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Walter Brennan Papers

Identifier: 1997-028

Scope and Contents

The Walter Brennan Papers contains movie, and television scripts from his vast body of work including How the West was Won, The Over-the-Hill Gang, The Westerner, and many The Real McCoys episodes. In addition to the movie and television scripts, publicity, celebrity, and family photographs make up a large part of the collection. The balance of the collection contains Walter Brennan’s numerous awards and personal files.


  • Creation: 1895 - 1974


Conditions Governing Access

The Walter Brennan Papers has no restrictions and is available for research. If you are interested in researching the materials, please contact the Dickinson Research Center to make an appointment.

Conditions Governing Use

The Walter Brennan Papers is the property of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Materials, even if owned by the NCWHM, may be protected under third party copyright. It is the patron’s responsibility to research and secure any such additional copyright and pay any required fees or royalties. It is not the intention of the NCWHM to impede upon any third party rights, and the NCWHM cannot be held responsible if the patron is involved in legal action due to violation of third party copyright claims.

Biographical / Historical

Born July 24, 1894 in Swampscott, Massachusetts, Walter Andrew Brennan graduated from Rindge Technical High School, and enlisted in the United States army at the age of 23. As a Private in the 101st Regiment Field Artillery, Brennan spent two years fighting in France during World War I. After discharge in 1919, he spent some time working in Guatemala before settling in southern California. Wanting to be a film actor in the emerging entertainment industry, he became a movie extra in 1929 and took part in such famous early films as The Lariat Kid. His versatility and outstanding acting ability was evident early on in his career as seen in his portrayal of older character roles. This unique talent provided unusual film roles, and subsequently propelled him to stardom. After only five years of film experience, Brennan received the very first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Come and Get It. Brennan went on to receive three other Best Supporting Actor Oscars.

Even though he was well known as an outstanding character actor, his most widely recognized work came in western films. Films such as Rio Bravo, The Westerner, and The Texan, helped create his distinctive persona and legendary status. By 1959, after having been in the film industry for thirty-five years, Brennan was credited with 100 films.

With the explosion of television programs in the 1950’s, Brennan gained further popularity through the 1959-1961 series, The Real McCoys. Brennan’s Grampa Amos McCoy appeared weekly in millions of homes and became a familiar household character. Continuing through the 1960’s and 1970’s, Brennan appeared in over fifty feature films, television films, and series’ including The Guns of Will Sonnett. By his death in 1974, he had achieved great success as an actor.


13.67 Linear Feet (33 legal document boxes, oversize materials in flat file drawers)

Language of Materials



The Walter Brennan Papers contains scripts, photographs and personal files of the actor. This collection contains 314 scripts, 1,338 photographs, 46 awards, and 7 personal scrapbooks related to his career and personal life.


Series 1: Scripts (1936-1973) Contains 314 scripts with subseries of Film, Television, and The Real McCoys. The 60 movie and 76 television scripts are indexed alphabetically, while The Real McCoys and Guns of Will Sonnett scripts are indexed in episodic chronological order.

Series 2: Photographs and Negatives(1895-1972) Contains 1,338 business and personal photographs. They are organized into Publicity, Public Appearances, Celebrity, Awards, Movies, Television, The Real McCoys, and Personal. All files are alphabetically indexed within each sub series. Most of Walter Brennan’s movies and television productions are represented in the photographic series and publicity photographs range from his early career to his last movie appearances. Personal Photographs include Brennan’s baby photograph and a World War I uniformed photograph. This series also includes 75 negatives and proofs, primarily business publicity photographs.

Series 3: Contracts (ca. 1963-1966) Consists of 2 employment and 2 joint venture agreements

Series 4: Correspondence (1937-1974) Contains letters from National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, 35th Anniversary Dinner, and three miscellaneous letters that are alphabetically indexed

Series 5: Business Records (1951-1964) Includes audit reports related to The Real McCoys along with a television rating report and political material alphabetically arranged

Series 6: News Clippings (1937-1970) Consists clippings about Brennan’s career arranged chronologically

Series 7: Posters Includes a poster advertising Brennan’s phonograph record and a smaller poster from the Wells Fargo Bank

Series 8: Artwork Contains a caricature, cartoon, and pen and ink drawing of Walter Brennan

Series 9: Awards (1939-1971) Consists of 9 business awards and 37 personal awards alphabetically indexed within the two sub-series. Highlighting the business awards are three Box Office Blue Ribbon awards from 1941, 1957, and 1965. The personal award files contain awards given to Walter Brennan during his lifetime including Honorary Citizen, Colonel, and Mayoral awards.

Series 10: Personal Files (1917-1966) Contains Walter Brennan’s personal files include his 101st U.S. Army Field Artillery Yearbook, a collection of published materials in relation to sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, and an engraver’s block of a film character.

Series 11: Personal Financial Records (1936-1974) Contains personal income tax returns, audits, check registers, tax distribution cards, cash statements, and a check register

Series 12: Scrapbooks (1935-1974) Contains seven scrapbooks beginning in 1935 and ending with Walter Brennan’s 1974 obituary notice, mostly related to his movie and television career. Two small, and one larger scrapbook contain information related to his personal life.

Series 13: Sound Recording Discs (ca. 1940s) Includes five recording discs featuring Gene Autry plus a recording disc of the February 20, 1941, NBC broadcast of Sergeant York, part 2.

Processing Information

The Walter Brennan Papers was donated to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in 1974 by Walter “Andy” Brennan, Jr. Three-dimensional objects were also donated as part of the gift, and they are stored in the collections vault.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the NCWHM Special Collections at Dickinson Research Center Repository

1700 Northeast 63rd Street
Oklahoma City Oklahoma 73111 United States