Harry Dean Stanton, Dead: 5 Things You Need To Know

Though Harry Dean Stanton may have lived a full life filled with big-name film successes, there are five things you need to know about his death.

By Margie K.P. Fudge
Harry Dean Stanton, Dead: 5 Things You Need To Know

Harry Dean Stanton dies at 91

The beloved actor best known for his rugged features died in September of 2017. He was best known for his work in Twin Peaks, Repo Man, Alien, and The Green Mile. He was 91 when he died, so his fans can at least dry their tears with the knowledge that he lived a very full and long life full of accomplishments and respectability. Though he always seemed to play a villainous character because of his easily type-cast appearance, Harry Dean Stanton was known best by those around him as quiet, polite, and incredibly generous. He had a love for cats, bourbon, and even making music. One lesser known fact about Harry Dean Stanton is that he enjoyed playing the harmonica and had learned a wide array of songs. He was so beloved and respected by family and fans alike, a documentary in 2014 entitled Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction was made. Shortly after, Harry Dean Stanton released a full length musical album of all of his personal songs that he had originally intended to keep private. Until that documentary, not even his most dedicated fans were aware of his love for music--or even the fact that he once used to share an apartment with Jack Nicholson! After he had served his time in the United States Navy, Harry Dean Stanton had developed a real love for writing and singing while at the University of Kentucky. In a later interview, he confessed to an entertainment news outlet that he had once thought that if he could get into writing, he could get into acting, and therefore, be able to perform in musicals or even pursue a career as a regular musical artist. Harry Dean Stanton has been credited in over 200 television shows and major motion pictures but he will undoubtedly be remembered for his poise, adaptability, and enigmatic personality.

1) How Did Harry Dean Stanton Die?

What caused our favorite villainous hero to die, of course, was the ever-common natural causes that come with such an increased age. Our best guess is that he died comfortably in his sleep from congestive heart failure, which is, by far, the most common cause of death in geriatric-aged people regardless of country, socioeconomic status, or any other possible factor. Family, friends, and die-hard fans were happy to know that at least he was able to reach such a ripe age before finally passing. The life expectancy of the "average" male (whatever that means) in the United States is 76.4 years, so, by Harry Dean Stanton reaching 91 years old, he completed one last paramount move--outliving the expectation once again--this time, by an entire fifteen years! Quite frankly, we find it beautiful that he was even able to go out completing yet another achievement. This is truly a mesmerizing feat for all of his fans because it is not like he simply laid down and died. Harry Dean Stanton worked happily and lived out his passion for acting all the way up until the very day before he finally passed away. The day before his death, he was reading over the reviews for his last film that was titled "Lucky".

2) Where Did Harry Dean Stanton Die?

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Harry Dean Stanton left this earth on September 15, 2017 while staying at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles where he had been recently admitted for monitoring by one of his doctors. He was surrounded by top-notch medical staff, compassionate family, and close friends. Respecting Harry Dean Stanton's family's wishes for privacy on the matter and in correlation with his lifetime of having a secretive demeanor, no other information about his actual setting at the time of death or final words was ever released. The only thing we do know, however, is that he was comfortable and had been seemingly happy in the moments before his time of death. Harry Dean Stanton, though he was a cigarette smoker of over fifty years and enjoyed daily drinks of bourbon, scotch, and the occasional whiskey, never had a health problem. From everything that we do know from the information that is available, Harry Dean Stanton had lived a life of otherwise optimal health, exercised regularly, and maintained a stress free mindset. He practiced yoga, mindfulness, and was known to have dabbled in spiritual tactics such as chakra alignment, rei-ki, and even tae-kwon-do.

3) Did Harry Dean Stanton Have Any Family?

Harry Dean Stanton had a total of three brothers that were younger than him, but that's about it as far as family goes. Harry Dean Stanton was single for most of his life, never having a public girlfriend, let alone a wife or even an extra-chummy friend that would ever stir up a rumor or scandal at all. In the same respect, he also never had any children. There is no known and confirmed information about where his fortune from living a lifetime of stardom is going, though many rumors have been circulating for some time. Harry Dean Stanton has always been known to be quite the enigmatic fella, and for most of his fans, that was something that always added to his charm. He's always kept to himself and maintained his private affairs as such. Many of his fans find that to be a respectable trait and attribute his success in the cinema to precisely that. He did have big name celebrity pals, though. As we stated before, Jack Nicholson and Harry Dean Stanton were once roommates when they were just getting their feet wet in Hollywood. As Harry and Jack have reiterated it to many entertainment and cinema magazines, the time they spent living together was a "complete riot". They often threw parties and practiced lines with one another, even making drinking games out their role-practicing. Harry Dean Stanton was also close pals with a fellow type-cast villain, Dabney Coleman, and the obscure early-era indie director, David Lynch. His friendship with David Lynch definitely gives insight into what we do know about the unique, quirky person that it appeared Harry Dean Stanton was. This friendship also certainly proves why Harry Dean Stanton was so well-known in the indie and cult film world.

4) How did Harry Dean Stanton get his Start as an Actor?

At the age of 28, he was honorably discharged from the United States Navy where he served as a cook. Within the same year, he landed his first role in 1954 on a television show called Inner Sanctum. He had initially shown an interest in being a writer and dabbled with writing some scripts. However, when he went to pitch the script to a few producers, he realized his love for acting by accident. Coincidentally, casting companies everywhere not only thought he was a great actor but fell in love with his face which is best-known for...well, simply appearing as if it had been through some things! Even when Harry Dean Stanton was much younger, his cheeks were always sunken in, his brow seemed to rest in a permanent furrow, and his demeanor as a whole was always referred to as "rugged". From Inner Sanctum, he went on to get smaller roles in many different television shows. However, within a matter of only 4 short years, he landed a permanent role on the show, Gunsmoke. The show ended up running until 1968. After the end of Gunsmoke, Harry Dean Stanton went on to appear in several major motion pictures such as The Godfather Pt. II, Alien, Marvel's The Avengers, Repo Man, and about a dozen other cult or indie films. Though Harry Dean Stanton wasn't successful in his career as an actor until he was in middle adulthood, he never seemed to care as much. In the 2014 documentary about him, he said that he felt that he was simply a very late bloomer and was perfectly fine with that. As time went on, his features that had ended up being beloved by film producers and fans alike also grew, getting him larger and larger roles.

5) What was the Last Thing Harry Dean Stanton Did Before he Died?

Harry Dean Stanton's very last piece of work is one where he starred in the film called Lucky. It hit theaters very shortly after his death this past September and it was able to serve as a type of tribute to Hollywood's fallen hero. Lucky is a film that chronicles the last year of a 90-year-old man's life as he questions everything that he ever knew about life, death, existence as a whole, and anything that may or may not come after. Lucky, the main character, is a lifelong atheist but finds that with death beckoning, he involuntarily finds himself on a rather fruitless quest for love, light, and some type of sign about anything divine. His role wasn't actually very far off from his own personal life, save, for perhaps, the western-y feel the whole movie has to it. It's certainly a very well made indie drama meant for niche audiences, but I believe it's agreeable that this is a film that could be enjoyed by all regardless of subject matter as it was Harry Dean Stanton's final film. Many well-known critics argue that Lucky was his best work to date. In his more recent interviews with entertainment platforms, he stated that he was very proud of this movie. Harry Dean Stanton also went on to say that it was his favorite role to play by far. The reason? He says it was because Lucky was so closely scripted to his own life in terms of beliefs, fears, and hopes. Though Harry Dean Stanton was always known to be a rather private person, perhaps this gives some closure to fans by giving them some insight into who Harry Dean Stanton really was, what he was about, and what his final wishes truly were. He will always be remembered for the classic type of quality that he added to the cinema world.

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