Appreciating the Career of Dennis Burkley

One might wonder why we continually look to past actors and moments that don’t appear to have any bearing on the current era or those that have continued to make the industry what it is. Well, sometimes it’s pure whimsy, looking back at people and situations that were great or at least comfortable, and sometimes it’s to remember people that might not have been given enough praise for a career that was kind of impressive in its own way, like that of Dennis Burkley. On-screen he had a reputation for being the big guy that could either be a truly horrible person, or who might have a heart of gold depending on how he was supposed to be acting at that time. Dennis passed away in 2013 sadly, but seeing as how his career went from the 70s up until his passing, it’s fair to state that he had a good run and was someone that people likely remember simply because he was that ‘big guy’ that was actually a lot of fun no matter how good or bad he was supposed to be at the time. A lot of big guys tend to be lumped by the stereotype that says they’re supposed to be one way or the other, but many of those that are a bit hefty or are, in simple terms, just big people, tend to have a lot more going for them than their size and their temperament.

Dennis took on a lot of roles during his time in the business, and it’s likely that a lot of people remember him in one way or another since he did manage to guest-star in quite a few TV shows and showed up in quite a few movies. But as I’ve taken to doing so, I’d like to remember him for a few roles that were fun and helped to show just what kind of actor he could be. The first of those is the role of Dozer in Mask, a movie that a lot of people should remember from the mid-80s since it was a tearjerker that starred Eric Stoltz, Cher, Sam Elliott, and many others. Dozer wasn’t the brightest individual and he did have a bit of speech impediment, but he was also one of the best friends that Rocky, the basis for the movie, had in the world. It wasn’t a perfect friendship since the fact that Rocky was different thanks to his condition, the craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, kept him apart from a lot of people and didn’t allow him to have much of a normal life. But Dozer was one of the people who were there and helped to make Rocky’s life a little easier at times, even if he wasn’t the greatest prize as a friend. It’s the fact that he was there, perfect or not, that really mattered, and Dennis played the part perfectly.

Dennis went on to play a minor to a fairly noticeable role in a lot of movies and TV shows, at least for one episode a pop most times it would appear since he would be on and then off to the next one, delivering his sarcastic wit and good-natured humor wherever he went, as he was known to be the kind of guy that could turn on the charm and then appear to be just as snarky as he needed to be without fail. One could easily assume that being a big guy he might have felt the need to armor himself with humor at times, but whether or not that was the case, he did it well since it was easy to laugh at and with him quite often as he made his way through one scene after another. Sometimes the big guys that pop onto the screen are often the most amusing since they not only know how to make people laugh, but they know how to do it in a self-deprecating manner or in a way that makes great use of their environment. One good example of that was when Dennis starred in Son in Law as Theo, the hired hand that didn’t like Crawl, played by Pauly Shore, in the least bit and was actually kind of a miserable character that was put up with by everyone else and trusted because he’d never turned on his employer. In short, Theo was the kind of employee that knew how to act around the boss but was otherwise kind of a louse when he was on his own.

This fact was made pretty clear when he and Travis, played by Dan Gauthier, pulled a nasty prank on Crawl and Tracy, played by Tiffany Thiessen, by sticking them in the barn and making it appear as though they’d had sex. Yeah, Theo was kind of a scuzz, but he was believable, which means that Dennis was good at what he did. He’s kind of missed if you couldn’t tell.

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