Borrowing a phrase from The Grateful Dead, Dennis Hopper's life was a long, strange trip. He died on may 29, 2010 of prostate cancer.
His life reflected many of the exhilarations of the baby boomers as well as the bitter disappointments. He lived with exuberance and nearly destroyed himself with his excesses. He took those excesses and redefined himself. Yet when all is said and done, he was a last man standing.
In some ways, Dennis Hooper was an 20th century version of the quintessential cowboy. He roamed the cultural landscape riding to the horizon and peering over it. Ironically he was born in an iconic cowboy town, Dodge City in 1936. He became an actor, studied at the Actors Studio. A little known fact, that in this period he became friends with Vincent Price. Vincent showed Dennis the world of art. It was something that stayed with him through out his life.
He finally broke into TV in 1955. The shows he worked were westerns like "Cheyenne" & "Sugarfoot", both which this writer relished as a very young boy. That same year he worked with James Dean on "Rebel Without a Cause", a defining film the emerging youth culture fueled by an eagerly expectant baby boom generation.
His career seemed to mirror the changes in the country and Hollywood. As the old time studio system was fast fading, he became an independent writer and director. He made a break through film. It was called "Easy Rider". It was exciting and self-indulgent. It changed Hollywood and it was embraced by a transformative generation.
Yet the excesses of the 60s, adopted by an expansive Hopper, would under mine him. He was married and divorced. Spouses told of abuse and drugs. His star faded in Hollywood, but Europe offered interesting roles and a steady income. The most notable film of during this period was Wim Wenders 'An American Friend'. The following year, Francis Ford Coppola gave him the role as the photographer in 'Apocalypse Now". Then he took his hand at direction again with the cult hit 'Out of the Blue'. Finally in 1983, he went to rehab. The 60s met reality. It nearly defeated him, but he survived.
Dennis Hopper Interviewed on THE ACTOR'S STUDIO
The Dennis Hopper that emerged won acting kudos for 'Blue Velvet' and directorial success with 'Colors'. His role as the alcoholic father in 'Hoosiers' won him an Academy Award nomination. He published a book of his 60s photography that revealed an inside look at a now gone era. Hopper's interest in art also showed his prescient taste. He purchased an early Warhol for $75.
A life cannot be condensed in 600 words or so. Dennis Hopper's life was as intense and convoluted as the characters he played. Over the next few days many positive things will be written and said about him. Many people will point to his life for lessons learned. Some will say Dennis Hopper was a survivor. Yes, that is true, but more than that he was a man who pushed the envelop. Sometimes that was bad, sometimes that was good. However, you look at it, it was a long strange trip and one to marvel at. Goodbye, Dennis.
Garen has been in the dark for way too many years. He has been a exhibitor, booker, reviewer, commentator and film consultant. These days he has his eponymous named THE GAREN DALY SHOW. He is a regular contributor to WGBH's THE CALLIE CROSSLEY SHOW as well as NH Public Radio's WORD OF MOUTH. He can also be seen reviewing film on NE Cable News. In his spare time he is the Frugal Yankee.