This week I’ve been reviewing a couple of films for another site. Hitler’s Hollywood examines the blatant propaganda employed by the Nazis once they seized power in Germany in 1933. In the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, this made for some particularly painful – but enlightening – viewing, especially when seeing excerpts from films whose main purpose was to scapegoat Jews.

The other film was Lucky, the cinematic swan song of Harry Dean Stanton. A film about mortality that features a ninety year old man and eschews any real action or (outward) conflict, this is another movie I’d highly recommend.

It doesn’t seem all that long ago that Harry was featuring in big cult successes like Paris, Texas and Repo Man (both from 1984). Back then he was around the age I am now, and as you can likely guess from that statement, Lucky might make you meditate on your own mortality.

Lucky recently enjoyed an overdue theatrical release in Britain, by which point Harry had sadly died. It debuts on Blu-ray and DVD in Britain on the twelfth of this month and comes along with a number of very welcome extras, most particularly Sophie Huber’s impressionistic 2012 documentary Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction.

Harry Dean Stanton - Partly Fiction

Here we follow Harry around his home and haunts in Hollywood. He sings a bunch of songs like Blue Bayou and Danny Boy and it would have to be admitted, his croon could best be described as ragged.

It’s impossible to imagine this frail old-timer delivering lines like speed snorting Bud did in Repo Man: ‘An ordinary person spends his life avoiding tense situations. A Repo Man spends his life getting into tense situations.’

Inevitably, we’re shown clips from that movie and some of the two hundred plus others he acted in during his long career like Cool Hand Luke, Alien and The Straight Story.

David Lynch & Harry Dean Stanton - Partly Fiction

No natural raconteur, Stanton is cagey about his private life, albeit he does admit to being something of a ladies man and tells the story of losing an unnamed girlfriend to Tom Cruise. Without wanting to go all gossip magazine, that’ll be Rebecca De Mornay.

Possibly to help open him up, he’s filmed meeting up with pals like Straight Story director David Lynch, who also appears in Lucky, and Kris Kristofferson, who Stanton acted with in Cisco Pike and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Debbie (or Deborah as she’s styled here) Harry also makes an appearance.

Although always liking the song, until watching Partly Fiction, I hadn’t realised that Debbie had name-checked him in I Want That Man: ‘I want to dance with Harry Dean / Drive through Texas in a black limousine.’

How cool is that? Debbie Harry writing a song about you and it going on to become her biggest solo hit?

Harry Dean, unfortunately, didn’t pick up on the fact himself for a number of years. Eventually, Debbie gave him a call and the two immediately bonded, striking up a long-lasting friendship. Or was it more than that? She phones him again midway through the documentary and gets a little flirty. Lucky ol’ Harry Dean Stanton.

Deborah Harry - Partly Fiction

While shooting the breeze with David Lynch, Harry is asked how he’d like to be remembered. ‘Doesn’t matter,’ he replies without any hesitation.

Maybe this kind of thing didn’t matter to Stanton, but I’ll remember him very fondly anyway. He was one of the most consistently good American actors of the past fifty years and, as one of the most consistently good American critics Roger Ebert once put it: ‘No movie featuring either Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can be altogether bad.’

Partly Fiction is an occasionally fascinating watch though far from essential. Along with Lucky, though, it makes for a great package.

More Harry Dean in the near future, folks.

Advertisements