Friday, 13 December 2013

Harry Dean Stanton - An Appreciation

Harry Dean Stanton is the epitome of what any supporting or character actor should be. He is instantly forgettable and yet .always memorable, a paradox indeed. His face is the sort that when seen people go "Oh him?" and then "what's his name?" You tell them, they forget but they don't forget the performance or the face. It is one of those faces. And wonderful for caricaturists to draw.

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Gaunt, hollow-cheeked, large brooding dark eyes. A face as wrinkled as a screwed-up sheet of parchment. You can see the tumbleweed blowing down the lines in his face, a road map of life that reveals a life lived. Now in his late eighties, and acting still, those crinkled features have not lost anything with age as they defy the plastic surgeons ethos but have improved with it. It is a face which has lived a life, seen and done things most of us can only dream of. Among those achievements,  apart from acting in something like one hundred and twelve productions on TV and film, is his singing career. Yep, he sings too and not like a corkscrew impaled up a walrus's bottom either but with a voice, best suited to country music it has to be said, .that is like bourbon, sweet and smoky. Oh yeah, he plays guitar too so that makes him a singer, actor and musician.


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Born in 1926 he has worked with some of the golden greats of Hollywood including Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, Alan Ladd, Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood, Also some of the great directors  Sam Peckinpah, Francis Ford Coppola, David Lynch and Alfred Hitchcock. 
He still averages two to three films a year and continues, on fewer occasions than before, to tour nightclubs singing and playing his cover versions. Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, Dwight Yoakam and Ry Cooder have nothing but praise for him and his talents.
Harry epitomises the supporting actor role. Always there but forever in the shadow. Playing the part so that the stars light reflects back and away from him. Stoic and understated and forever professional.


His 'death' in 'Alien' (the only real classic of that series, that franchise) remains, along with his performance in that film, hard cast in my memory. I also enjoyed the tiny classic "The Straight Story." I found it believable and moving near the end. It had no sentimentality and no young studs but featured an aging cast that made what could have easily been a saccharine piece of Walt Disney cinema, honest. You don't see Harry until the end but like Beethoven's ninth, it goes with a bang. And like that German composer's finest work, Harry dean Stanton improves with age.

The Straight Story poster.jpg


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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

1 comment:

Aurora Hylton said...

I must argue that Aliens also qualifies as classic, although it is, in my view, an action film rather than a straight up horror film. Everything that followed was a steaming pile not worth mentioning in the same breath as "explosive diarrhea."
Mr. Stanton is indeed a great character actor.