In Memoriam: So Long, Harry Dean Stanton – A truly original talent


Harry Dean Stanton, veteran character actor passed away today at the age of 91. From the heydays of television in the ’50s to his most recent turn on David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, his quirky persona was always a welcome addition to any venture.

“I just want to say, good night, sweet prince, may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” — Harry Dean Stanton


Harry Dean Stanton – Cool Hand Luke – Courtesy of Warner Brothers

According to Variety, Mr. Harry Dean Stanton died of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles. A veteran of the small screen in the ’50s, he was fortunate enough to come into contact with other actors such as a young Jack Nicholson.

Those friendships would come into play later in his career when Nicholson would have a hand in casting him as Blind Dick in Ride in the Whirlwind and as Calvin in the Missouri Breaks. Stanton also played opposite Paul Newman in the classic Cool Hand Luke.

It was his chameleon like nature that resulted in him being cast in a wide variety of diverse projects from mainstream television in the seventies to blockbuster hits like Alien. He even did a stint on the popular Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman parody soap opera as Jake Walters.


Harry Dean Stanton – Christine – Courtesy of Columbia Pictures Corporation, Delphi Premier Productions, Polar Film

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In the eighties, Harry Dean came into his own. Of course, John Carpenter fans remember his terrific turn in Escape from New York as Brain. Another surprise casting move was landing a guest star role on Laverne and Shirley as crooner Johnny Velvet.

No stranger to the horror genre, Stanton showed up in another Carpenter venture, Christine as Detective Rudolph Junkins. 1984 was a banner year for the actor. He had a gritty role in the punk classic Repo Man starring opposite “Brat Packer” Emilio Estevez as the grizzled old vet, Bud. Who doesn’t remember him reminding Otto about the “Repo Code?”

That same year, a chance meeting with the late great writer Sam Shepard resulted in him nabbing the lead in Paris, Texas. His role as Travis Henderson made him the darling of the non-mainstream film community. Stanton was once again cast with “Brat Packers” such as Charlie Sheen and C. Thomas Howell in the film, Red Dawn as Mr. Eckert.

Since the ’80s were my formative years, this film must be mentioned. Stanton was a complete delight as Molly Ringwald’s well-meaning Dad, Jack in the John Hughes classic, Pretty in Pink. When he buys her a dress to go to the dance, I am not ashamed to say I may have become a little teary eyed.

He closed the decade out in the controversial Scorsese film, The Last Temptation of Christ as Saul/Paul. A visually stunning perspective about the life and the final days of Jesus Christ.


Harry Dean Stanton – Wild at Heart – Courtesy of PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, Propaganda Films

The nineties saw Harry Dean partner up with the amazingly abstract director, David Lynch. In 1990, he played Johnnie Farragut in Lynch’s adaptation of Barry Gifford’s book, Wild at Heart. Two years later, he dared to venture into the world of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me as the Fat Trout Trailer Park manager, Carl Rodd.

In 1993, he teamed up with Lynch again for a stint in Hotel Room in the episode, Tricks as Moe. He later appeared in The Straight Story, David Lynch’s Academy Award nominated picture as Lyle. That same year, 1999, he appeared in Stephen King’s supernatural film, The Green Mile opposite Tom Hanks as Toot-Toot.


Harry Dean Stanton – Big Love – Courtesy of Anima Sola Productions, Playtone Productions

Stanton was active throughout the 2000’s. His association with Lynch flourished and he appeared in Inland Empire. Perhaps one of his biggest roles during this decade was with the marvelous Bill Paxton in Big Love as Roman Grant. He even lent his voice to an animated feature with Johnny Depp in Rango.

Related Story: Harry Dean Stanton being honored with film festival

His last appearance was with David Lynch in the Showtime production of Twin Peaks reprising his role of Carl Rodd this year. Fans of the actor can expect two final film efforts featuring him. Lucky reunites Stanton with Lynch except now they are co-stars. According to IMDB, the film is set to be released on September 29.

Frank and Ava recounts the story of Frank Sinatra’s tumultuous relationship with Ava Gardner. Stanton plays Sheriff Lloyd. At present, the film is in post-production and there’s no confirmed release date.


Harry Dean Stanton and David Lynch – Partly Fiction – Courtesy of hugofilm, isotopefilms

Harry Dean Stanton will be greatly missed. Not only by fans of his work but also his myriad of colleagues in the industry. David Lynch recently issued a statement regarding the loss of his friend.

According to Variety,“The great Harry Dean Stanton has left us,” Lynch wrote. “There went a great one. There’s nobody like Harry Dean. Everyone loved him. And with good reason. He was a great actor (actually beyond great) – and a great human being – so great to be around him!!! You are really going to be missed Harry Dean!!! Loads of love to you wherever you are now!!!”

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What is your favorite Harry Dean Stanton film? Do you have a favorite scene featuring the actor? Please feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comment section below. We want to hear from you!