Earlier this week, mid-swim, thoughts of Gene Hackman descended.  Unbidden, but not unwelcome.  Far from it.  (In a previous post, I noted how I often do some of my best/most rewarding thinking while swimming laps.) After initially wondering what had prompted this visitation, I remembered that he’d surfaced about six weeks ago, when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway made their eventful appearance at the Academy Award ceremony.  The occasion for their appearance had been the 50th anniversary of Bonnie and Clyde.  At the time, I wished that the producers of the show had invited Hackman and Estelle Parsons–who played husband and wife Buck and Blanche Barrow in the film–to join in on the occasion.

Barrow gang
Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway and Michael J. Pollard in Bonnie and Clyde (1967).  Critic Pauline Kael considered Hackman’s performance the best in the film.

It’s hard to believe that Hackman turned 87 in January.  Popeye Doyle is 87!

Hackman as NYPD detective Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle in The French Connection (1971), which featured one of, if not the greatest, car chases in film.

Hackman made his last movie in 2004, and I’ve really missed seeing new work.  He’s always been one of my favorite actors, both onscreen and off.  Regarding the latter: check out some his appearances on late night TV over the years (Carson in 1974, Letterman in 1988)…he’s real.  No posturing.  Not an ounce of artifice or  braggadocio.  He’s humble.  In an interview for GQ in 2011, he was asked what he wanted for his epitaph; his response: “He tried.”

For this viewer, he’s done nothing but succeed.  Whether as Buck Barrow, Popeye Doyle, Reverend Scott (The Poseidon Adventure; I was 10 and devastated when his character died), Harry Caul (The Conversation), Max Millan (Scarecrow), The Blind Man (Young Frankenstein), Coach Dale (Hoosiers), Little Bill Daggett (Unforgiven), Senator Keeley (The Birdcage) or Royal Tenenbaum (The Royal Tenenbaums; I tried to get tickets when it premiered at the NY Film Festival in 2001, but struck out), he has absolutely succeeded.

So this isn’t a post about beauty per se, but rather one that offers a tip of the old porkpie to a truly great actor (with a distinctive laugh).

Trivia tidbit: Hackman has co-authored (with Daniel Lenihan) three works of historical fiction, and written two solo works as well.

And he’s no longer doing voiceover work for the unfriendly, physically violent skies of United.


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