Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 18, 2017 6:51 am 
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R.I.P. HARRY DEAN STANTON. "Character" actor and great cinematic cult figure, dies at 91


Some thoughts on Harry Dean

He looked lean and dark and haunted, with a ravaged, emaciated face and dark eyes, a long nose, a thin mouth. He sang. He liked to drink. He always had a cigarette twitching in his fingers. He talked in a quiet, distinctive voice that made you listen. Like a milder-mannered, twinklier William Burroughs, perhaps, without the inheritance and the banker's drag. He chose not to work too hard and so never became rich and famous, or get the many women that might come with that, as he imagined it. He never married. What he did become, through his unique charisma and is ability to make every role distinctive, was a cult figure, "Harry Dean Stanton: Fully Inhabiting Scenes, Not Stealing Them" ([url=""]NYT[/url]).

Born into a family of Baptist farmers in Kentucky, he was a sea cook in the Pacific in WWII, dropped out of college, went to study acting at the Pasadena Playhouse. Imagine an actor whose career runs from Fifties TV American Westerns to the new season of "Twin Peaks."

He will never get to see the general audience's reception of Lucky, the directorial debut of prolific actor John Carroll Lynch ("The spiritual journey of a ninety-one-year-old atheist"), the new film in which he stars, which debuted at SxSW and showed at 20 festivals; it opens in theaters September 29th. He is chiefly remembered for starring in Wim Wenders' classic film, Paris, Texas. (He and Sam Shepard meeting and getting drunk together was the genesis of his starring in that film, for which Shepard wrote the screenplay. Those starring roles are unique. He is in many other well-known films in supporting roles or cameos, including Alien and Repo Man, The Green Mile, Twin Peaks, Inland Empire, The Last Temptation of Christ, Slam Dance, Pretty in Pink, Fool for Love, Red Dawn, Escape from New York, Private Benjamin, Wise Blood, Two Lane Blacktop, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid - a great variety 199 credits including TV series.

For Europeans he is always Travis Henderson, the ghost rising out of the desert in [i]Paris, Texads. For millennials he is Roman Grant, the polygamous patriarch of "Big Love." He was a cult figure for Hollywood too. He was the spiritual father of the Eighties Brat Pack, with just the right cool outsider edge to appeal to youth in need of such things (that's a link with William Burroughs too).

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