Harry Dean Stanton: Hollywood's Zen Rebel

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Harry Dean Stanton
Hollywood's Zen Rebel
by Joseph B. Atkins


Harry Dean Stanton (1926--2017) got his start in Hollywood in TV productions such as Zane Grey Theater and Gunsmoke. After a series of minor parts in forgettable westerns, he gradually began to get film roles that showcased his laid-back acting style, appearing in Cool Hand Luke (1967), Kelly's Heroes (1970), The Godfather: Part II (1974), and Alien (1979). He became a headliner in the eighties -- starring in Wim Wenders's moving Paris, Texas (1984) and Alex Cox's Repo Man (1984) -- but it was his extraordinary skill as a character actor that established him as a revered cult figure and kept him in demand throughout his career.

Joseph B. Atkins unwinds Stanton's enigmatic persona in the first biography of the man Vanity Fair memorialized as "the philosopher poet of character acting." He sheds light on Stanton's early life in West Irvine, Kentucky, exploring his difficult relationship with his Baptist parents, his service in the navy, and the events that inspired him to drop out of college and pursue acting. Atkins also explores Stanton as a Hollywood legend, chronicling his years rooming with Jack Nicholson, partying with David Crosby and Mama Cass, jogging with Bob Dylan, and playing poker with John Huston.

Harry Dean Stanton is often remembered for his crowd-pleasing roles in movies like Pretty in Pink (1986) or Escape from New York (1981), but this impassioned biography illuminates the entirety of his incredible sixty-year career. Drawing on interviews with the actor's friends, family, and colleagues, this much-needed book offers an unprecedented look at a beloved figure.

Joseph B. Atkins is a veteran newspaper and magazine writer whose articles have appeared in USA Today, Baltimore Sun, the Oxford American, and In These Times. He is also the author of Covering for the Bosses: Labor and the Southern Press.

Book Reviews:

    "Atkins's well-researched, vivid prose brings to life one of Hollywood's most fascinating and overlooked actors. His book perfectly captures the madness, warmth and beauty of Harry Dean Stanton's unique life and career." -- Tom Thurman, Harry Dean Stanton: Crossing Mulholland

    "Actor Harry Dean Stanton finally gets the starring role in Joseph B. Atkins's comprehensively researched and beautifully written biography of the New Hollywood legend whose 'face was a story.' Stanton -- who never gave anything but a 'natural' performance -- gives his ultimate performance as a loner from Kentucky taking on (and earning the respect of) the biggest stars in the film and television business. The awed supporting cast includes Brando, Nicholson, Newman, McQueen." -- Robert Crane, coauthor of Crane and My Life as a Mankiewicz


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