Dennis Hopper, American icon

Just so’s you know, I freely admit that I’m running this as an excuse to repost this most awesome Nicholson/Hopper duet from Easy Rider at the end.

I’ve always loved Dennis Hopper and found him to be a kindred spirit. He embodies American consciousness without a shred of sentimentality. We see in him a mixture of rebelliousness, sorrow, loss, and even grace. But more than anything, we see American restlessness. Although he is most known for his films, both as a director and actor, Hopper’s talent was also visible in his photography. After his career had a bit of a downturn in the 1960s, Hopper’s then-wife, Brooke Hayward, gave him a Nikon camera for his 25th birthday. 

Hopper’s photography oeuvre covers only the years 1961-1967, which is short chronologically speaking, but the creations that came out of restlessness transcend time. Hopper himself didn’t want to have anything to do with the pictures and put them away in a vault. “I was trying to forget…,” he said, “the photographs represented failure to me. A painful parting from [daughter] Marin and Brooke, my art collection, the house that I lived in and the life that I had known for those eight years.” Still, the photographs continue to live as artifacts of America’s past, separated from Hopper, the man, but bound to Hopper, the artist. His own view of their existence and status as photographs is almost irrelevant because of our gaze into the world he has recorded.

Hopper’s photographs, particularly in this collection, In Dreams, are a window into the soul of America during the 1960s. We see street scenes of Los Angeles: people frozen in time, sitting, standing up, looking into the distance of their own lives, or just staring at the passing dog. We see a close up of hands writing; jazz musicians in a smokey club; streets in rearview mirrors offering both a reality and an illusion of our strange world; George Segal and Sandy Dennis in 1965, a year before the release of Mike Nichols’ adaptation of Edward Albee’s 1962 play, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” standing among the broken nude statues, embodying innocence not unlike their characters, Nick and Honey, in Nichols’ film.

We see Brooke Hayward in a grocery store, pushing a cart somewhat sadly, lost in her secret thoughts; a couple in a kissing booth; a girl in a rearview mirror driving to God knows where (a job? Seeing a friend? Or is she running away?); a cocktail party where a kiss between a man and woman appears seemingly from nowhere (Are they strangers? Friends? Lovers?).

We see the filming of Henry Hathaway’s 1965 western, “The Sons of Katie Elder.” Hopper does not discriminate and sees everyone as a human being, not in their respective societal or film roles. Hathaway and John Wayne are in the middle of a scene with Wayne pointing at something out of frame. There is a calmness, steadiness, and stability, but also the bubbling of creativity. I am drawn to these images precisely because they point to a time and a place when even the possibility of steadiness and masculinity was present in the culture. Things are getting done and life keeps moving forward.

In the collection, there are even self-portraits, in which we see Hopper’s need to be seen, a rebellious streak, and over the top self-importance. But there is also a certain sensitivity that only comes from someone who has the soul of an artist. They are the most dreamy of all. Is this how Hopper saw himself at the time? He is hovering like a ghost of America past and present. 

On one occasion, Hopper’s daughter Marin, reflected: “My father, Dennis Hopper, believed that being on the road in search of something was very American. You had to keep moving forward no matter what. Ride into town, gunfight at high noon, then off into the sunset.” Hopper represented—and even in his death, represents—not simply the one American dream, whatever it may have been or whatever shred of it is present now. Rather, he represents American dreams—lives lived on the photographic paper, on the celluloid, and in the American desert of desires. 

Okay, I take it back; the article is good enough to serve as its own justification, no excuses required for running it. Same-same with the vid, actually.



Update! So the whole Hopper trip got me to rooting around here and there, which eventually landed me on this incredible site covering all things Easy Rider. Captain America and Billy’s route to Mardi Gras is mapped out, literally; the entire movie is posted; there are then-and-now pics of some of the locations where scenes from the movie were shot, among other way-cool stuff. No foolin’, gang, this is one hella-awesome website for any Easy Rider fan.

2
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
1 Comment
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jaybo

Bozo the clown would have looked cool on those machines

Comments policy

Comments appear entirely at the whim of the guy who pays the bills for this site and may be deleted, ridiculed, maliciously edited for purposes of mockery, or otherwise pissed over as he in his capricious fancy sees fit. The CF comments section is pretty free-form and rough and tumble; tolerance level for rowdiness and misbehavior is fairly high here, but is NOT without limit. Management is under no obligation whatever to allow the comments section to be taken over and ruined by trolls, Leftists, and/or other oxygen thieves, and will take any measures deemed necessary to prevent such. Conduct yourself with the merest modicum of decorum, courtesy, and respect and you'll be fine. Pick pointless squabbles with other commenters, fling provocative personal insults, issue threats, or annoy the host (me) and...you won't. Should you find yourself sanctioned after running afoul of the CF comments policy as stated and feel you have been wronged, please download and complete the Butthurt Report form below in quadruplicate; retain one copy for your personal records and send the others to the email address posted in the right sidebar. Please refrain from whining, sniveling, and/or bursting into tears and waving your chubby fists around in frustrated rage, lest you suffer an aneurysm or stroke unnecessarily. Your completed form will be reviewed and your complaint addressed whenever management feels like getting around to it. Thank you.

Categories

Archives

"Mike Hendrix is, without a doubt, the greatest one-legged blogger in the world." ‐Henry Chinaski

Subscribe to CF!

Support options

Shameless begging

If you enjoy the site, please consider donating:

Allied territory

Alternatives to shitlib social media:

Fuck you

Kill one for mommy today! Click to embiggen

Notable Quotes

"America is at that awkward stage. It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards." – Claire Wolfe, 101 Things to Do 'Til the Revolution

"There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." — Daniel Webster

“The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.” – Frank Zappa

“The right of a nation to kill a tyrant in case of necessity can no more be doubted than to hang a robber, or kill a flea.” - John Adams

"A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves." -- Bertrand de Jouvenel

"It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged." - GK Chesterton

"I predict that the Bush administration will be seen by freedom-wishing Americans a generation or two hence as the hinge on the cell door locking up our freedom. When my children are my age, they will not be free in any recognizably traditional American meaning of the word. I’d tell them to emigrate, but there’s nowhere left to go. I am left with nauseating near-conviction that I am a member of the last generation in the history of the world that is minimally truly free." - Donald Surber

"The only way to live free is to live unobserved." - Etienne de la Boiete

"History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid." — Dwight D. Eisenhower

"To put it simply, the Left is the stupid and the insane, led by the evil. You can’t persuade the stupid or the insane and you had damn well better fight the evil." - Skeptic

"There is no better way to stamp your power on people than through the dead hand of bureaucracy. You cannot reason with paperwork." - David Black, from Turn Left For Gibraltar

"The limits of tyranny are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress." - Frederick Douglass

"Give me the media and I will make of any nation a herd of swine." - Joseph Goebbels

“I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.” - Ronald Reagan

"Ain't no misunderstanding this war. They want to rule us and aim to do it. We aim not to allow it. All there is to it." - NC Reed, from Parno's Peril

"I just want a government that fits in the box it originally came in." - Bill Whittle

Best of the best

Image swiped from The Last Refuge

2016 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

RSS feed

RSS - entries - Entries
RSS - entries - Comments

Contact


mike at this URL dot com

All e-mails assumed to be legitimate fodder for publication, scorn, ridicule, or other public mockery unless otherwise specified

Boycott the New York Times -- Read the Real News at Larwyn's Linx

Copyright © 2022
1
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x