Brenda Vaccaro

Brenda Vaccaro Headshot

Actress

Birth Name: Brenda Buell Vaccaro

Birth Date: November 18, 1939

Age: 84 years old

Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York

A husky-voiced actress who segued from beautiful leading lady to earthy character parts, Brenda Vaccaro enjoyed success in a variety of mediums. She earned three Tony nominations for her stage work in the 1960s, won a Golden Globe nomination for her role as a socialite paying Jon Voight for sex in "Midnight Cowboy" (1969), and an Oscar nomination for "Jacqueline Susann's Once Is Not Enough" (1975).

Although she was an accomplished dramatic actress, audiences embraced her most as a wisecracking second banana to everyone from Faye Dunaway in "Supergirl" (1984) to Barbra Streisand in "The Mirror Has Two Faces" (1996), as well as an in-demand voiceover actress. The Emmy-winning Vaccaro earned an impressive array of TV credits as well, and earned excellent reviews for the lead role in the gentle romantic comedy "Boynton Beach Club" (2005) and for a brilliant supporting turn as Al Pacino's sister in the Dr. Kevorkian biopic, "You Don't Know Jack" (HBO, 2010).

Even 50 years into her career, Vaccaro remained a vital, formidable actress with the training and talent to deliver award-caliber performances.

Born Nov. 18, 1939 in Brooklyn, NY to Christine M. and Mario A. Vaccaro, a pair of Italian-American restaurateurs, Brenda Buell Vaccaro was raised in Texas, where her parents co-founded the nationally-renowned Mario's Restaurant. After high school, Vaccaro returned to New York City to study acting, making her Broadway debut in the 1961 comedy, "Everybody Loves Opal," for which she won the Theatre World Award. Pairing her unmistakable husky voice with her acting talent, Vaccaro immediately stood out to critics and fans alike, and she earned a long string of Broadway credits, including "Cactus Flower" in 1965, "How Now, Dow Jones" in 1967, and "The Goodbye People" in 1968 - earning a Tony nomination for each of those roles.

Already the owner of a lengthy television résumé, her breakthrough in film came with the controversial hit "Midnight Cowboy" (1969), for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination playing a sexually voracious socialite who helps Jon Voight start up his male hustling business. She also earned a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer with her role of a sharp-witted secretary in "Where It's At" (1969).

She ably supported Robert Mitchum as his sweetheart in the powerful but downbeat "Going Home" (1971), then won an Emmy for her performance in the revue by and about women, "The Shape of Things" (1974). After four years away from the big screen, Vaccaro roared back with a Golden Globe-winning, Oscar-nominated turn as wisecracking magazine editor Linda Riggs in "Jacqueline Susann's Once Is Not Enough" (1975). She tackled the tough role of a woman battling a gang of Canadian punks intent on rape in the dark, but cerebral horror thriller, "Death Weekend" (1976) and then earned an Emmy nomination for the short-lived "Sara" (CBS, 1975-1976), about a frontier schoolteacher. Vaccaro played James Brolin's wife in the NASA conspiracy thriller "Capricorn One" (1977) - for which she earned a Best Supporting Actress Saturn Award nomination - and a threatened passenger in the cheesy-but-effective disaster smash, "Airport '77" (1977).

Vaccaro worked constantly and successfully in all genres, but comedy was her forte, and she marked memorable turns as a villain's sexually frustrated wife in "Zorro, the Gay Blade" (1981) and as Faye Dunaway's wisecracking fellow witch in "Supergirl" (1984).

She impressed even in subpar material, perfecting the art of stealing a project from the supporting sidelines. She chewed up scenery to delightful effect as top teen model Nicollette Sheridan's stage mother/manager in the campy Morgan Fairchild nighttime soap, "Paper Dolls" (ABC, 1984). Fleshing out her résumé with impressive guest-starring TV credits, Vaccaro kept busy, earning an Emmy nomination for an appearance on "The Golden Girls" (NBC, 1985-1992), as the widow of Dorothy's cross-dressing, never-seen brother. The actress continued to be an in-demand second banana, ably sparring with Valerie Harper in "Stolen: One Husband" (CBS, 1990) and Ann-Margret in "Following Her Heart" (NBC, 1994), before playing the mother of Joey (Matt LeBlanc) in "The One with the Boobies" episode of "Friends" (NBC, 1994-2004).

Besides a small role in "Love Affair" (1994) with Warren Beatty, Annette Bening and Katharine Hepburn (in the latter's last screen performance), Vaccaro continued to lend her trademark raspy voice to numerous animated TV projects. Whether or not they could identify her by name, millions of children had grown up hearing Vaccaro voice characters on everything from "Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey" (ABC, 1977), "The Smurfs" (NBC, 1981-89), "The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones" (syndicated, 1987), "Darkwing Duck" (ABC, 1991-92) to "The Critic" (ABC, 1994; FOX, 1995), "Johnny Bravo" (Cartoon Network, 1997-2004) and "American Dad!" (FOX, 2005- ).

She essayed great humor and vulnerability on the big screen as Barbra Streisand's frumpy best friend in the Oscar-nominated hit, "The Mirror Has Two Faces" (1996), in which she had to deal with feelings of abandonment when Streisand transforms from ugly duckling to swan.

A role that echoed her "Midnight Cowboy" success, Vaccaro earned good notices for a sweetly delusional customer of male prostitute James Franco in "Sonny" (2002), as well as for the lead role in the kind-hearted ensemble comedy, "Boynton Beach Club" (2005), which followed the lives and loves of a group of senior citizens in a Florida retirement community. Vaccaro played both tough and tender as a woman who is unexpectedly widowed when a neighbor (Renée Taylor) accidentally runs over her husband; she then must deal with her family and friends' attempts to help her recover. Despite the vivid proof of her ability, Vaccaro, like many aging actresses, found it difficult find work in later years. Although she was still able to notch the occasional prominent credit, like an episode of "Nip/Tuck" (FX, 2003-10), the offers slowed to a trickle, and she considered quitting show business completely and moving to France to be near her husband's family.

Luckily, fate conspired to put Vaccaro on the radars of the production team making "You Don't Know Jack" (HBO, 2010), a pedigreed film about the life and career of controversial doctor-assisted-suicide advocate, Jack Kevorkian. Director Barry Levinson and star Al Pacino - who was an old theater buddy of the actress and at one time had shared a manager with her - were both fans of Vaccaro's work, and she landed the role of Kevorkian's protective sister, Margo Janus. Reviewers raved about the film, especially about Vaccaro's performance, predicting she would be shortlisted for all the top awards. She was indeed nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie in 2010. Critics and fans alike hoped that it would be a turning point for the actress, and she would find herself as in-demand as her talent - regardless of her age - deserved.

Credits

Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight CowboyStream

Self
Movie
2022
91%

Once Upon a Time in HollywoodStream

Actor
Mary Alice Schwarz
Movie
2019
85%

An Accidental Studio

Self
Movie
2019

Superior DonutsStream

Guest Star
Helen
Series
2017
62%

30-Love

Actor
Hellen
Movie
2017

The ClapperStream

Actor
Ida Krumble
Movie
2017
19%

Kubo and the Two Strings

Voice
Kameyo
Movie
2016

Just Let Go

Actor
Nadine Williams
Movie
2015

Crackers

Actor
Bidella
Show
2014

You Don't Know JackStream

Actor
Margo Janus
Movie
2010
83%

The War at Home

Guest Star
Show
2005

Boynton Beach Club

Actor
Marilyn
Movie
2005

Just Desserts

Actor
Lina
Movie
2004

Nip/TuckStream

Guest Star
Beatrice Madsen
Series
2003
74%

Sonny

Actor
Meg
Movie
2002

Charlotte's Web 2: Wilbur's Great Adventure

Voice
Mrs. Hirsch
Movie
2002

Just a Walk in the Park

Actor
Selma Williams
Movie
2002

An Evening at the Improv

Host
Show
2000

Ally

Guest Star
Show
1999

The Ghoul

Actor
Show
1998

BeckerStream

Guest Star
Series
1998

The King of QueensStream

Guest Star
Series
1998

When Husbands CheatStream

Actor
Sally
Movie
1998

Ally McBeal

Guest Star
Series
1997
61%

Johnny BravoStream

Voice
Bunny Bravo
Series
1997

The Mirror Has Two FacesStream

Actor
Doris
Movie
1996
54%

FriendsStream

Guest Star
Gloria Tribbiani
Series
1994
78%

Touched by an AngelStream

Guest Star
Series
1994

The CriticStream

Guest Voice
Series
1994
85%

Love Affair

Actor
Nora Stillman
Movie
1994

Following Her Heart

Actor
Cecile
Movie
1994

The New Adventures of Captain Planet

Guest Voice
Marge
Show
1993

Civil Wars

Guest Star
Laverne Briggs
Show
1991

Darkwing Duck

Guest Voice
Show
1991

The Trials of Rosie O'NeillStream

Guest Star
Series
1990
78%

Lethal Games

Actor
Stella Hudson
Movie
1990

Stolen: One Husband

Actor
Lisa Jarrett
Movie
1990

Columbo: Murder in Malibu

Actor
Jess McCurdy
Movie
1990

The Masque of the Red Death

Actor
Elaina Hart
Movie
1990

Colombo: Omicidio a Malibù

Actor
Movie
1990

Heart of Midnight

Actor
Betty
Movie
1989

Ten Little Indians

Actor
Marion Marshall
Movie
1989

Cookie

Actor
Bunny
Movie
1989

DeceptionsStream

Actor
Helen Adams
Miniseries
1985

The Golden GirlsStream

Guest Star
Angela
Series
1985

El Agua que Salvó la Isla

Actor
Movie
1985

Deceptions

Actor
Helen Adams
Movie
1985

Water

Actor
Dolores Thwaites
Movie
1985

La Juerga Tropical

Actor
Movie
1985

Murder, She WroteStream

Guest Star
Didi Blair
Series
1984

Super PasswordStream

Guest
Game Show
1984

Paper Dolls

Actor
Julia Blake
Soap
1984

Supergirl

Actor
Bianca
Movie
1984

St. ElsewhereStream

Guest Star
Series
1982

Fame

Guest Star
Series
1982

Loin de chez-soi

Actor
Movie
1981

Un Largo Camino Hacia el Hogar

Actor
Movie
1981

Zorro, the Gay Blade

Actor
Florinda
Movie
1981

A Long Way Home

Actor
Lillian Jacobs
Movie
1981

L'ABC de la vie

Actor
Movie
1981

The Pride of Jesse Hallam

Actor
Marion Galucci
Movie
1981

L'A.B.C. de la vie

Actor
Movie
1981

Cher Détective

Actor
Movie
1980

The First Deadly Sin

Actor
Monica Gilbert
Movie
1980

CBS News Sunday MorningStream

Guest
News
1979

Querida Detective

Actor
Movie
1979

Fast Charlie... The Moonbeam Rider

Actor
Grace Wolf
Movie
1979

Dear Detective

Actor
Det. Sgt. Kate Hudson
Movie
1979

Capricorn OneStream

Actor
Kay Brubaker
Movie
1978
65%

Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey

Voice
Tilly
Special
1977
56%

Airport '77Stream

Actor
Eve Clayton
Movie
1977
40%

Death Weekend

Actor
Diane
Movie
1977

Good Heavens

Guest Star
Show
1976

Territorial Men

Actor
Movie
1976

Territorial Women

Actor
Sara Yarnell
Movie
1976

Fin de semaine infernale

Actor
Movie
1976

The Big Rip-Off

Actor
Brenda Brooks
Movie
1975

Once Is Not Enough

Actor
Linda Riggs
Movie
1975

The Shape of Things

Actor
Show
1973

Sunshine

Actor
Carol Gillman
Movie
1973

Honor Thy Father

Actor
Rosalie Bonnano
Movie
1973

Honor a Su Padre

Actor
Movie
1973

The Streets of San FranciscoStream

Guest Star
Officer Sherry Reese, SFPD
Series
1972

Banacek

Guest Star
Sharon Clark
Series
1972

To Steal a King

Actor
Sharon Clark
Movie
1972

ColumboStream

Guest Star
Jess McCurdy
Series
1971
84%

Regreso al Hogar

Actor
Movie
1971

Going Home

Actor
Jenny Benson
Movie
1971

What's a Nice Girl Like You...?

Actor
Shirley Campbel
Movie
1971

Appointment in Palermo

Actor
Gemma
Movie
1971

L'Affrontement

Actor
Movie
1971

Summertree

Actor
Vanetta
Movie
1971

McCloud

Guest Star
Officer Margaret Sereno
Series
1970

I Love My... Wife

Actor
Jody Burrows
Movie
1970

Travis Logan D.A.

Actor
Lucille Sand
Movie
1970

One of the Girls in Research

Actor
Sandy Graham
Movie
1970

Marcus Welby, M.D.Stream

Guest Star
Marilyn Hoffman
Series
1969

Midnight CowboyStream

Actor
Shirley
Movie
1969
89%

Where It's At

Actor
Molly
Movie
1969

The Name of the Game

Guest Star
Series
1968

The FugitiveStream

Guest Star
Joanne Spencer
Series
1963

Vacation Playhouse

Actor
Jenny Penny
Show
1963

What's My Line?Stream

Guest
Game Show
1950

News aboutBrenda Vaccaro