FILMS… Recalling an Ageless Role from Harry Dean Stanton



All about Harry Dean Stanton as a 1980’s Dad to a Brat in Pretty in Pink…


Rewatching My Fave Movie from his movie career… and it’s not Alien Autopsy with Ant and Dec. Honest.


Pretty in Pink (3/7) Movie CLIP – Andie Confronts Her Father (1986) HD, Movieclips


I’ve watched increasingly more new movies since starting this blog. And in doing this, I’ve often recognised 1980s movie parents appearing in other roles. Before the blog I noted, a maternal role in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) for Teri Garr who stars in 1982’s Tootsie and now there’s the addition of Janet Carroll 1983 Risky Business in 1989’s Family Business (which is not a prequel).

Onto dads with Harry Dean Stanton, a character actor who sadly passed away recently. Stanton was one of those 1980s dads who I’ve remembered from many movies in a prolific film career lasting from his screen debut in 1954 until his passing. I’ve watched him quite a few of his roles from the 1980s, but with increasingly more roles are new ones.

Stanton’s other 1970s and 1980s memorable mentions going for his appearances in Red Dawn (1984) Escape from New York (1981) and Alien (1979) and the recently reviewed Kelly’s Heroes (1970). I’ve only just seen the trailer for this, but his presence was noted as one of the many reasons to hunt this movie down.

For me, however, Stanton played in 3 – as far as I know – Brat Pack films. The one that never should have been remade, Red Dawn or a film that should never have had a sequel Repo Man (1984). And my favourite Brat Pack film of Stanton’s career as lead character’s Andie’s father in Pretty in Pink (1986).

Pretty in Pink has been reviewed at least twice in this blog before. Once for another character’s love interest, Blaine as played by 80s heart-throb (for me at the time) Andrew McCarthy HERE and their meet cute moment HERE and also in a post about Steff, played by James Spader, the villain in the piece HERE. So what it all about, to quote a review I did earlier,

McCarthy plays Blane a nice rich, boy next door type who hopes to wins poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Andie Walsh’s heart. Sounds familiar, luckily she has no secrets but his time their relationship doesn’t get the immediate approval of their best friends, Andie’s best friend Duckie (Jon Cryer) and Blane’s best buddy 1980s douchebag Steff, who is played to slimy perfection by James Spader.

So, onto Harry Dean Stanton in this movie. The start of the movie, with those famous drum beats, leads us into the film with the Psychedelic Furs celebrated title track. Here Stanton plays Jack, Andie’s working class father in his scenes as a patriarchal figure make a powerful impact on others in the story. Be it his daughter or her best friend Duckie. Jack works part-time, with his wife – and the love of his life and Andie’s (Molly Ringwald) mother – having left three years previously.

Stanton has some sweet, father-daughter scenes with Molly, with a wee smidgen of humour in his appearances from the start of this movie. In the beginning, you can almost feel that life hasn’t moved on for Jack since his wife left him and that he clearly loves his daughter. In this first scene, his daughter jollies him on with his day.

Here she gently encourages – although, he sees it as a nag – him to get out of his rut and into a full-time job. It’s almost like she is taking a mother like role with him. Stanton brings a little humour into his character injecting a light moment into the movie when after complimenting her on her new hand-made outfit, asks if she can make something for him “with a few ruffles”:

In a scene with Duckie played by Jon Cryer, Duckie officially asks for his daughter’s hand in marriage. This despite the fact she only sees him as her best friend. Duckie goes a wee bit random as he does, but the seriousness comes from Jack as he calls Duckie by his real name, Phil.

Again a touching performance from Stanton he gives some fatherly, insightful advice “from the heart” about Duckie’s situation and his unrequited love for his daughter. Just watching Stanton talk in this way in this scene makes me sob a little, as Jack talks fondly about Andie’s mother.

And thus through this stirring scene, Stanton gives us more understanding into his character and his feelings even portrayed in his facial expressions. As before there is at one point a spark of humour in Jack’s sad, soulful eyes, as compared to Jon Cryer is full-on daft Duckie mode. Yet you can tell, it’s a hard subject for Jack to discuss.

Stanton’s dialogue is powerful here, with a personal message given as he talks to Duckie. This message that we can’t expect to be loved in return when we love someone. Stanton explaining this in a way we’d want our own fathers to advise us, as he talks of his own experiences. Albeit with sadness. and the realisation of his similar predicament.

The other scene that made an impact on me was as his daughter why confronts him on his advice, as he has not moved on since her mother left.  This leads to a bad feeling for a while, yet giving him the inspiration to move on. Ringwald and Stanton are tremendously outstanding in this scene. Jack’s quite tearful in this scene showing the extent of Jack waking up to the situation as it now is.

That he has a daughter who understands him and why her mother left. This gives and reinforces the message to him, and providing the motivation that he needs to move on with his life. This scene where she gives him some daughterly advice makes an impact on his character for the remainder of the movie.

Similarly, his advice as a patriarchal figure to Duckie and a father to Andie pulls a punch for these characters throughout the film in these and other scenes. This affecting their characters responding to his advice, in their storylines. These messages from Stanton not just for their characters, but for those watching this movie.

It is the advice given from a father figure in Stanton’s sincere, honest, compelling depiction of Jack. This is in a sweet emphatic and supportive way that was felt by us teens when watching this film for the first time in the 1980s. No hint of patronising or mansplaining.  It is this performance in this timeless film in Stanton’s sweet, loving scenes that still resounds for us today as adults.



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