Dean Stockwell, best known to many as Admiral Al Calavicci in sci-fi TV series Quantum Leap, has passed away at the age of 85, it was announced yesterday. The actor whose career spanned over 70 years across stage, film and TV died peacefully at home from natural causes on Sunday morning according to a rep for the family. Stockwell retired from acting in 2015.
Born on March 5th, 1936, Dean Stockwell spent his early years living between Los Angeles, where he was born, and New York, and was born into a family of entertainers, which set him on the path that would lead to him to become an iconic actor in the decades to come. His father, Harry Stockwell, appeared in stage productions of Oklahoma! and Carousel, but most famously provided the voice of Prince Charming in Disney’s first feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. When his father heard about auditions being held for child actors to appear in a play by Paul Osborne, both Dean and his brother Guy were taken by their mother to try out for the roles and were both successful. Despite the play only having a short run, it ultimately led to the pair being given contracts with MGM.
Stockwell’s first appearance was in the 1945 melodrama The Valley of Decision, and in the same year he appeared in the Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly movie, Anchors Aweigh as the nephew of Kathryn Grayson. Over the next few years, he would appear in numerous films for MGM and 20th Century Fox, but later recalled that his time as a child actor was difficult as he recounted in an interview for Psychotronic Video in 1995. He explained, “I didn’t enjoy acting particularly, when I was young. I thought it was a lot of work. There were a few films that I enjoyed, they were comedies, they were not important films, weren’t very successful, so I was always pretty much known as a serious kid. I got those kind of roles and I didn’t care for them very much.”
After appearing in the Universal western Cattle Drive in 1951, Stockwell dropped out of acting for a few years, returning to acting in 1956 with a number of guest roles in TV series such as Climax!, General Electric Theater and The United States Steel Hour. He continued in this vein for a number of years, appearing in some of the staple shows of the time including The Twilight Zone, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Checkmate, Burke’s Law and Dr. Kildare, and after a short lived first marriage to Millie Perkins, who he married in 1960 and divorced in 1962, Stockwell again dipped out of acting for a few years, this time to indulge in the Topanga Canyon hippie culture with friends including musician Neil Young.
His return to acting in the late 1960s led him to split his time between movie and TV roles, gaining notice in The Dunwich Horror in 1970, Dennis Hopper’s The Last Movie in 1971 and the horror comedy The Werewolf of Washington in 1973, and continued to make guest appearances on TV in series such as Ellery Queen, Tales of The Unexpected, Hart to Hart and The A Team. By the beginning of the 1980s, Stockwell’s personal life was changed when he met and married second wife Joy Marchenko, but his career became a concern for the actor who, began working in real estate to help pay the bills.
In 1984, things changed for Stockwell and he gained what he would later call his “third career” which began with parts in the movies Paris, Texas and in David Lynch’s movie version of the Frank Herbert’s Dune. Over the next three years, Stockwell appeared in 15 movies, including another Lynch movie Blue Velvet, as well as Beverly Hills Cop II, The Time Guardian and The Blue Iguana. He received an Academy Award nomination for his role as Mafia boss Tony “The Tiger” Russo in Married to the Mob, and after a few more movies made his first appearance in TV series Quantum Leap.
In the series, Stockwell appeared alongside Scott Bakula, playing the cigarette-smoking, womanizing Admiral Al Calavicci, who showed up to Bakula’s Sam Beckett in hologram form to advise how best to try and resolve the issues that were keeping him in one particular time and help him make his next “leap.” The series rand for five seasons between 1989 and 1993 and in 2007 was named as one of the Top Cult Shows Ever by TV Guide. Despite the long term role in Quantum Leap, he continued to work in films and was never short of work throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. He appeared in over 50 films in just over a decade, ranging from TV movies such as Stephen King’s The Langoliers (put out as a two part miniseries),Bonanza The Return and The Innocent along with big screen movies such as Air Force One, The Rainmaker and The Manchurian Candidate.
His last screen roles were as a guest star in a 2014 episode of NCIS: New Orleans and in the 2015 film Entertainment. In 2017 it was revealed that Stockwell had suffered and recovered from a stroke in 2015, which had led to him retiring from acting.
Stockwell is survived by his wife Joy, and their two children, Austin and Sophie. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and fans at this time. May he rest in peace. This news first appeared at Deadline.