Warren Oates: A Wild Life [NOOK Book]

Overview

Though he never reached the lead actor status he labored so relentlessly to achieve, Warren Oates (1928--1982) is one of the most memorable and skilled character actors of the 1970s. With his rugged looks and measured demeanor, Oates crafted complex characters who were at once brazen and thoughtful, wild and subdued. Friends remember the hard-living, hard-drinking actor as kind and caring, but also sometimes as mean as a blue-eyed devil. Married four times, partial to road trips in his RV affectionately known as ...

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Warren Oates: A Wild Life

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Overview

Though he never reached the lead actor status he labored so relentlessly to achieve, Warren Oates (1928--1982) is one of the most memorable and skilled character actors of the 1970s. With his rugged looks and measured demeanor, Oates crafted complex characters who were at once brazen and thoughtful, wild and subdued. Friends remember the hard-living, hard-drinking actor as kind and caring, but also sometimes as mean as a blue-eyed devil. Married four times, partial to road trips in his RV affectionately known as the "Roach Coach," and famous for performances for directors ranging from Sam Peckinpah to Steven Spielberg, Warren Oates remained a Hollywood outsider perfectly suited to the 1960s and 1970s counterculture.

Born in the small town of Depoy in rural western Kentucky and reared in Louisville, Oates began his career in the late 1950s with bit parts in television westerns. Though hardly lucrative work, it was during this time Oates met renegade director Sam Peckinpah, establishing the creative relationship and destructive friendship that produced some of Oates's most unforgettable roles in Ride the High Country (1962), Major Dundee (1965), and The Wild Bunch (1969), as well as a leading part in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974). Though Oates maintained a close association with Peckinpah, he had a penchant for working with a variety of visionary directors who understood his approach and were eager to enlist the subtle talents of the consummate character actor. With supporting roles in In the Heat of the Night (1967), The Hired Hand (1971), Badlands (1973), 1941 (1979), and Stripes (1981), Oates delivered solid performances for filmmakers as diverse and talented as Norman Jewison, Peter Fonda, Terrence Malick, Steven Spielberg, and Ivan Reitman.

Oates's offscreen personality was just as complex as his on-screen persona. Notorious for being a nightlife reveler, he was as sensitive and introspective as he was outgoing and prone to periods of exuberant, and at times illegal, excess. Though he never became a marquee name, Warren Oates continues to influence actors like Billy Bob Thornton and Benicio Del Toro, as well as directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Richard Linklater, all of whom have cited Oates as a major inspiration. In Warren Oates: A Wild Life, author Susan Compo skillfully captures the story of Oates's eventful life, indulgent lifestyle, and influential career.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"It's a lively, well-researched biography."—Richard S. Wheeler, richardswheeler.blogspot.com" —

" Warren Oates: A Wild Life benefits from terrific research by author Susan Compo. It reads not only as a sad tale of addiction but as a joyous celebration of a tortured artist, managing to describe the excess while still earning our sympathy for Oates and his demons. Additionally, fans who enjoy the films of the period from the 1950s until his death in 1983 will find some terrific anecdotes that will keep them reading late into the night."—Scott Coffman, courier-journal.com" —

"Incredibly voluminous, fact-packed…"— Sunday Star Ledger" —

"Compo's gem-laden playland of tales, anecdotes, gossip and deep character study gets you right up close to the second golden era of the silver screen, and better, takes you on one of the greatest life-trips ever lived."—G.Q.com" —

"[Oates] lived a hard life — womanizing, drinking, and drugging along the way, but despite all sorts of obstacles, it seemed like a happy life, one he faced with a Zen-like attitude."— The Santa Fe New Mexican" —

"In this thoroughly readable biography, Compo gives us a vivid portrait of a talented actor with a raucous and self-destructive lifestyle that shortened his career and hindered his further success."—Paul Markowitz, bookideas.com" —

"In Warren Oates: A Wild Life, author Susan Compo skillfully captures the story of Oates' eventful life, indulgent lifestyle, and influential career."—AHomeData.com" —

From the Publisher

""A Wild Life offers up ample anecdotes about the actor's antics."--Kelly Reichardt, Film Comment" --

""While Compo's recounting of these innumerable yarns is at times hard to follow, fans will find the effort worth their while."--Kelly Reichardt, Film Comment" --

""Susan Compo has done the necessary research and she writes quite well."--JakartaGlobe" --

""It's a lively, well-researched biography."--Richard S. Wheeler, richardswheeler.blogspot.com" --

""Warren Oates: A Wild Life benefits from terrific research by author Susan Compo. It reads not only as a sad tale of addiction but as a joyous celebration of a tortured artist, managing to describe the excess while still earning our sympathy for Oates and his demons. Additionally, fans who enjoy the films of the period from the 1950s until his death in 1983 will find some terrific anecdotes that will keep them reading late into the night."--Scott Coffman, courier-journal.com" --

""Incredibly voluminous, fact-packed…"--Sunday Star Ledger" --

""Compo's gem-laden playland of tales, anecdotes, gossip and deep character study gets you right up close to the second golden era of the silver screen, and better, takes you on one of the greatest life-trips ever lived."--G.Q.com" --

""[Oates] lived a hard life -- womanizing, drinking, and drugging along the way, but despite all sorts of obstacles, it seemed like a happy life, one he faced with a Zen-like attitude."--The Santa Fe New Mexican" --

""In this thoroughly readable biography, Compo gives us a vivid portrait of a talented actor with a raucous and self-destructive lifestyle that shortened his career and hindered his further success."--Paul Markowitz, bookideas.com" --

""In Warren Oates: A Wild Life, author Susan Compo skillfully captures the story of Oates' eventful life, indulgent lifestyle, and influential career."--AHomeData.com" --

Library Journal

Character actor Warren Oates (1928-82) appeared in many television shows and films, including such classics as In the Heat of the Night, The Wild Bunch, and Badlands, while working with directors from Peckinpah to Spielberg during a fertile time in American film history. Novelist Compo's (professional writing, Univ. of Southern California) comprehensive and fluidly written biography is the only available book on the actor's life and work. Drawing from original and previously published interviews as well as articles and books, Compo's narrative spans Oates's childhood, his early theater and TV work, and roles in the 1960s and 1970s that defined the hard-living actor; Compo seamlessly melds together quotations, analysis, and description. She discusses Oates's private and professional life, and her details on the creation of individual movies and involved personalities will appeal both to fans of the actor and to those interested in the cinema of the era. Recommended for larger public libraries with film collections and academic libraries with film studies departments.
—Jim Collins

Kirkus Reviews
Never quite a star, actor's actor Warren Oates gets his due in a lively biography. Compo (Professional Writing/Univ. of Southern California; Pretty Things, 2001, etc.) delivers an affectionate history of Oates, an eccentric screen presence with a devoted cult following who, despite the universal regard of his directors and fellow actors, never attained the star status of buddies such as Jack Nicholson and Steve McQueen. Born in rural Depoy, Ky., a directionless Oates began to pursue acting in earnest after a stint in the Marines. He quickly found steady, if unglamorous, work in the live TV dramas produced in New York in the 1950s before moving to Los Angeles and building a career as a quintessential "working actor," appearing in countless westerns and developing a persona as an uncouth, often menacing, yet somehow sympathetic oddball. Compo provides ample evidence of Oates's preternatural geniality-the homely actor attracted a slew of gorgeous women (marrying several of them) armed only with a gap-toothed smile and an irresistible personal charisma. These qualities caught the attention of legendary auteur Sam Peckinpah, who cast Oates in important roles in a number of major films, including Ride the High Country, The Wild Bunch and the controversial Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. Oates won critical raves for these performances, as well as for his work in such seminal films as In the Heat of the Night and Badlands. Compo notes Oates's many romantic entanglements, financial problems and chronic drug and alcohol abuse, but the author creates an impression of the man as a largely passive figure (he often touted his "zen") looking for a good time rather than a driven hell-raiser in thePeckinpah mold. Shortly before his death, Oates won a new generation of fans with his performance as Sgt. Hulka in the Bill Murray vehicle Stripes, scoring perhaps the biggest laugh in the movie with his delivery of the line, "Lighten up, Francis."An informative, welcome portrait of an underappreciated American icon.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813139180
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 8/1/2009
  • Series: Screen Classics
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 1,324,850
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Susan Compo is a lecturer in the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California. She is the author of three works of fiction, including Pretty Things and Life After Death and Other Stories.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 12, 2012

    Great read!

    It says on the first page that the book is “intended for scholars and general readers alike.” But, not to worry. It doesn’t read like one of those footnoted, too much detail biographies. In addition to a fairly complete linear trip through Warren Oates’ life, there are plenty of entertaining anecdotes and insights into his career. I’m a general reader and I thoroughly enjoyed it. If we can get Susan Compo to do Strother Martin and Harry Dean Stanton, I’ll be really happy.

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