Stockwell, Dean

views updated


Nationality: American. Born: Hollywood, 5 March 1936; son of singer Harry Stockwell and actress-dancer Betty Veronica Stockwell; brother of actor Guy Stockwell. Education: Attended Long Island public schools; attended Martin Milmore School, Boston. Family: Married actress Millie Perkins, late 1960s (divorced after two years); married Joy Stockwell, early 1980s; children: one son, one daughter. Career: Worked as a real estate agent in New Mexico; performed in dinner theatre productions; Broadway stage debut in short-lived Theater Guild production, 1942; under contract to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in Hollywood, 1945–1950; dropped out of films for approximately five years, 1951; worked primarily in television, 1956–1999, appearing in series including Police Story, 1973, Greatest Heroes of the Bible, 1978, Quantum Leap, 1989, The Tony Danza Show, 1997, and It's True, 1998. Awards: Golden Globe Award, Best Juvenile Actor, for Gentleman's Agreement, 1947; Cannes Film festival, Best Actor (with Bradford Dillman and Orson Welles), for Compulsion, 1959; Cannes Film Festival, Best Actor (with Jason Robards, Jr., and Ralph Richardson), for Long Day's Journey Into Night, 1962; Golden Globe Award, Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, for Quantum Leap, 1989. Agent: Jason Heyman, United Talent Agency, 9560 Wilshire Blvd., 5th Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A.

Films as Actor:


The Valley of Decision (Garnett) (as Paulie); Anchors Aweigh (Sidney) (as Donald Martin); Abbott and Costello in Hollywood (Simon) (as himself/uncredited)


The Mighty McGurk (Waters) (as Nipper); The Green Years (Saville) (as Robert Shannon as a child); Home Sweet Homicide (Bacon) (as Archie Carstairs)


Song of the Thin Man (Buzzell) (as Nick Charles, Jr.); The Romance of Rosy Ridge (Rowland) (as Andrew McBean); The Arnelo Affair (Oboler) (as Ricky Parkson); A Really Important Person (Wrangell); Gentleman's Agreement (Kazan) (as Tommy Green)


Deep Waters (King) (as Danny Mitchell); The Boy With Green Hair (Losey) (as Peter Frye)


The Secret Garden (Wilcox) (as Colin Craven); Down to the Sea in Ships (Hathaway) (as Ted Joy)


The Happy Years (Wellman) (as John Humperdink "Dink" Stover); Stars in My Crown (Tourneur) (as John Kenyon); Kim (Saville) (as Kim)


Cattle Drive (Neumann) (as Chester Graham, Jr.)


Gun for a Coward (Biberman) (as Hade "Harry" Keough)


The Careless Years (Hiller) (as Jerry Vernon)


Compulsion (Fleischer) (as Judd Steiner)


Sons and Lovers (Cardiff) (as Paul Morel)


Long Day's Journey Into Night (Lumet) (as Edmund Tyrone)


Rapture (Guillermin) (as Joseph)


Psych-Out (Rush) (as Dave); Before Breakfast (for TV)


The Dunwich Horror (Haller) (as Wilber Whateley)


The Last Movie (Chinchero) (Hopper) (as Billy); The Paper Man (Grauman—for TV) (as Avery Jensen); The Failing of Raymond (Sagal—for TV) (as Raymond)


The Loners (Roley) (as Stein); Columbo: The Most Crucial Game (Kagan—for TV) (as Eric Wagner); The Adventures of Nick Carter (Krasny—for TV) (as Freddy Duncan)


The Werewolf of Washington (Ginsberg) (as Jack Whittier)


Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer (Andersen) (as Narrator)


Another Day at the Races (Bailey); The Pacific Connection (South Pacific Connection) (Santiago); Cop on the Beat (The Return of Joe Forrester) (Vogel—for TV) (as Detective Callan); Columbo: Troubled Waters (Gazzara) (as Lloyd Harrington)


Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (Winner) (as Paul Lavell); Tracks (Jaglom) (as Mark)


She Came to the Valley (Texas in Flames) (Band) (as Pat Westall); A Killing Affair (Behind the Badge) (Sarafian—for TV) (as Kenneth Switzer)


Born to be Sold (Brinkerhoff—for TV) (as Marty Helick)


Human Highway (Young) (as Otto Quartz); Alsino y el Condoe (Alsino and the Condor) (Littin) (as Frank); Wrong Is Right (The Man with the Deadly Lens) (Brooks) (as Hacker)


Paris, Texas (Wenders) (as Walt); Dune (Lynch) (as Doctor Wellington Yueh)


To Live and Die in L.A. (Friedkin) (as Bob Grimes); To Kill A Stranger (Matar a un extrano aka Secuestrada) (Moctezuma) (as John Carver); Papa Was a Preacher (Feke) (as John); The Legend of Billy Jean (Robbins) (as Muldaur)


Ecstacy (Spinelli); Blue Velvet (Lynch) (as Ben)


The Time Guardian (Hannant/Prowse) (as Boss); Kenny Rogers as The Gambler, Part III: The Legend Continues (Lowry); Beverly Hills Cop II (Scott) (as Chip Cain); Banzai Runner (Thomas) (as Billy Baxter); Gardens of Stone (Coppola) (as Horner Thoms)


Tucker: The Man and His Dream (Coppola) (as Howard Hughes); Palais Royale (Smoke Screen) (Lavut) (as Michael Dattalico); Jorge um Brasilerio (The Long haul) (Thiago) (as Mario); The Blue Iguana (Lafia) (as Detective Carl Strick); Married to the Mob (Demme) (as Tony "The Tiger" Russo)


Limit Up (Martini) (as Peter Oak); Buying Time (Gabourne) (as Detective Novak); Catchfire (Backtrack) (Hopper/Smithee) (as John Luponi); Quantum Leap (Hemmings) (as Rear Admiral Albert "Al" Calavicci)


Sandino (Littin) (as Captain Hatfiel)


Son of the Morning Star (Robe) (as General Sheridan)


Friends and Enemies (Frank) (as Freddie); The Player (Altman) (as Andy Civella); Shame (Lerner—for TV) (as Tim Curtis); Fatal Memories (The Eileen Franklin Story) (Duke—for TV) (as Detective Robert Morse)


Bonanza: The Return (Jameson—for TV) (as Augustus Brandenburg)


In the Line of Duty: The Price of Vengeance (Lowry—for TV) (as Jack Lowe); Chasers (Hopper) (as Salesman Stig); Vanishing Son II (Nicolella—for TV) (as Mickey Jo); Justice in a Small Town (Hard Evidence) (Egleson—for TV) (as Commissioner Sam Caldwell; The Innocent (Leder—for TV) (as Jason Flaboe); Madonna: Innocence Lost (May—for TV) (as Tony Ciccone)


Naked Souls (Chubbuck) (as Duncan); The Commish: In the Shadow of the Gallows (Brazil—for TV) (as Robert Allardyce); The Langoliers (Holland—for TV) (as Bob Jenkins); Deadline for Murder: From the Files of Edna Buchanan (Chopra—for TV) (as Aaron Bliss)


Unabomber: The True Story (Purdy—for TV) (as Ben Jeffries); Twilight Man (Baxley) (as Hollis Deitz); Midnight Blue (Snider) (as Katz-Feeney); Mr. Wrong (Castle) (as Jack Tramonte)


The Shadow Men (Bond) (as Stan Mills); Close to Danger (Barnette—for TV) (as Dr. Ames); The Last Resort (as Grey Wolf); McHale's Navy (Spicer) (as Capt. Wallace B. Binghampton); Living in Peril (The Peril of Being Walter Woods) (Ersgard) (as William); Air Force One (Petersen) (as Defense Secretary Walter Dean); The Rainmaker (Coppola) (as Judge Harvey Hale)


Sinbad: The Battle of the Dark Knights (Mehrez) (as Ophisto)


What Katy Did (Stewart/Curtis—for TV) (as Tramp); Water Damage (Battle) (as Frank Skoufaris); Rites of Passage (Salva) (as Del Farley); Restraining Order (Der Todfeind) (Katzin) (as Mains); The Venice Project (Dornhelm) (as Senator Campbell)


The Flunky (Van Patten) (as Micky); They Nest (Elkayem—for TV) (as Sheriff Hobbs)


By STOCKWELL: articles—

"A Handful of Quarters," as told to Ina Steinhauser, in Photoplay, December 1957.

Interview in Interview, October 1988.

Interview in Rolling Stone, 4 May 1989.

"Hollywood Hologram," interview with March Shapiro, in Starlog, January 1991.

On STOCKWELL: books—

Best, Marc, Those Endearing Young Charms: Child Performers of the Screen, South Brunswick, New Jersey, 1971.

Parish, James Robert, and Ronald L. Bowers, The Golden Era: the MGM Stock Company, Bonanza Books, 1972.

Edelson, Edward, Great Kids of the Movies, Garden City, New Jersey, 1979.

On STOCKWELL: articles—

McGilligan, P., article in Film Comment (New York), vol. 24, no. 4, July-August 1988.

* * *

Dean Stockwell was born into a show business family and, along with brother Guy, was groomed for a show-business career at an early age. (His father, singer Harry Stockwell, gave voice to Prince Charming in Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs). Young Stockwell made his New York stage debut (with brother Guy) in a production of The Innocent Voyage, a dramatization of the Richard Hughes novel about an encounter between a group of orphaned children and bloodthirsty pirates.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer producer Joe Pasternak discovered Stockwell in Voyage and brought him to Hollywood, where he made his screen debut with Gregory Peck and Greer Garson in Valley of Decision in 1945. He was featured more prominently in a big George Sidney musical, Anchors Aweigh, playing aspiring starlet Kathryn Grayson's nephew, an almost too adorable curly-headed youngster determined to join the U.S. Navy. In just his second film the young actor managed to hold his own in scenes with pros Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra playing musically inclined Navy buddies.

A variety of films at MGM followed, along with occasional loan outs to Twentieth Century-Fox, though one of Stockwell's peak roles during this period occurred at that most minor of the major Hollywood studios, the title role in RKO's off-beat allegory, The Boy with Green Hair, directed by Joseph Losey. A teen-age Stockwell was still juvenile enough to star as Colin Craven opposite the also maturing Margaret O'Brien's Mary Lennox in MGM's 1949 version of The Secret Garden. The fact that neither he nor O'Brien were, nor even attempted to be remotely English did not deter MGM from pairing them in the classic British children's tale. This Secret Garden is chiefly memorable for its over-the-top temper-tantrum screaming match between MGM's two foremost and inevitably aging juveniles, and the fact that the picture is shot in black-and-white with a Technicolor finale. (MGM had originally hoped Stockwell would be their "male Margaret O'Brien," but never really found a Meet Me In Saint Louis for him).

One of Stockwell's best later juvenile roles was in an small MGM B-picture, 1950's Stars In My Crown. Sensitively directed by Jacques Tourneur, the film is a beautifully shot black-and-white period piece about a quietly virile minister (played by Joel McCrea) who deals with crises of faith, family, and racism in a closely-knit small town in the post-Civil War South. Stockwell gives one of his most natural and appealing juvenile performances as the adopted son of McCrea and Ellen Drew. Now well into his teen years, Stockwell completed his MGM years opposite Erroll Flynn in MGM's lavish but somewhat dull Technicolor spectacle, Kim, from the Rudyard Kipling story.

Post-MGM, Stockwell's career went through a series of ups and downs which may well have inspired the song "I'm Still Here" from Sondheim's Follies, as the maturing juvenile moved rather quickly from Eugene O'Neill to AIP. Like many veterans of the autocratic but also protective studio era Stockwell seemed to resent his childhood spent at MGM, but also seemed uncertain of how to manage a career of his own when his contract ran out. After a brief stint in college Stockwell made a half-hearted attempt at the New York theater scene before passing the rest of the 1950s with television roles and a brief return to films with UI's Gun for a Coward and UA's The Careless Years. Around this period Stockwell's exceptional good looks also made him a prime candidate for the young male heartthrob leads popular in the youth-enamored Hollywood of the mid-1950s, and for a brief period his handsome visage appeared in the major fan magazines of the period. His romance with (and short-lived marriage to) Millie Perkins, a young unknown model who landed the prime title role in The Diary of Anne Frank, was also well publicized. But, aside from garnering him comparisons to the late James Dean, Stockwell's apparently genuine rebel stance (and fondness for fast sports cars) prevented him from ultimately "going Hollywood," and the key "sensitive young man" roles of the era (for which Stockwell was ideally suited) went primarily to Tony Perkins.

In the late 1950s Stockwell returned to New York where he secured the lead (opposite Roddy McDowell) in Compulsion, Meyer Levin's play loosely based on the Leopold/Loeb murder case. The stage role led to the excellent 1959 film version (with Orson Welles), which in turn ushered in the adult Stockwell's choicest roles, that of Paul Morel in Jack Cardiff's British-made film of D. H. Lawrence'sSons and Lovers in 1960, and the consumptive son in Sidney Lumet's prestigious 1964 film of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, with Ralph Richardson and Katherine Hepburn.

Though hardly a box-office bonanza, the grim 174-minute O'Neill film proved the artistic peak of Stockwell's early career. His first film after Long Day's Journey was Rapture, a French film in which Stockwell starred opposite Patricia Gozzi, another maturing child performer who had played the title role in the controversial Sundays and Cybele. Though Rapture was a commercial flop, Leonard Maltin calls it "an intensive, sensitive account of Gozzi's tragic romance with Stockwell, a man on the run." Continuing television work through the 1960s was intercut with two American International potboilers: Psych-Out, a drug exploitation flick co-starring Susan Strasberg, and The Dunwich Horror, a psyched-out horror film who bore only the most nodding of acquaintances with the H. P. Lovecraft original.

In the 1970s Stockwell's movie career took an emphatically cultish turn. In 1971 he appeared along with Julie Adams, Sylvia Miles, Rod Cameron, and Sam Fuller in Dennis Hopper's follow-up to Easy Rider, the equally stoned-out The Last Movie, a relatively incomprehensible screenplay about a movie company shooting a film in a small Peruvian village. Soon came The Loners, a biker-flick with Scott Brady and Gloria Grahame, and Tracks, in which Hopper portrayed an escalatingly psychotic Vietnam veteran. 1984 saw two of Stockwell's more prestigious later appearances, a supporting role in David Lynch's spectacular, if somewhat misguided film of Dune (about twenty years earlier Stockwell himself would have made an excellent Paul Atreides), and as Walt, co-starring opposite Harry Dean Stanton and Nastassia Kinski, in Wim Wenders Paris, Texas. These two roles led to a career revival of sorts, and were followed by parts in To Live and Die in L.A., Blue Velvet, Tucker, and The Player, among an eclectic variety of other roles throughout the 1990s.

Dean Stockwell once commented: "Acting is my business, my work. I love it, even when I'm miserable." One of the few Hollywood child actors to maintain an active and prolific acting career after his childhood years, Stockwell's numerous roles in films and television have proved that one of the studio era's most charismatic and talented juveniles has never lost the passion for his art.

—Ross Care