22 Mar 2009

Pour Dr Nick

He may know the law. He may about British Trotskyism from 1948-67 & 1978-93. He may know about the 1980s. But...

Dr Nick don't know Warren Oates. Last week in the pub he declared Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garciaas Warren Oates's cinema debut. Dr Nick was wrong by about 16 years and 30 films. The conversation struck a nerve and I thought I would dedicate a post to late-great Mr Oates whilst offering the Dr some help with his facts.

The first thing you need to know is, Who Is Warren Oates? Well for the most of his career Oates was the guy you missed, the guy in the background, the partner to the main character, the weird walk one role. As part of Sam Peckinpah's stock acting group alongside Strother Martin, LQ Jones or Dub Taylor, Oates was a vital part of some of Peckinpah's alternative western universe.

Tough, grizzled and sometimes quiet, you always noticed him on screen. Outwith of westerns he still played out most roles behind the main stars but during the 1970s he appeared in a host cult movies such as Two Lane Backdrop, Kid Blue, Race with The Devil, Cockfighter and Badlands.

Given these leading roles Oates did little to change his style of acting. Therefore the films reflected his laconic, mumbling and at times deranged style. His best performance during this period was in the aforementioned Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia.

Just as Bill Holden had been Peckinpah's alter ego in The Wild Bunch, Oates becomes the on screen representation of the increasingly nihilistic and lost director. His memorable monologues with a decapitated head show Oates at his best.

I have included the trailer for Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia below. Excluding the near comedy stylings of a traditional 1970s trailer, hopefully it gives a good idea of the film which is as brilliant as it is disturbing, psychotic and nihilistic (sorry to say that twice but its the films central theme).

I have also included some links to a few really good articles about Oates and his career.

Warren Oates - Article 1
Warren Oates - Article 2
Warren Oates - Article 3


DrNik said...

Good post! I stand corrected as the man says in the orthopaedic shoes. What was the great man's debut?

jackreed said...

I read in one the articles that it was an unacredited role in a war film. Let's say corpse numer 34...in.....Total recall