July 9, 1938 – April 15, 2020
Though he was a native of Connecticut and gained international fame in film and television, Brian Dennehy was widely considered one of Chicago’s own. He passed away on April 15 at age 81.
Dennehy was considered as “perhaps the foremost living interpreter" of Eugene O’Neill’s works, especially due to his decades-long relationship with Chicago's Goodman Theatre and director Robert Falls, where they mounted unforgettable productions of Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Desire Under the Elms, The Icemen Cometh, Hughie, and A Touch of the Poet. All began at the Goodman but went on to multiple productions on Broadway and across the nation.
In 1999, Falls and Dennehy collaborated on a monumental production of Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman, which moved from the Goodman to a run of 274 performances on Broadway and won multiple awards, including Tonys for Dennehy, and Falls. Dennehy also won a Laurence Olivier Award for the show’s London run.
“I am so fortunate to have met him. Our lives have been joined at the hip since then.,” Robert Falls told the Chicago Tribune. “We had our biggest successes together. No other actor has so defined himself by the greatest roles of the 20th century. Brian was a giant man and he wanted to take giant risks every time he came up to bat.”
Beloved on stage and off, Dennehy was a regular around town in his off-hours, often at the Kingston Mines, Cubs games, or belly-up at a local haunts -- talking theatre, truck driving and sailing with fellow patrons. “Chicago is a great town," Dennehy told the Tribune five years ago. "I don’t know if it’s a great town when you’re 76. But it’s a great town when you’re 56. Pretty damn good at 66; 46 is the best.”
I n 1999, he was the first male performer to be voted the Sarah Siddons Award for his work in Chicago theater. In 2010, he was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame. Among his many additional accolades, Brian Dennehy won two Tony Awards, an Olivier Award, and a Golden Globe, and received six Primetime Emmy Award nominations.
He is survived by his second wife, Jennifer Arnott, and five children, Elizabeth Dennehy, Cormack Dennehy, Kathleen Dennehy, Deirdre Dennehy, and Sarah Dennehy.