"We live in a joy-denying culture. They want no fun! I've been smoking and
drinking every day for 75 years and I'm fine" Harry Dean Stanton
Maybe it’s a measure of us. What is our first conscious memory of Harry Dean Stanton. I think mine is as late as Paris, Texas, well into the middle of a sixty-year career as a jobbing actor but someone who was go to for lots of major name film-makers.
Adrian Martin remembered him in Monte Hellman’s Ride in the Whirlwind (1967) and posted a photo (left) to prove it.
Monte Hellman posted this link to the great man singing ‘He’ll have to go’. If you just let it run you get whole host of YouTube videos that follow, at least at the moment.
Barrie Pattison notes: (Harry) Dean Stanton was someone Michael Curtiz launched in the director's last days. Harry was always conspicuous and contributed some great moments to his films - barely restrained in his lusting after Elizabeth Ashley in Rancho Deluxe was one. The surprise was to discover he could carry the lead in an important movie. Paris, Texas is Wim Wenders best effort. My most vivid memory however is him singing "Danny Boy" under the end credits of the Hunter Thompson documentary because they wouldn't let him do it at the funeral.
Rod Bishop recalls: Now there's a guy I'm amazed made it to 91. But it's all just a crap shoot, really isn't it? I'm sure Harry Dean would agree. Still remember him and his
band turning up at the San Remo Ballroom across the road from us in North
Fitzroy to play a memorable night of Tex-Mex music.
Serious cinephile Ken Wallin writes: Harry Dean Stanton......there will be fond memories. Just finished watching Twin Peaks The Return last week and appreciated Harry Dean still there at the Fat Trout Trailer Park after 25 years.
Regarding Paris,Texas Sam Shepard said as an actor his face told a whole story, and Wim Wenders said that Harry Dean brought a fragility and vulnerability to a leading man that made the film resonate with so many people.
Harry Dean sort of crept up on one, with so many supporting roles through the 60s and 70s, to culminate in full awareness, and ensuing anticipation, with Wise Blood, Alien, Escape From New York and One From the Heart, all 1979 to 1981.
David Lynch's taking up of Harry Dean from Wild at Heart onwards, seems to be the most prominent feature of his work since Repo Man and Paris Texas, but I would be interested to hear of good roles I'm unaware of in the last part of his busy career.
The earlier supporting roles Stanton had in the 60s and early 70s, for Hellman in Ride the Whirlwind, Two Lane Blacktop and Cockfighter, as well as Rosenberg's Cool Hand Luke and Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid are pleasurable rediscoveries on DVD. He did a massive amount of television from 1954 on, and we all probably saw him in Rawhide episodes at some time for example.
However, the earliest I've seen in recent times is a 1960 Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode called Escape to Sonoita (directed by Rosenberg) in which two kidnappers (Stanton and Murray Hamilton) with their woman victim lost in the desert and in desperate need of water, encounter a broken down truck and confront the drivers. It has one of the best twists in that particular season. Check it out!
I recommend the feature documentary Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction by Sophie Huber, made in 2012, where Stanton talks about his philosophy but not his life, sings and plays guitar. Good interviews from Shepard, Wenders, Lynch, Debbie Harry (she sang a song about Harry Dean!) and others.