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Three score and ten or more

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

continued—Dennis Hopper

Janet has completed her eye surgery and been released until her post surgery examination tomorrow morning at 8:30.  We are now comfortably ensconced in a motel across the street from the hospital (making an 8:30 AM appointment from home, when home is 2  plus hours away and you are still feeling rocky from surgery is not practical).  I was pleased and somewhat surprised that the motel has a wireless connection, but since it does, I am posting again. 

I read, in the hospital waiting room, an obituary for Dennis Hopper who was only two or three years younger than I, and it brought back a lot of memories both of my own interaction with Hopper, and my thoughts about Rebel Without a Cause which was one of his first films and which was one of the first plays I directed on the stage.  In this post, I will reminisce a little about my own first (and last) contact with Hopper.  I will write about my production of Rebel  in a future “Things Change” post.

In 1957, I  was really lucky to get a summer job working as an Actor at the San Diego National Shakespeare festival.  We had auditions  and began rehearsals for Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, and Antony and Cleopatra.  (and I had pretty good roles in all three).   We had been in rehearsal for about a week, when someone came into the theatre and said something like “Guess what? Dennis is here”.  At that the director took a break in rehearsal, and we all went out to talk to Dennis.  It turned out that he had been a member of the  Shakespeare Festival company for several years.  Since leaving the company he had been in Rebel Without a Cause,  with James Dean, and at that point he had just completed filming for Giant, also with James Dean  (which had not yet been released).  As we got outside, all of the permanent members of the company were hugging Hopper and he was enjoying the attention and chatting amiably with everyone there (including me).  He took the time to show off his car, which was model that virtually no one had seen up to that time.  It was one of the original versions of the Ford Thunderbird.  As I remember, it was a convertible, and when he let down the top, the rear quarter of the car (that which in any other car would be a trunk) lifted up and the hard top slid back under it.  He repeated the process several times to the ooh’s and ah’s of all concerned.  After about half an hour he excused himself saying that he didn’t want to interrupt the rehearsal  any longer, and he had an appointment with and agent (or someone) in Los Angeles later that day.  We went back into rehearsal, though every break was filled with Dennis stories (Some of which were pretty wild.)

After that day, I followed Hoppers career with interest, feeling that in some roles he was pretty much indulging himself, while in others he was really brilliant.  I have even enjoyed his commercials for pension plan investments.  I will miss him.   Who knows? I may get to chat with him again in the near future (Though I am sure he wouldn’t know who in Heck he was talking to).   When I next have internet access, I will tell a little about my experience with Rebel.


At 6:42 AM, Blogger Ed said...

I always enjoyed Dennis Hopper's acting in just about every movie I have seen that he has been in with one exception, Easy Rider. I just never understood that movie or his acting in it.

At 6:06 PM, Blogger Darlene said...

Hope Jan is doing well after her cataract surgery. I had both of mine done and had no problems at all, so hope she did likewise. You guys really do get around. I never know where you are anymore. More power to you, however!!


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