Monday, October 20, 2014

Harry Dean Stanton: at 88, still going strong down Route 66

Harry Dean Stanton: at 88, still going strong down Route 66

A screening of an acclaimed documentary about the actor offered a rare chance to see him in concert

from The Guardian UK
Harry Dean Stanton in Hollywood, October 2014.
Harry Dean Stanton in Hollywood, October 2014. Photograph: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
California is crippled by a three-year “mega-drought”. The rivers are withering, the landscape a scratchy brown, and woe betide those who break the hosepipe ban.

Perfect weather, then, for a gravelly performance from Harry Dean Stanton: a man with a face like dust bowl, dessicated further by 70 odd years of cigarettes.

Stanton has appeared in more than 200 movies including Paris, Texas, Wild At Heart and as cat loving Brett in Alien. I first saw him as the dad in Pretty in Pink. Laconic, beaten-down, accepting, I thought he was the coolest thing since Molly Ringwald’s prom frock.

His backstory was explored Sophie Huber’s brilliant documentary, Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (released in 2012, now available on Netflix).
This Swiss-born film-maker first meets her subject in his regular drinking haunt, Dan Tanas in Santa Monica, and uses music as her route in to this intensely private man. She follows him as he potters about his day-to-day routine, splicing the footage with pared down renditions of his favourite songs, such as Danny Boy and Blue Bayou, which are performed from the safety of his living room.
Late last month, the film was screened at the Grammy Museum in downtown LA, and both Stanton and Huber took part in a charming Q&A afterwards. Followed by some tunes: Stanton singing and on harmonica, accompanied by guitar and bass.
As he took to the stage, fragile as a larch, the audience moved to the edge of their seats. Stanton fumbled first for his reading glasses, then for one of his many harmonicas, all tuned to different keys. Would he make it through the first bar? He would; albeit from the comfort of an overstuffed armchair (as he said - he is 12 years off 100).
His exit was quicker: Stanton scarpered immediately after the three tracks were over; his guitarist, Jamie, revealed to the crowd that he’d called the night before to try and wriggle out of the performance.
Stanton was one of those rare beasts: exactly in the flesh as you’d suspect from the screen. Introspective, and mischievous; a loner, and old-fashioned with it. In an age of white noise and celebrity hysteria, this was a reminder of a previous time; refreshing courtesy in the drought. He’d never married, he said in the film - and only once proposed because it seemed the civil thing to do. He’s wiser now he’s older, he said. After all, “what’s wrong with silence?”

1 comment:

Richard Moore said...

Catching up with posts, I was excited to hear about the Harry Dean Stanton documentary. I first noticed Stanton back in the 50s and 60s on television episodes of all types (Rawhide, Combat!, Checkmate, etc.) usually billed then as Dean Stanton.

Then he fully blossomed in feature films such as "Alien", "Repo Man", and especially Wm Wenders' "Paris, Texas".

I love the way the old boy pops up all the tim. I bought an old VHS tape of a TV movie "The Dangerous Days of Kiowa Jones" (1966) because it was based on a Clifton Adams novel and there he was for a couple of scenes before being shot by Robert Horton.

May he make it to 100 and add many new roles along the way.