Wilford Brimley, the former ranch hand, wrangler and blacksmith who became Hollywood's prototypical cantankerous old coot, has passed away of a kidney ailment. He was 85.
Among his best-known films: The China Syndrome, Absence of Malice, The Natural, The Firm, In & Out, and Cocoon. He also was the spokesman for Quaker Oats for years, intoning in gruff tones that people should eat oatmeal because "it's the right thing to do."
- KC's View:
There may have been commercial spokespeople who were as good and authentic as Brimley, but it is hard to think anyone who was better.
It always has been kind of funny to me that when he did the original Cocoon, Brimley was just 50 years old … 15 years younger than I am now, and about two decades younger than co-stars who were playing his fellow retirees - 76-year-old Don Ameche, 75-year-old Jessica Tandy, 73-year-old Hume Cronyn, and 76-year-old Jack Gilford.
In most of his roles, Brimley evoked a kind of curmudgeonly integrity - when he came onscreen, it was like shorthand … you knew who and what he was. For me, the short scene that is one of his best is in Absence of Malice (as a matter of interest, he was 10 years younger than Paul Newman when they did this scene) … and you can see it here.