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Wilford Brimley

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Wilford Brimley
Wilford Brimley.jpg
Brimley at a screening of The Shining on October 22, 2012
Born Anthony Wilford Brimley
(1934-09-27) September 27, 1934 (age 81)
Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1969–present
Spouse(s) Lynne Brimley (1956-2000; her death)

Anthony Wilford Brimley (born September 27, 1934),[1] credited either as A. Wilford Brimley or Wilford Brimley, is an American actor. He has appeared in such films as The China Syndrome, Cocoon, The Thing and The Firm. He had a recurring role on the 1970s television series The Waltons. Brimley has also done television advertisements, including for the Quaker Oats Company and Liberty Medical.[2]

Early life[edit]

Brimley was born Anthony Wilford Brimley 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] ranch hand, wrangler and 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 wife, Lynne, on July 6, 1956. They had four sons together (James Charles, John Michael, William Carmen and Lawrence Dean) and several grandchildren. Brimley and his wife were married until her death in June 2000.[6]


Brimley was cast in the popular 1970s television series The Waltons as Walton's Mountain resident Horace Brimley, in seven appearances from 1974 through 1977.

Brimley became famous later in life for appearing in such films as The Hotel New Hampshire,[7] John Carpenter's The Thing[8] and Cocoon.[8] In 2001, he starred in the Turner Network Television film Crossfire Trail[8] with Tom Selleck (Brimley's second time with Selleck, after having worked together in the 80s film High Road to China). He had an important role in The China Syndrome.[8] He often plays a gruff or stodgy old man, notably on the 1980s drama series Our House, with Deidre Hall, Chad Allen and Shannen Doherty. His first characterization was in Absence of Malice, in which he played a small but key role as a curmudgeonly, outspoken James A. Wells,[9] Assistant U.S. Attorney. He expanded on this characterization as the world-weary manager of a slumping baseball team in The Natural, a film in which his friend Duvall appeared as an antagonistic sportswriter.

Brimley was cast in the 1983 film Tender Mercies due to the urging of Robert Duvall, who was not getting along well with director Bruce Beresford and wanted "somebody down here that's on my side, somebody that I can relate to."[10] 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."[10]

In a change from his "good guy" roles such as those in Our House, he played William Devasher, the ominous head of security for Bendini, Lambert & Locke in the Tom Cruise film The Firm (1993),[11] based on the novel by John Grisham.

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.

Brimley has been described as "a fine singer with a warm, rich voice".[12] 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.[12][13]

Personal life[edit]

Diagnosed with diabetes 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.[14] The ADA presented the award to him at the Port St. Lucie headquarters of Liberty Medical on December 19, 2008.[15] He has visited Veterans Administration hospitals and communities to advise patients on how to manage their diseases.

Brimley is an activist, paying from his own funds for advertisements to have Utah allow horse-race gambling.[8] He spoke against the banning of cockfighting in New Mexico on the basis of his support of individual rights.[16] 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. Brimley said he travels to Arizona to attend cockfights.[17] Brimley enjoys playing poker[18] and has played in the World Series of Poker Main Event.[19] Brimley lent his support to John McCain in the 2008 U.S. presidential election.[20] 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."[21]

Brimley has resided in Greybull, Wyoming, since 2006.[22] Brimley is a Mormon.[23]



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
1985 Ewoks: The Battle for Endor Noa Briqualon
1985 Murder in Space Dr. Andrew McAllister
1986 Jackals Sheriff Mitchell
1986 Shadows on the Wall Floyd Buckman
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


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 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


  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. ^ Canby, Vincent (March 9, 1984). "'Hotel New Hampshire' From Best Seller". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Wilford Brimley at the Internet Movie Database
  9. ^ Absence of Malice at the Internet Movie Database
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ The Firm at the Internet Movie Database
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ "Wilford Brimley: This Time the Dream's on Me". CDTracks. 2004. Retrieved March 3, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Inspiration And Expert Advice: Famous People: Wilford Brimley Biography". [dead link]
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ Barnes, Peter (February 23, 2005). "Cockfighting still legal in New Mexico. N.M. Panel Rejects Cockfighting Ban Plan.". Retrieved June 22, 2009. 
  17. ^ Molloy, Tim (November 1, 1998). "Wilford Brimley endorses cockfighting". Today's News-Herald. Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Associated Press. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Wilford Brimley Biography". Retrieved March 3, 2014. 
  19. ^ "Event #27 - WSOP World Championship - No Limit Hold'em (Day 4) Results & Report". May 14, 2001. Retrieved March 3, 2014. 
  20. ^ Sabloff, Nick (January 5, 2008). "McCain's Unveils His Answer To Chuck Norris". The Huffington Post. 
  21. ^ "Carolina Decides". Time Warner Cable News North Carolina. August 28, 2008. Retrieved March 3, 2014. 
  22. ^ Matray, Margaret (December 26, 2009). "Making a Christmas Connection". Billings Gazette. Retrieved March 3, 2014. 
  23. ^ 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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