Local acting legend lives on

Published 9:00 am Friday, September 22, 2017

By Rick Baldwin

Greetings, Wildcat cinephiles of Winchester!

Kentucky is well-known and lauded for its bourbon, beer cheese, basketball, Bluegrass music and fierce state pride.

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We have many historical leaders and sites, literary greats, world-renowned musicians and a pretty decent track record for being the birthplace of some stellar actors and actresses.

George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise and Jennifer Lawrence are some of the bigger names most folks associate with hailing from our great Commonwealth.

There are so many actors that were born or raised here, the topic would require its own column.

This past week, we lost another talented Kentucky thespian, Harry Dean Stanton.

Stanton was born in 1926 in Irvine, was a University of Kentucky alumni before doing a stint in the Navy during World War II and heading out to California to try his hand at professional acting.

Stanton’s impressive career in TV and cinema ranged from 1954 to 2017.

Stanton starred in such memorable films such as “Cool Hand Luke” (1967); “Kelly’s Heroes” (1970); “Alien” (1979); “Escape from New York” (1981); “Repo Man” (1984); “Red Dawn” (1984); “Pretty in Pink” (1986); “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1998), “The Green Mile” (1999) and TV series, “Twin Peaks: The Return” (2017). Not too shabby.

In 2011, The Lexington Film League started the annual Harry Dean Stanton Film Festival in his honor.

Stanton wasn’t just a memorable actor, he was also a talented musician and singer who performed regularly with “The Harry Dean Stanton Band.”

A unique gentleman who lived by his own rules, Stanton had a talent that made the craft of acting look easy.

Though he had a small physical frame, which was and still is the opposite of Hollywood’s vision of a leading man appeal, Stanton added weight effortlessly to each scene on the silver screen and made his presence memorable.

Stanton, by far, was an underestimated actor by viewers but loved by his fellow actors, directors, producers and pop culture fan groups.

Though he was considered a great “character” actor, Stanton was more than just a memorable character actor. He had the stuff, and lacked the ego to flaunt his own personality and fame to focus on his work. That’s when you know you are watching someone special, a real actor.

Stanton eloquently summed up his life and career and why labels are harmful with, “When you label something, you dismiss it.” Class act.

Go Cats! Have a FILMtastic day!

Rick Baldwin is a writer, filmmaker and film/music historian. He is president of the Winchester-Clark County Film Society (facebook.com/WCCfilmsociety). Find more from Rick on Facebook at facebook.com/ricksrhetoric/ and online at theintestinalfortitude.com. He is on Twitter @rickbaldwin79 and can be reached by email at rickbaldwiniii@hotmail.com.