Monday, June 11, 2012

Come Back to the Screen, Harry Dean, Harry Dean

Come Back to the Screen, Harry Dean, Harry Dean

Ed here: I got three letters off-line last night about The Black Panther story. For reasons I don't quite understand the people who wrote didn't think I was appropriately enthusiastic about the story. Not at all. I have the highest admiration for the writer and the story itself. I consider it a major piece about a little told tale of the 60s and 70s. Kate Coleman deserves great credit for writing the piece. Here's a look at Harry Dean Stanton, one of my favorites, from TCM's Movie Morlocks:

Though I am generally underwhelmed by comic-book blockbusters, Joss Whedon’s The Avengers rises above the other superhero films by style-less, no-name directors who tend to be mere pawns for studio execs. One of the movie’s assets is the appearance of notable character actors in small but meaningful roles. In past eras, character actors regularly filled out the casts of genre films, which helped make those movies that are formulaic in nature distinguishable and memorable. Sadly, contemporary Hollywood studios and filmmakers seldom use character actors to their best advantage, if at all.

In The Avengers, Powers Booth and Jerzy Skolimowski (also a writer and director) are recognizable in cameos, but a bonafide scene-stealing moment comes when Harry Dean Stanton encounters Bruce Banner just after he has created mayhem as the Hulk. Stanton plays a security guard in a sequence that Whedon wrote with the legendary character actor in mind. Stanton, who became a popular actor in the 1970s and 1980s, excels at playing wizened if quirky outsiders. The security guard’s casual acceptance of the nude Banner is a fitting reaction for Stanton’s type of character—a quirky individualist who has seen everything. His image informs his character, and those who recognize Stanton will get more out of the scene. The original scene was much longer as written, but ever-mindful of the studio execs, Whedon cut it down. He considers himself lucky that the studio let him keep the scene and that he was able to land Stanton for the role.

Stanton’s turn in The Avengers gave me cause to review the 86-year-old’s remarkable career and to ponder my favorite Harry Dean roles.

Born in Kentucky and raised in North Carolina, Stanton still retains a slight Southern accent—one of the many reasons I can’t resist his characters. After a stint in the navy as a ship’s cook, he tested into the Naval Air Corps. After three months at Case School of Applied Science in Cleveland, which was part of his training, he realized he was more interested in playing the drums than in being a pilot. He attended the University of Kentucky for three years, studying journalism and the radio arts. After his speech instructor cast him in a production of Pygmalion, Stanton knew he wanted to be an actor. He left college without looking back, noting in an interview forStopsmiling magazine that he “never wanted to finish any college or school. I started being rebellious at an early age. I didn’t like authority of any kind . . . . No bosses.” Small wonder he was so admired by the directors of the Film School Generation.

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1 comment:

Erick Grau said...

There is a new documentary on Harry called Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction

The Official movie FB page -

It's US premiere will be at the SXSW next month! March 8th at 9:15p, March 9th at 11a, March 12th at 9p, March 13th at 11:15a!