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Warren Oates Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (4) | Trade Mark (5) | Trivia (9) | Personal Quotes (8)

Overview (4)

Born in Depoy, Kentucky, USA
Died in Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameWarren Mercer Oates
Height 5' 11¼" (1.81 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Warren Oates was an American character actor of the 1960s and 1970s and early 1980s whose distinctive style and intensity brought him to offbeat leading roles.

Oates was born in Depoy, a very small Kentucky town. He was the son of Sarah Alice (Mercer) and Bayless Earle Oates, a general store owner. He attended high school in Louisville, continuing on to the University of Louisville and military service with the U.S. Marines.

In college he became interested in the theatre and in 1954 headed for New York to make his mark as an actor. However, his first real job in television was, as it had been for James Dean before him, testing the contest gags on the game show Beat the Clock (1950). He did numerous menial jobs while auditioning, including serving as the hat-check man at the nightclub "21".

By 1957 he had begun appearing in live dramas such as Studio One in Hollywood (1948), but Oates' rural drawl seemed more fitted for the Westerns that were proliferating on the big screen at the time, so he moved to Hollywood and immediately stared getting steady work as an increasingly prominent supporting player, often as either craven or vicious types. With his role as one of the Hammond brothers in the Sam Peckinpah masterpiece Ride the High Country (1962), Oates found a niche both as an actor and as a colleague of one of the most distinguished and distinctive directors of the period. Peckinpah used Oates repeatedly, and Oates, in large part due to the prominence given him by Peckinpah, became one of those rare character actors whose name and face is as familiar as those of many leading stars. He began to play roles which, while still character parts, were also leads, particularly in cult hits like Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974).

Although never destined to be a traditional leading man, Oates remained one of Hollywood's most valued and in-demand character players up until his sudden death from a heart attack on April 3, 1982 at the age of 53. His final two films, Tough Enough (1983) (filmed in late 1981) and Blue Thunder (1983) (filmed in early 1980), were released over one year after his death and were dedicated to his memory.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Spouse (4)

Judy A. Jones (24 August 1977 - 3 April 1982) (his death)
Vickery Turner (21 June 1969 - 16 November 1974) (divorced)
Teddy Louise Farmer (22 August 1959 - 7 November 1966) (divorced) (3 children)
Roberta (Bobbie) Ellis (27 July 1957 - 24 July 1959) (divorced)

Trade Mark (5)

Often played violent-tempered, prideful characters
Distinctive, squarish mug
Raspy but loud voice
Often played sweaty, conflicted men who are proved to be unreliable
A slight upturned grin, often communicating incredulousness

Trivia (9)

Subject of the song by "Dave Graney and the Coral Snakes", title "Warren Oates", from their album "You Wanna Be There But You Don't Wanna Travel" phonogram 1994
Sang in the backup chorus for "Rocket to Stardom" on Kris Kristofferson's 1975 album "Who's to Bless . . . Who's to Blame."
The University of Louisville had a scholarship named after him for promising students in the arts programs.
Father of Jennifer Oates and Tim Oates.
Brother of Gordon Oates.
In his long and prestigious career as one of the best character actors in film, he only had four leading roles: Bennie in "Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia", as well as the title roles in "Chandler", "Cockfighter", and "Dillinger". He got his first official lead role in "Garcia" as a gift from director Sam Peckinpah partly in appreciation for his work in two of his films, "Ride The High Country" and "The Wild Bunch", respectively, and because Oates had never been the star before.
Turned down the lead role in Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969) in order to make The Wild Bunch (1969).
His autopsy showed he had chronic emphysema. He had been ill with flu in the weeks before his death.
Friends like Peter Fonda denied that illegal drugs had contributed to Oates' early death. They said he was a heavy drinker and a chain smoker, but not a major user of drugs.

Personal Quotes (8)

I feel most uncomfortable in a western role, because my image of the western man is John Wayne and I'm just a little shit.
[on Sam Peckinpah] Sam has always believed, and I believe rightly, that he is there to make the film and that anyone who stands in his way is dead. They're in deep, deep trouble. And anyone who doesn't come up to snuff and do their job absolutely perfectly is in deep trouble with Sam.
Hopalong Cassidy and Ben Johnson have rubbed off on my life. That's about all I have to say.
[on Sam Peckinpah] I don't think he's a horrible maniac; it's just that he injures your innocence, and you get pissed off about it.
I don't intentionally set out to be a villain. I do what is given me to do and from there I evolve my attitude and comment. Heavies are closer to life than leading men. The heavy is everyman -- everyman when he faces a tough moment in life. It's the heavy that has to do with the meat of life.
I'm not angry because I'm not the leading man. Whatever they give me to do, I do. I don't want to be typed but I have learned a lesson in patience and resignation. If it's an anti-hero they want, I'm more than happy to oblige.
What I'm beginning to wonder about myself is, have I removed myself from society? Have I been away too long on all of my location trips? Do I read enough? Do I question enough? My reason for being an actor, like most any other actor, is to really nail something important down, to really find something to say in my work. And I tell myself that if I am sincere about my work, I should understand the time I live in.
I believe what Camus [Albert Camus] says. When the curtain rings down, your job is done. The responsibility is pitched to someone else as to what the meaning is of what you played. What you represent is always one aspect of a moral question.

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