Another star has gone out in Hollywood recently as Dean Stockwell passed away at the age of 85 on November 7th. Quite honestly I don’t expect everyone to remember Mr. Stockwell, but growing up with this man as a regular on TV shows and in movies, it’s tough to not feel a little melancholy to realize he’s gone. To be fair, Dean did retire from acting back in 2015 after suffering through a stroke, but he’s always been a fun personality to see on a show or in the movies since he was great at playing a dramatic character or a comical one. He was also great at playing the part of the jerk that no one liked since he could put on the necessary attitude and demeanor that made it impossible to enjoy his character but allowed him to fit perfectly into whatever part and production he was playing in. To put it another way, Dean was an adaptable actor that could evolve for whatever role he was needed in, but there’s no doubt that a lot of people will remember him fondly in roles that they witnessed him years ago, such as the role he played in Quantum Leap, Al Calavicci, alongside Scott Bakula.
Looking at the long list of credits he amassed during his career is nothing short of impressive since he was a busy individual from the 40s onward. He did make it known that as a child actor he didn’t have a lot of fun with his career to start with, as things didn’t always turn out the way he wanted them to and his roles weren’t always that pleasing. But he pushed forward and kept doing it for so long that by the time the 80s came around he found that he was fully enjoying himself finally and that he was able to take on roles that he didn’t mind. Perhaps he needed to mature and take control of his career finally or maybe something else happened, but it would appear that Dean was having the time of his life for a couple of decades and more.
One particular role I do recall Dean in was that of Defense Secretary Walter Dean in Air Force One when he starred alongside Glenn Close. Once the president, played by Harrison Ford, was believed to be captured and the plane had been taken by Russian terrorists in an attempt to free an imprisoned general, Walter and the vice president, played by Close, started up a heated argument about who was in charge since the president wasn’t present at that time. Walter even managed to come up with a way to gain the support of the rest of the cabinet and would have been in charge had the VP signed the paper he had drawn up to take control. In a big way, a lot of Dean’s more irritating characters sometimes had a reason for being the way they were since the situations they were thrust into kind of called for it, but there were times when one couldn’t help but think that he played some of the most annoying characters possible, and he portrayed them in ways that one can’t help but admit were perfect since a lot of people couldn’t stand the said characters. That’s the kind of talent that a lot of people wish for since it’s also the type that you can’t just give to someone.
It’s also the type of talent that comes from a long life spent in front of the camera trying to figure out what it is that people want to see. The fact that he came from an entertaining family and spent most of his life on screen is a big factor in how Dean held himself as an actor. But there’s no doubt that much of his talent came naturally as well and only needed to be shaped and molded in order to shine the way it did. It is sad to realize that he’s gone, but what’s even sadder is realizing that in another couple of decades his name will still be around, but many of those that have grown up without him at that time might say ‘Who?’ when his name comes up. Admittedly, we do it already when talking about actors who have come and gone in the business, so it’s not an insult to say that it will happen, it’s merely a fact.
The upside of this and the reason why it’s easy not to become depressed about it is that his performances and his history will be kept available for anyone who wants to take a look so they can understand who he was and what he did. That’s not quite enough for some folks, who fully enjoyed his time on screen, but it’s enough to know that he won’t be forgotten entirely. Rest in peace sir, you’ll be missed.