Skip to content

What’s a Bruce Dern?

That was a question posed to me a few years back by number 1 son Ethan when he was about 8 years old. The reason for the question was my telling him we were going to watch The Cowboys and John Wayne was going to face off against Bruce Dern. I still laugh at his question and it’s become a common reference in our home when Dern comes up in one of our film discussions.

hatefuflbrucedern

Bruce Dern is one of those actors that I’ve been tuned into since I first started connecting the dots as a young film fan. That generally meant westerns as a kid. He did the unthinkable in 1972’s The Cowboys opposite the Duke. It left a lasting impression. Speaking of impressions, check out Jim Carrey’s pitch perfect impression of Dern on youtube.

Then I’d spot him in oaters like Will Penny, Hang’Em High and trying his hand at outdrawing Kirk Douglas in The War Wagon. Big mistake!

Bruce made his film debut in the Montgomery Clift film Wild River allowing him the chance to work with Elia Kazan. Bruce would work with some of the most notable directors over the last 55 years including Hitchcock, Walter Hill, Hal Ashby, Coppola and Quentin Tarantino in the featured role of General Sandy Smithers among The Hateful Eight.

dern in hateful

Not strictly a character player in westerns, Bruce would star in a sci-fi gem titled Silent Running. A pocketful of “B” biker flicks like Cycle Savages and even the disastrous Incredible Two Headed Transplant. For the reasons on his starring in this nasty little horror flick, check out his excellent autobiography , “Things I’ve Said But Probably Shouldn’t Have.” If you do give this a read, you’ll learn more about his appearance opposite Duke Wayne in The Cowboys. Then there was The Trip for Roger Corman from the psychedelic era.

bern bio

Sure Bruce makes for a wild eyed villain. Just check out his work in Black Sunday, The Driver and Coming Home. Yet even when cast as the supposed bad guy in movies like Posse, perhaps there’s more to him then one might expect. Getting caught up in the returning Vietnam vet roles he turned in a wonderful parody of the character opposite Tom Hanks in The Burbs.

dern in burbs

When you’ve always been a fan of an actor there is a certain amount of pride as a film buff when you can point out to your friends and associates just who someone like Bruce Dern is. His recent acclaim in Nebraska and appearance in the high profile Hateful Eight causes people who may not know his name to be flooded with images when they stop and think of just how many films they have seen him in. It also allows young movie fans to listen up and check out so many films of the past that graced us with Mr. Dern’s presence. Films that need to be seen and rediscovered by a new, younger audience.

As it stands I’ve seen 47 titles from Bruce Dern’s catalogue of film appearances. Apart from the ones I’ve already mentioned here are a sampling of other titles to check out along side his Award winning turn in Nebraska.

dern in nebraska

Support Your Local Sherrif

Castle Keep, Bloody Mama, Family Plot, The Driver

DIGGSTOWN, Bruce Dern, James Woods, 1992. ©MGM

Diggstown opposite James Woods. Great casting!

The Golden Boys

golden boys

I continue to tune into films starring Dern when the opportunity presents itself and hope to catch up with the many I have yet to see. Any recommendations? Feel free to voice your suggestions.

9 Comments »

  1. I’d recommend Smile (1975), where Bruce plays a car salesman who’s also a part-time beauty pageant producer in a small California town. Nice cast in that one (Barbara Feldon, young Melanie Griffith and Annette O’Toole as contestants) and it’s pretty funny with a touch of black comedy in one key scene. And yep, I use to get Bradford Dillman mixed up with Bruce when I was a kid because they played similarly written evil types in some films…

  2. I’ll always associate Bruce with Silent Running, one of the many ‘end of the world’ movies I watched as a kid in the early 1970s, and one I really liked. I also really liked that Jim Carrey impersonation…very spot on!

  3. Great post! I’ll never forget the unthinkable moment you mentioned from The Cowboys, watching that movie as a 10-year-old… It shook me up for a long time! One of my favorite performances is from a film that doesn’t get talked about very much, The King of Marvin Gardens. I’ll definitely check out Dern’s memoir (just placed it on hold from the library).

    • Thanks. I actually picked up Gardens a couple months ago and haven’t squeezed it in yet. I’ll move it up the pecking order. One of the few Nicholson movies I’ve yet to see. Enjoy the book. Let me know what you think. And to this day his cattle rustler in the Cowboys is a true portrait in evil.

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Google photo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

"DESTROY ALL FANBOYS!"

Smashing System Bias Since 1972...

Movies ala Mark

With a Cast of Thousands

Classic Horrors

From silent screen to Halloween, and everything scary in between.

Just Hit Play

The Good, the Bad and sometimes Ugly in film

Strother Martin Film Project

What we've got here is failure to communicate

Sophia Riley Kobacker

it's all about the story, possums...

Wolfmans Cult Film Club

Cult, B-Movies, cheesy fun films to Film Noir to classics new to me.

Talking Pulp

All things pulp and then some

cinema cities

a personal odyssey through film

Mark David Welsh

Watching the strangest movies - so you don't have to...

Scenes from the Morgue

The Lost Art of Pulp Ads: Film, Booze, Smokes & More!

Film Speech

All things film and television

Diary of A Movie Maniac

A Personal Journey Through Cinema & Television

portraitsbyjenni

My perspective on life & Classic Movie Recommendations

Statis Pro 1978 Replay

Methodically replaying every game of the 1978 baseball season!

4 Star Films

Looking Deeper at The Best Classic Movies of All Time

everythingnoir

Movies, Television, Books....Everything Noir

Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

by John Bengtson "the great detective of silent film locations" New York Times

Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live

Silent-ology

Uncovering the silent era

Canadian Cinephile

"The only way to get rid of my fears is to make films about them." - Alfred Hitchcock

Noirish

The annex to John Grant's *A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir*

Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Sunset Boulevard

Writings of a Cinephile

The Bogie Film Blog

A Film by Film Affair with Humphrey Bogart

Vienna's Classic Hollywood

Vintage Hollywood films and stars

The Film Authority

You're ten seconds from watching an amazing film...

Once upon a screen...

...a classic film and TV blog

shadowsandsatin

. . where the worlds of film noir and pre-code collide . .

Alfred Hitchcock Master

Where Suspense Lives!

Tipping My Fedora

Enjoying mystery, crime and suspense in all media

Silver Screenings

Ruth's Old Movie Reviews

monsterminions

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

Comet Over Hollywood

Home for classic movie lovers

filmgeek101

classic movie views for the classic and not-so-classic movie fan

Riding the High Country

Reviews and ramblings

Speakeasy

movies galore

"DESTROY ALL FANBOYS!"

Smashing System Bias Since 1972...

Movies ala Mark

With a Cast of Thousands

Classic Horrors

From silent screen to Halloween, and everything scary in between.

Just Hit Play

The Good, the Bad and sometimes Ugly in film

Strother Martin Film Project

What we've got here is failure to communicate

Sophia Riley Kobacker

it's all about the story, possums...

Wolfmans Cult Film Club

Cult, B-Movies, cheesy fun films to Film Noir to classics new to me.

Talking Pulp

All things pulp and then some

cinema cities

a personal odyssey through film

Mark David Welsh

Watching the strangest movies - so you don't have to...

Scenes from the Morgue

The Lost Art of Pulp Ads: Film, Booze, Smokes & More!

Film Speech

All things film and television

Diary of A Movie Maniac

A Personal Journey Through Cinema & Television

portraitsbyjenni

My perspective on life & Classic Movie Recommendations

Statis Pro 1978 Replay

Methodically replaying every game of the 1978 baseball season!

4 Star Films

Looking Deeper at The Best Classic Movies of All Time

everythingnoir

Movies, Television, Books....Everything Noir

Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

by John Bengtson "the great detective of silent film locations" New York Times

Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live

Silent-ology

Uncovering the silent era

Canadian Cinephile

"The only way to get rid of my fears is to make films about them." - Alfred Hitchcock

Noirish

The annex to John Grant's *A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir*

Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Sunset Boulevard

Writings of a Cinephile

The Bogie Film Blog

A Film by Film Affair with Humphrey Bogart

Vienna's Classic Hollywood

Vintage Hollywood films and stars

The Film Authority

You're ten seconds from watching an amazing film...

Once upon a screen...

...a classic film and TV blog

shadowsandsatin

. . where the worlds of film noir and pre-code collide . .

Alfred Hitchcock Master

Where Suspense Lives!

Tipping My Fedora

Enjoying mystery, crime and suspense in all media

Silver Screenings

Ruth's Old Movie Reviews

monsterminions

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

Comet Over Hollywood

Home for classic movie lovers

filmgeek101

classic movie views for the classic and not-so-classic movie fan

Riding the High Country

Reviews and ramblings

Speakeasy

movies galore

%d bloggers like this: