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Archive for July 5th, 2010

Warren Oates

Generally described as a character actor, Warren Oates had greater acting ability than most of the big name stars he performed alongside. Although he doesn’t play the main part in most of the films in this list it doesn’t detract from his star quality. Look at what he did with when given the lead in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia shows what a star he could have been, it may have bombed at the box-office but it is still a classic and one of director Sam Peckinpah’s best movies. Sadly no longer with us but today would have been his birthday so what better time to list his best performances.

  1. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974): Dismissed as a violent road movie, but it is so much more, it’ a modern day western (a hard thing to pull off) and beneath all the blood and grime a tragic but strangely romantic love story. And at the heart of all this is Warren Oates giving the performance of a lifetime as Bennie a loveable loser.
  2. Two-Lane Blacktop (1971): Playing second fiddle, this time not to a more famous actor but to a car, his character even takes his name in the credits from the car he drives (G.T.O). As the only professional actor in a major role he keeps the movie ticking over and also has all the funny lines that he delivers with relish.
  3. In the Heat of the Night (1967): Sidney Poitier was the star and Rod Steiger got all the plaudits but don’t underestimate the importance of Warren Oates in In the Heat of the Night. His character Patrolman Sam Wood is central to the plot and his performance in the small role is every bit as good as Steiger in the bigger more showy part.
  4. Race with the Devil (1975): A superior B-movie that skilfully blends horror and action with a road movie. Peter Fonda and Warren Oates play off each other perfectly. I first saw this movie as part of “Moviedrome” back in the early 90’s before I really knew who Warren Oates was but when I saw a trailer for Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia a few months late I was sure to watch it.
  5. The Wild Bunch (1969): As part of a first rate ensemble to be honest Oates doesn’t actually stand out, but that is no bad thing, to be part of this classic western that tells the end of the west is enough in itself. Watch it in conjunction with Ford and Leone.

Also take a look at:

  • The Shooting (1967)
  • Badlands (1973)
  • 1941 (1979)
  • The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1973)
  • Blue Thunder (1983) (his final film)

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