Char­ac­ter ac­tor Stan­ton be­came cult fa­vorite

Known for ‘Repo Man,’ ‘Paris, Texas’

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - TAP DAILY - LINDSEY BAHR

LOS AN­GE­LES - Harry Dean Stan­ton, the sham­bling, craggy-face char­ac­ter ac­tor with the dead­pan voice who be­came a cult fa­vorite through his mem­o­rable turns in “Paris, Texas,” “Repo Man” and many other films and TV shows, died Fri­day at age 91.

Stan­ton died of nat­u­ral causes at Cedars-Si­nai Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Los An­ge­les, his agent, John S. Kelly, told The Associated Press. Kelly gave no fur­ther de­tails on the cause.

Never mis­taken for a lead­ing man, Stan­ton was an un­for­get­table pres­ence to movie­go­ers, fel­low ac­tors and di­rec­tors, who rec­og­nized that his quirky char­ac­ter­i­za­tions could lift even the most or­di­nary script. Roger Ebert once ob­served that no movie with Stan­ton in a sup­port­ing role “can be al­to­gether bad.”

He was widely loved around Hol­ly­wood, a drinker and smoker and straight talker with a mil­lion sto­ries who palled around with Jack Ni­chol­son and Kris Kristof­fer­son among others and was a hero to such younger stars and brothers-in-par­ty­ing as Rob Lowe and Emilio Estevez. “I don’t act like their fa­ther, I act like their friend,” he once told New York magazine.

Al­most al­ways cast as a crook, a codger, an ec­cen­tric or a loser, he ap­peared in more than 200 movies and TV shows in a ca­reer dat­ing to the mid-1950s. A cult-fa­vorite since the ’70s with roles in “Cock­fighter,” “Two-Lane Black­top” and “Cisco Pike,” his more fa­mous cred­its ranged from the Os­car-win­ning epic “The God­fa­ther Part II” to the sci-fi clas­sic “Alien” to the teen flick “Pretty in Pink,” in which he played Molly Ring­wald’s fa­ther. He also guest starred on such TV shows as “Lav­erne & Shirley,” “Adam-12” and “Gun­smoke.” He had a cameo on “Two and a Half Men,” which fea­tured “Pretty in Pink” star Jon Cryer, and ap­peared in such movies as “The Avengers” and “The Last Stand.”

While fringe roles and films were a spe­cialty, he also ended up in the work of many of the 20th cen­tury’s mas­ter au­teurs, even Al­fred Hitch­cock in the di­rec­tor’s se­rial TV show.

“I worked with the best di­rec­tors,” Stan­ton told the AP in a 2013 in­ter­view, given while chain-smok­ing in pa­ja­mas and a robe. “Martin Scors­ese, John Hus­ton, David Lynch, Al­fred Hitch­cock. Al­fred Hitch­cock was great.”

He said he could have been a di­rec­tor him­self but “it was too much work.”

Fit­ting for a char­ac­ter ac­tor, he only be­came fa­mous in late mid­dle age. In Wim Wen­ders’ 1984 ru­ral drama “Paris, Texas,” he earned ac­claim for his sub­tle and af­fect­ing por­trayal of a man so deeply haunted by some­thing in his past that he aban­dons his young son and so­ci­ety to wan­der silently in the desert.

Stan­ton, who never lost his Kentucky ac­cent, said his in­ter­est in movies was piqued as a child when he would walk out of every the­ater “think­ing I was Humphrey Bog­art.”

Af­ter Navy service in the Pa­cific dur­ing World War II, he spent three years at the Univer­sity of Kentucky and ap­peared in sev­eral plays. De­ter­mined to make it in Hol­ly­wood, he picked tobacco to earn his fare west.

Stan­ton never mar­ried, al­though he had a long re­la­tion­ship with ac­tress Re­becca De Mor­nay, 35 years his ju­nior. “She left me for Tom Cruise,” Stan­ton said of­ten.

“I might have had two or three (kids) out of mar­riage,” he once re­called. “But that’s an­other story.”

CHRIS PIZZELLO / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Harry Dean Stan­ton ar­rives at a cel­e­bra­tion for ac­tress Mar­ion Cotil­lard in West Hol­ly­wood, Calif., in 2008. He was a leg­endary char­ac­ter ac­tor. Stan­ton has died at age 91. His agent John S. Kelly says the ac­tor died of nat­u­ral causes Fri­day in Los An­ge­les.

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