Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Warren Oates - Across the Border

I had some time yesterday to grab a screening of Tom Thurman's hour-long 1993 documentary Warren Oates - Across the Border, which comes as an extra on Anchor Bay's DVD of Cockfighter. I first saw Warren Oates in probably The Wild Bunch, but it was seeing him in Two-Lane Blacktop as The GTO, that made me fall in love with this great unsung American actor who died prematurely of a heart attack in April 1982

Across the Border is a light but affectionate look at an actor who specialized in not only playing losers, but playing characters who Ned Beatty describes as authentic...real. The film narrated by Beatty, includes interviews with friends, family and colleagues - including, Monte Hellman, Peter Fonda, Harry Dead Stanton, Stacy Keach, Millie Perkins, Ben Johnson and American film critic and author David Thomson. There's also some clips from Oates' films, mostly Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, his 4th and final film with Sam Peckinpah.

Two-Lane Blacktop is still my favourite Warren Oates performance, along with his mesmerizing wordless turn in Cockfighter. Looking through Oates' filmography, is like a journey through an era of American Cinema that remains unrivaled in its richness and daring - Ride the High Country, Major Dundee, The Shooting, In the Head of the Night, The Wild Bunch, Two-Lane Blacktop, The Hired Hand, Dillinger, Badlands, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Cockfighter, 92 In the Shade, China 9 Liberty 37, all of which are essential viewing...


  1. Thanks for posting this, I wasn't aware there was a Warren Oates documentary. I'll have to check it out.

  2. Thanks Caleb, for taking the time to write a comment... By the way, what's your favourite Warren Oates film/performance ? I think he's brilliant in Two-Lane Blacktop and 92 In the Shade

  3. I've think I've "heard you say" you're not a comedy guy - so it may dismay you that I first discovered Warren Oates in Stripes with Bill Murray. But he is terrific in it - and I started actively seeking him out in other movies after that - like Blue Thunder - in the couple of years he had left at that time. I have since gone back and seen many of his earlier works - he was a truly talented man.

  4. Yeah, guilty as charged, not much a comedy guy but I’ve seen Stripes and Warren is terrific in it – he’s an actor with a very natural flair for comedy I think, he was great in all those Peckinpah films and provides some great light moments in Two-Lane Blacktop. Even something like Cockfighter in which he delivered a near wordless performance is mesmerizing, communicating so much with looks and gestures. I thought Blue Thunder was really great, and I love Roy Scheider. I need to grab the Blu of that sometime…