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Archive for September, 2017

“Avenge Me, Boys!”

With those basset-hound eyes, a face like worn shoe leather, and a voice that somehow sounded perennially muffled, Harry Dean Stanton was truly one of the screen’s great character actors; he had a filmography to die for, yet when I think of Harry, who went to his well-earned rest at 91 on September 15, I think first and foremost of two roles that bookended his work in the 1970s. Then billed simply as Dean Stanton, and already a 16-year screen veteran, he was Willard, a quintessential member of the platoon in Kelly’s Heroes (1970). And as Brett in Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), his lonely death while probing the bowels of the Nostromo in search of errant cat Jonesy is, I submit, an indelible scene in a uniformly unforgettable film.

The list of names linked with Stanton’s is like a Who’s Who of BOF-centric cinema: Sam Peckinpah (Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, 1973), Raymond Chandler (Farewell, My Lovely, 1975), John Huston (Wise Blood, 1979), John Carpenter (Escape from New York, 1981; Christine, 1983), Sam Shepard (Fool for Love, 1985), John Frankenheimer (the frustratingly as-yet-unseen The Fourth War, 1990; Against the Wall, 1994), David Lynch (Wild at Heart, 1990, et alia), Elmore Leonard (The Big Bounce, 2004).

Perhaps inevitably, prominent billing usually eluded guys like Harry, yet when given the ball, he ran with it, e.g., as Emilio Estevez’s gruff mentor in Alex Cox’s Repo Man (“…ordinary f*ck*ng people. [Exquisitely timed beat.] I hate ’em.”), and most especially as the unlikely lead in Wim Wenders’s Paris, Texas (both 1984), which was already high on my list to revisit before his death. Suffice to say that even a film as lowly as Red Dawn (also 1984—a banner year!) was enhanced by his presence, braying the line that gave this post its title.

Harry, you were unique, and will be sorely missed. God bless.

Addendum: Two other recent nonagenarian passings make for a curious juxtaposition. I don’t like boxing, so I don’t like boxing movies, so I’m not a big fan of Raging Bull (1980), so I don’t care too much that Jake LaMotta died at 95 on September 19. But I do remember vividly that his ex-wife, Vikki, posed nude in Playboy (founded by Hugh Hefner, who died yesterday, also at 91) in November 1981 at 51, and blew away many of their models practically young enough to be her grandchildren. This being a family blog, you’ll have to take my word for it.

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