We should remember the wonderful if bizarre career of Dean Stockwell now that he has passed on from the planet. He was great in so much. When he did Quantum Leap, the quality of television was pretty much a joke. But that show was one of the first to really take the medium toward being able to tell more complex and interesting stories than it did prior to this. For many of us, that was our first introduction to Stockwell. But of course there was his insane scene in Blue Velvet. And then you realize the guy was in and out of acting his whole life, from his child acting days to the very end, all while also being a central figure in the entire Los Angeles arts scene. Here’s a real nice remembrance of the man and his work.
His lifelong friendships—with Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, Neil Young—were creative partnerships in many ways. He collaborated with all of them, most notably with Neil Young: Young’s album After the Gold Rush was inspired by a screenplay Stockwell wrote, and 1982’s “Human Highway” was Young and Stockwell’s shared brainchild, and starred one of Stockwell’s little-red-schoolhouse classmates, Russ Tamblyn. In the ’50s and ’60s, Stockwell was heavily involved in the Los Angeles art scene (featured in the documentary “The Cool School”), and he continued to make and show his art—collage, assemblage, photography— through his long life. If all of this weren’t enough, Stockwell took a photograph of California artist Wallace Berman which is included in the collage on the Beatles’ famous Sgt. Pepper album cover.
Stockwell came a long way from gleaming adorably up at Frank Sinatra in “Anchors Aweigh,” from writhing around as William Powell spanked him, from ripping down the curtains around his bed in “The Secret Garden.” He came a long way from his uptight gay murderer in “Compulsion” and his gorgeously tubercular Edmund Tyrone in “Long Day’s Journey.” He came a long way from Lynch’s “I thought you were dead.” He lived long enough to be able to not just appreciate but feel the love that people had for him, the way audiences fell in love with him for 70 years. 70 years! There aren’t too many careers out there like Dean Stockwell’s. Again: mention him on Twitter, and you will be overwhelmed by people calling out his excellent “Columbo” episodes. People remember.
Stockwell stuck around long enough for acting to become not just something he happened to be good at, but something he loved.
We are all richer for it.
Dean Stockwell was the inspiration for After the Gold Rush? Wow. I did not know that.