~posted by Mike S.
Harry Dean Stanton may not be a household name but he sure is a household face. One of the most iconic character actors in film history, Stanton has been working steadily for the past sixty years. Perhaps you remember his brief appearance in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, where he stumbled upon a naked Mark Ruffalo climbing out of some debris. The Internet Movie Database lists 187 credits to Harry’s name and he shows no sign of stopping, even as he celebrates his 88th birthday today. In honor of this momentous occasion, let’s highlight some of Harry’s most memorable performances.
Stanton began his career in television, appearing on classic shows like Bonanza and Gunsmoke. Despite roles in venerable movies such as 1967’s Cool Hand Luke, he didn’t start appearing consistently in feature films until the 1970s. But before long, Stanton was working with some of the most celebrated directors in film history, including Sam Peckinpah, Francis Ford Coppola, and John Huston.
In 1979, Stanton was tapped to play one of the seven crew members on the spaceship, Nostromo, sent off to investigate an unknown transmission from a nearby planet in Ridley Scott’s terrifically terrifying Alien. Harry’s scene with a cat in a dark corridor might be the greatest sequence in a movie brimming with them.
The 1980s were perhaps Stanton’s most memorable decade as a performer. He appeared in Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas, the original version of Red Dawn, and Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. But for my money, Stanton’s best role is in director Alex Cox’s debut feature, Repo Man. Stanton plays a world weary, hardboiled mentor to Emilio Estevez’s brash punk rocker as they navigate the grimy byways of Los Angeles whilst attempting to repossess a very special Chevy Malibu.
If you want to know more about the inimitable Stanton, to see what makes him tick, the recent documentary, Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction, attempts to shed some light on its reticent subject. Whatever you do, take a moment today to light up an imaginary cigarette and puff a smoke ring in honor of the man. Happy birthday, Harry!