With his bushy eyebrows, his cheeky muzzle, his gullied face, he was one of the most vibrant presences in American cinema, where his career spanned nearly six decades. A remarkable supporting actor, Dean Stockwell knew how to cross films from an angle, giving them a touch that was both familiar and equivocal.
Passed in front of the cameras of Joseph Losey, Elia Kazan, David Lynch, Wim Wenders, his journey is that of a generation who grew up on the ashes of the golden age of Hollywood, who took the plunge into the unknown. His adventurous choices have long deprived him of a popularity that he will not find until late, in television soap operas, in particular in Code Quantum (1989-1993). He passed away on Sunday, November 7, at his home in New Mexico at the age of 85.
Born March 5, 1936, in Los Angeles, California, Dean Stockwell is a child of the ball: his mother is a vaudeville actress, and his father a stage singer, known for having lent his voice to the character of the Prince in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Spotted on the boards by an MGM headhunter, he signed his first contract at age 9 and became, with his chubby face and curly hair, a popular studio chicken with a lion’s head.
He shares the bill with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra (Stopover in Hollywood, by George Sidney, in 1945), replies to Gregory Peck, Greer Garson, Errol Flynn. His excellent reputation on the sets has earned him successive important roles in two masterpieces on childhood: The Boy with Green Hair (1948), an anti-racist parable by Joseph Losey, and the young narrator of the magnificent Stars in My Crown (1950), chronicle of the old South produced by Jacques Tourneur. In 1959 and 1962, he was awarded the prize for male interpretation at Cannes for The Genius of Evil (Richard Fleischer) et Long journey into the night (Sidney Lumet).
The cursed part of the child star
The actor has more than once returned to this past as a child star to say the cursed part: fatigue, lassitude, the pressure to be a source of income for his parents, a whole kidnapping of childhood , sucked into the endless turning centrifuge. Growing up will necessarily be in a complex relationship in Hollywood, where roles will never abound as before. The boards will be for him, as for many, a salvation in which to perfect his playing techniques.
The 1980s, more prolix, make him a recurring, familiar figure, who comes to instill his confusion and his melancholy in some of the most daring films of the decade.
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Dean Stockwell, from the ashes of Hollywood’s golden age in independent cinema