Warren Oates

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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 ...

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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" --

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813193465
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 3/1/2010
  • Series: Screen Classics
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 504,185
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.50 (d)

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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