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As an adult, he fronted his own band for years, playing western, Mexican, rock and pop standards in small venues around Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley.
A cult-favorite since the '70s with roles in "Cockfighter," ''Two-Lane Blacktop" and "Cisco Pike," his more famous credits ranged from the Oscar-winning epic "The Godfather Part II" to the sci-fi classic "Alien" to the teen flick "Pretty in Pink," in which he played Molly Ringwald's father.
Stanton, who never lost his Kentucky accent, said his interest in movies was piqued as a child when he would walk out of every theater "thinking I was Humphrey Bogart."After Navy service in the Pacific during World War II, he spent three years at the University of Kentucky and appeared in several plays.
Determined to make it in Hollywood, he picked tobacco to earn his fare west.
More recently he reunited with director David Lynch on Showtime's "Twin Peaks: The Return" where he reprised his role as the cranky trailer park owner Carl from "Fire Walk With Me." He also stars with Lynch in the upcoming film "Lucky," the directorial debut of actor John Carroll Lynch, which has been described as a love letter to Stanton's life and career.
Last year, Lynch presented Stanton with the "Harry Dean Stanton Award" - the inaugural award from the Los Angeles video store Vidiots presented first to its namesake."As a person, Harry Dean is just so beautiful. It's so great just to sit beside Harry Dean and observe," Lynch said at the show. As a musician, he can sing so beautifully tears just flow out of your eyes.
He also guest starred on such TV shows as "Laverne & Shirley," ''Adam-12" and "Gunsmoke." He had a cameo on "Two and a Half Men," which featured "Pretty in Pink" star Jon Cryer, and appeared in such movies as "The Avengers" and "The Last Stand."While fringe roles and films were a specialty, he also ended up in the work of many of the 20th century's master auteurs, even Alfred Hitchcock in the director's serial TV show."I worked with the best directors," Stanton told the AP in a 2013 interview, given while chain-smoking in pajamas and a robe.