Brian Dennehy was a prolific stage and screen actor who left behind a loving family following his death at age 81. He died Wednesday, April 15, 2020 of natural causes at his home in New Haven, Connecticut, his daughter announced on Twitter.
His daughter specified his death was not related to the coronavirus.
Dennehy was known for his roles in “First Blood,” playing the role of the sheriff who jailed Rambo. He played a corrupt sheriff in “Silverado.” Dennehy also played the role of a serial killer in “To Catch a Killer,” according to CBS News. He won two Tony Awards, a Golden Globe and was nominated for six Emmys. He was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2010.
Brian Dennehy was married twice. He had three children with his first wife, Judith Scheff. He had two children with Jennifer Arnott. The two remained married until his death.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Brian Dennehy’s Daughter, Elizabeth Dennehy, Announced His Death on Twitter
Brian Dennehy’s death was announced on Twitter by his daughter, Elizabeth Dennehy. The stage and screen actor died at his home in New Haven, Connecticut on April 15, 2020 at age 81. His daughter wrote a touching tribute to her late father.
Elizabeth Dennehy specified that her dad’s death was not related to COVID-19, but she did not specify his cause of death. She described him as “larger than life, generous to a fault,” and a “proud and devoted father and grandfather.”
Her post said, “It is with heavy hearts we announce that our father, Brian passed away last night from natural causes, not Covid-related. Larger than life, generous to a fault, a proud and devoted father and grandfather, he will be missed by his wife Jennifer, family and many friends.”
Elizabeth Dennehy followed in her father’s footsteps to become an actress. She is known best for “Hancock,” “Red Dragon,” and “The Game,” according to her IMDB profile. She also landed a role in “Seinfeld.” She and her husband, James Lancaster, have two children.
2. Brian Dennehy & His Wife, Jennifer Arnott, Were Married for More Than 3 Decades
Brian Dennehy married his second wife, Jennifer Arnott, in 1988. They remained together until the time of his death after celebrating more than 30 years of marriage.
Brian and Jennifer had three children together, all daughters. Their children were Elizabeth Dennehy, Kathleen Dennehy and Deirdre Dennehy.
Brian Dennehy spoke to Columbia College Today for a profile story in 1993. At that time, he joked that he and his wife lived in the “unfashionable part” of Connecticut, which he said he never wanted to change.
“My neighbors have refrigerators on their porches, wear camouflage and drive pick-ups,” he told said. “There’s not an espresso machine within 50 miles, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Big Bird is the other celebrity in the area, and as far as I’m concerned he’s No. 1.”
3. Brian Dennehy & His First Wife, Judith Scheff, Had 2 Children Together
Brian Dennehy married his first wife, Judith Scheff, in 1959. The couple had two children together. They remained married for 15 years and divorced in 1974. It would be another 14 years before he would remarry, tying the knot with Jennifer Arnott in 1988. The two remained married until the time of his death.
Brian Dennehy and Jennifer Arnott had two children together, a son and a daughter. Their daughter’s name is Sarah Dennehy, and their son’s name is Cormack Dennehy. Brian Dennehy also had many grandchildren.
Scheff, whose full name was Judith Lee Scheff Dennehy, died November 16, 2015 at age 74. She was a cheerleader at Hofstra University and wet on to earn multiple master’s degrees in education while raising her three children, according to her obituary. She became a kindergarten teacher in Harlem, where she taught for about 20 years.
“She loved her many students and was deeply proud to be an educator,” her obituary said.
She was remarried in 1994 to a federal judge and congressman, The Honorable Gregory W. Carman, and became stepmother to four children.
4. Brian Dennehy Had 5 Children, One Who Went On To Become an Actress
Brian Dennehy had five children and many grandchildren. His daughter, Elizabeth Dennehy, went on to become an actress. She was the daughter of his first wife, Judith Scheff, who he married in 1959 and divorced in 1974. Elizabeth Dennehy has landed roles in “Seinfeld,” “Hancock,” “Red Dragon,” “The Game,” and other movies and TV shows.
Dennehy had two other daughters with Judith Scheff: Kathleen Dennehy and Deirdre Dennehy.
Dennehy had two children with his second wife, Jennifer Arnott: daughter Sarah Dennehy and son Cormack Dennehy.
It wasn’t until Dennehy was in his late 30s that he landed his big break, according to Vanity Fair. In the 1977 film “Semi-Tough,” he was cast opposite Burt Reynolds and Kris Kristofferson. The role paid 1,000 for 10 weeks.
“I thought it was all the money in the world,” Dennehy told the New York Times in 1989. “I had a very simple goal: to make enough money to put my kids through college, through good colleges.”
5. Brian Dennehy Said He Was Able to Pass On Something to His Children That He Did Not Have Himself
Brian Dennehy was able to give his children something he did not have growing up: a passion for being the people they are and living out their own dreams, he said in a 1993 interview.
“One thing I’ve been able to pass along to my children — all of them — is a great passion for being who they are and doing what they want to do,” he says. “That I take credit for and am proud of. Too few people have it,” he said.
His family did not encourage him to pursue an acting career. He was born into an Irish Catholic family, raised by working class parents who expected him to pursue a lucrative and stable career. He was raised in Brooklyn, and his family moved to Long Island when he was 12.
“Anyone raised in a first or second generation immigrant family knows that you are expected to advance the ball down the field,” Dennehy says. “Acting didn’t qualify in any way.”
His father was a longtime writer and editor for the Associated Press who wanted his son to be a lawyer, the article said.