2009). "Making a Christmas Connection". Billings Gazette. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  26. ^ Abanes, Richard (2009). "Chapter Two: Mormons in Movieland". Religion of the Stars: What Hollywood Believes and How It Affects You. Bloomington, Minnesota: Bethany House/Baker Publishing Group. ISBN 9780764206481. OCLC 263988104.

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