On September 15 2017, actor Harry Dean Stanton passed away. He was ninety one years old. Although he made close to two hundred motion pictures, thereís one that stands as a remarkable contribution: Ridley Scottís Alien.
Films are defined by the greatness of individual moments. Like the opening of Citizen Kane (ďRosebudĒ), Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) searching for Jonesy the cat in Alien remains an outstanding sequence. Right off the bat, the Nostromo crew thought they were dealing with a relatively small adversary. At the end of Brettís journey, itís clear the threat has become much bigger. Call it what you will -- a late 1970s ode to silent filmmaking, horror house suspense -- I feel itís the finest scene in any Alien movie. Why? A great slither of credit belongs to Stanton.
He gave a deeply nuanced performance as the engineer moaning about low wages in deep space. Observe how his expression alters upon finding the alien skin. Something in that look suggests fear or even pending mortality. Perhaps he realises that danger could be a corridor away, yet concern for Jonesy keeps him moving. Above all, itís wonderful how light and incidental shadow play across his eyes here. About three shots in, thereís a close-up and he later thanked director Ridley Scott for this.
Although an artistís work can rarely be summarised through one project, Stantonís legacy presented an opportunity. Whenever this fine thespian comes to mind, Alien reveals close proximity. Itís an experience uninterrupted by time or emotional conditioning.
As Stanton crosses the threshold, we stand alongside not knowing the final emotion. Could be triumph or agony, yet he makes the trek worth remembering.
I shall remember him fondly.
Harry Dean Stanton (1926-2017)