Monday, September 18, 2017

Harry Dean Stanton (1926-2017)

"Just play yourself, that became my whole approach."
-Harry Dean Stanton in Billboard-

Gosh I just loved Harry Dean Stanton (1926-2017), God rest his soul. What a character.

This writer learned of his passing over the weekend in Vermont. I was talking film with a fellow film aficionado when I was waxing poetic about the many splendors of Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas (1984) starring the man as Travis with actress Nasstassja Kinski.

The man I was speaking with hadn't seen the film and I implored him to do so. He says, "did you hear Stanton just passed away." I was stopped in my tracks. Of course he was 91, but who wanted to see that man ever leave this place.

But what a character actor he was and a singer to boot. He was the kind of man, along the likes of William Sanderson, who wrote the book on character actors. He was genuine and real because he projected himself beautifully in every role with many, colorful, layered shades of Stanton.

As film critic Roger Ebert wrote in 2002 about the Wenders film. Stanton once said about Paris, Texas,  "Stanton has long inhabited the darker corners of American noir, with his lean face and hungry eyes, and here he creates a sad poetry." Amen. Paris, Texas was gorgeous.

As Stanton once said following the film and landing a lead, "If I never did another film after Paris, Texas, I'd be happy."

But Stanton had done many films before and after as well as a massive number of television roles too.

No matter how big or small the role Stanton was a joy to watch on screen.

Some of my favorite films in which he appeared apart from Paris, Texas, were Cool Hand Luke (1967), The Godfather Part II (1974), Ridley Scott's Alien (1979) as Brett in one of the scariest and most terrifying and sad scenes in the film (thanks H.D.), John Carpenter's Escape From New York (1981) as Brain, Repo Man (1984) by Alex Cox as Bud, John Hughes' Pretty in Pink (1986) and Frank Darabont's The Green Mile (1999). Of course there are many films still yet to be explored by this writer including a bunch with David Lynch including Wild At Heart (1990), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), The Straight Story (1999) and Inland Empire (2006) as well as Tricks from the mini-series Hotel Room (1993) (I've always had difficulty with Lynch). The Pledge (2001) is also on my radar but I'm hoping for a Blu-Ray release one day.

In television I was riveted by his role as a polygamist leader Roman Grant opposite the late Bill Paxton in HBO's Big Love (2006-2010) for five seasons, but his appearances in TV were vast and many. From westerns to Adam-12 to Twin Peaks (2017) the man was a humbling force on screen thanks to his presence.

He was great and touched greatness too working with directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Sam Peckinpah, John Ford, Norman Jewison, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese alongside the aforementioned other talents noted earlier.

Like the name of his last film starring Lucky (2017), we were lucky to have him and fortunately so many of us know it.

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