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Brian Dennehy, Acclaimed Actor And Connecticut Native, Dies At 81

Evan Agostini
Actor Brian Dennehy attends the premiere of "The Seagull" at BMCC Tribeca PAC, during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival in New York in 2018. The actor died Friday in New Haven.

Character actor and Connecticut native Brian Dennehy has died at the age of 81. Dennehy’s career spanned more than four decades, from TV and movies to theatre.

Dennehy was born in Bridgeport and studied drama at Yale. He started with small parts on shows like "M*A*S*H," "Dallas" and "Dynasty." But he broke through with a villainous turn as a small-town cop who persecuted Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo in "First Blood."

Dennehy had a stocky build and a devilish grin. He was a regular face through the ‘80s and ‘90s in comedies, cop dramas and legal thrillers. He even got an art film in there—a rare starring role in Peter Greenaway’s "The Belly of an Architect."

But he did his most acclaimed work later in life, on the stage. He became known for his work in the plays of Eugene O’Neill.

“And the Tony award goes to Brian Dennehy, ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night.’”

“The words of Eugene O’Neill. They’ve gotta be heard and heard and heard. Thank you so much for giving us a chance to enunciate them.”

Dennehy was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2010. He died of natural causes at his home in New Haven.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.