Dennis Hopper 1936-2010

Dennis-HopperI’d gotten a hint of Hopper passing over the weekend, but didn’t bother to read the click-thru page after I clicked-through it last night.

Hopper dead? Wow. Tangential as he was to Hollywood history in 1984, he was, at the time of Blue Velvet‘s success, one of the first re-stars — one of those actors whose first stab at success had expired after a lengthy run, only to see that career revived after an appearance in an indedendent project.

Yvonne DeCarlo, a screen-star of the 40’s and ’50’s was able to make that turn when she accepted the role of  Lily Munster on a weekly send-up of the Universal horror franchises. And Lily Munster was a mid-career role that occurred only after she’d already been in Hollywood for greater than 20 years.

Similarly, Hopper had come up in the studio system originally pegged as a competitor to James Dean’s marquee position, performing in numerous Westerns and illegal street-race movies well into the 60s; But by 1964 there was little interest in the Bobby-sox Hot Rod flicks and the country had shifted — college kids were doing drugs, young women were on the pill and a war was raging in Vietnam and progressive leaders were being shot int the streets. It was then that Hopper and Peter Fonda put Easy Rider (1969) after the 2 of them had spent the better part of a decade performing in the corporate version of the changing culuture — movie like Roger Corman’s
The Trip
(1967), television and D-grade science-fiction like 1966’s Queen of Blood.

By 1979, Hopper had gotten something of a career bump from Francis Ford Coppola after appearing in Apocalyse Now, but that had been a result of typecasting himself as an avatar of the Boomer Generation’s experiments with sex, drugs and mortality. Come 1984, sex, drugs and mortality were exactly what David Lynch needed for Frank Booth — a shady underworld character who seemed to be moonlighting in retail matrimony.

1984 allowed Hopper to enjoy a second genesis in his career, a career that allowed him to become a major player among audiences after he’d already been in the business for 30 years and it didn’t seems as though he’d ever recover from sidekick roles.

Travolta is still praying for a career that might last for 50 years and allow him more than 200 roles.

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