Dean Stockwell, the Oscar-nominated actor whose 70-year career started as a child on the MGM lot, has died at age 85. Well-known for several memorable TV roles, the versatile actor also appeared in many sci-fi and cult film classics.
Stockwell’s family was in the entertainment business. His father and stepmother encouraged their children to audition, leading to appearing onscreen with Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, and Gregory Peck.
Stockwell dropped out of college and took a few years off from acting before returning to acting. After appearing on several television series, he starred as Judd Steiner in Compulsion on Broadway. He reprised the role, based on the Leopold and Loeb story, for a film alongside Orson Welles and Bradford Dillman. The trio won a Cannes Golden Lion for their acting.
In 1962, he starred in Sidney Lumet‘s version of Eugene O’Neill‘s play Long Day’s Journey Into Night with with Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson and Jason Robards.
Soon, he got involved in the hippie movement and took a break from acting. After his return, he collaborated with Dennis Hopper with a role in 1971’s The Last Movie. He continued to work throughout the 1970s, but he eventually got a real estate license and dropped out of the business again.
His friend Harry Dean Stanton convinced him to return, which lead to what was arguably his most memorable and productive decade: the 1980s. His work included Paris, Texas, David Lynch’s Dune, To Live and Die in L.A.. The Legend of Billie Jean, and Blue Velvet.
His biggest mainstream success was as the star of Quantum Leap with Scott Bakula, a show where his character bounced through spacetime and manifested the bodies of other people each episode.
Sci-fi fans may also remember him as the humanoid robot priest Cavil in the Battlestar Galactica reboot:
TCM had a wonderful profile of Stockwell in 1995 that covers his amazing career:
It seems fitting to end with his role as Frank, whose amazing lip sync of “In Dreams” by Roy Orbison is a highlight of David Lynch‘s Blue Velvet:
Rest in peace after a well-lived life!
Image: James Sorensen / Avalon