DEAN STOCKWELL: Life in Hollywood

Dean Stockwell

It was rather sad,listening to interviews Dean Stockwell did in his later years.

Dean made it clear that acting was not fun:

“I had to work in a high pressure situation with adults… childhood went out the window. I didn’t have the freedom to play.

I was the breadwinner – my mother was paid a salary as my guardian – that was a pressure situation.

When I said to my mom, ‘I don’t want to do this’, she said, ‘We have to, we have no choice. We are under contract.’

”I had one vacation in nine years. I had no friends except for my brother. I never did what I wanted to do.”

(Dean’s brother was actor, Guy Stockwell.)

If it had been up to me I would have been out of it by the time I was 10.”


Gene Kelly, Dean Stockwell, Frank Sinatra. ANCHORS AWEIGH.


Dean Stockwell was born in Hollywood in 1936. His father, Harry Stockwell was an actor/singer (Harry replaced Alfred Drake on stage in “Oklahoma”).
His parents separated when he was 6 yrs. old. Dean was seen in a play on Broadway in 1943 by a talent scout and he was signed by MGM.

Over the next several years up to 1951, Dean made nearly 20 films. He was Nick Charles Jr. in “The Song of the Thin Man”; he was Gregory Peck’s son in “Gentleman’s Agreement”; he worked with Joel McCrea, Errol Flynn, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Richard Widmark, Lionel Barrymore.


With Myrna Loy and William Powell.


With  Brian Roper, Margaret O’Brien in “THE SECRET GARDEN.”

Dean talked about his intermittent schooling at the MGM school house – three hours of school a day, sometimes split up into 15 minute slots, depending  on the filming schedule. As he said, “Not the ideal set up for an education.”


With Joel McCrea and Ellen Drew in “Stars in My Crown”.




Dean spoke favourably about the stars he worked with –
Errol Flynn, Joel McCrea and Richard Widmark.

For me, Errol Flynn was the best. He and Richard Widmark didn’t have a condescending attitude – they were straight with  me, like I would imagine a father would be to a son  – and I didn’t have a father with  me.”

Later in his career  he said of “Sons And Lovers”(1960) ;

“I had a fantastic time working with Wendy Hiller, Mary Ure, Trevor Howard and Donald Pleasance.”

With Richard Widmark. DOWN TO THE SEA IN SHIPS.


After leaving films in 1951, Dean did a year at the University of California and dropped out. He later said, “Acting was the only thing I knew how to do”, so by 1956 he was back in films , but mainly in television.
He admitted that there are some of his films he has never seen.

With Jeffrey Hunter and Fred MacMurray in “Gun For A Coward” (1956), playing MacMurray’s brother.


In 1957, Dean costarred with Roddy McDowall in the play, “Compulsion”.  When Hollywood filmed it in 1959, Bradford Dillman replaced McDowall.


With Bradford Dillman in “Compulsion”. (1959).

From being  a cute, curly headed juvenile, Dean emerged as a serious looking, intense adult; despite the fact he loved comedy, drama was mainly his casting. He was Oscar nominated in 1988 for the comedy,  “Married to The Mob.”



Dean worked steadily through the next few decades, finding fame again in the long running TV series, “Quantum Leap”, in which he played a hologram!

He said he never really enjoyed acting till he was in his late 30s. He was married to the actress Millie Perkins from 1960 to 1962. With his second wife, Joy,  he had two sons . After the birth of his son, Austin, he said, “I’d just as soon that he enjoyed his childhood – and play!”

With Millie Perkins.


With Scott Bakula in QUANTUM LEAP ( 1989-1993).

Finally in 2015, Dean retired for health reasons. He was proud of his staying power – over 60 years in the business.
He was also an accomplished collage artist, exhibiting under his full name, ‘Robert Dean Stockwell.’

Dean Stockwell was one of the few stars who survived a turbulent childhood and continued to have success as an adult. A fine actor, man and boy. And still with us.

(in addition to an interview I saw with Dean on You Tube, from TCM, I also read interviews by Michael Buckley ( Films in Review) and with Craig Edwards.)


Dean, the inveterate cigar smoker.




14 responses »

  1. It’s so sad to hear he didn’t enjoy acting when young, when so many child actors love it yet never manage to have adult careers – for no earthly reason and despite genuine talent.

  2. As you say, some of the biggest child stars never reached the same heights as they grew older – Shirley Temple, Margaret O’Brien among them.

  3. Didn’t you meet him at a film convention in Glasgow? Our mutual friend Billy said he looked bored and disinterested. As he had been flown over and presumably paid a fee for attending that’s pretty shabby.

  4. I’m glad he mentioned enjoying “Sons and Lovers” (even if not yet enjoying acting itself, I guess!) as I thought he was very good as the character based on Lawrence himself – and similarly in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”, in the role based on O’Neill and made the next year.

    • Interesting to hear, as I gather many did not (Ginger Rogers etc.) and having met her once it was not too hard to understand this possibility.

  5. It’s sad to read about this childhood experiences. That’s a true rip-off.

    I always really enjoyed him on screen – and I really enjoyed your tribute.

  6. Not too many men could say that Frank Sinatra personally sang them to sleep, even in a movie. I wonder what that was like. Sinatra at his most precious voice quality, too.

  7. I met mr. Stockwell at a convention in 2005, at Milton Keynes (England). He was very nice and I still remember that day. I love his movies, he was a very talented artist.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

Gravatar Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s