Happy 90th Birthday to Gene Hackman
If you’ve seen Gene Hackman’s name trending on social media, if you’ve seen people posting loving tributes or hilarious screengrabs, it’s because today is his 90th birthday.
Hackman retired in 2004; his unceremonious farewell performance came in the forgotten comedy Welcome to Mooseport. But Hackman’s accumulated filmography stands alongside almost anyone’s in history. Just a few years after starting out in television he landed a key supporting role in 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde and wound up earning the first of his five Oscar nominations. He won twice over the course of his four-decade career. Both of the performances came in stone-cold classics: 1971’s cop procedural The French Connection and 1992’s elegiac Western Unforgiven.
There’s almost no genre that Hackman didn’t leave some kind of mark on. He’s the fiendish Lex Luthor in three Superman films. He plays the blind man in Mel Brooks’ hilarious Young Frankenstein. He was Reverend Scott in The Poseidon Adventure, one of the films that helped launch the disaster movie. He’s unforgettable as Coach Norman Dale in Hoosiers, one of the great sports films.
Crimson Tide is a classic submarine drama. Besides Unforgiven, Hackman is also great in Sam Raimi’s underrated Western The Quick and the Dead. If you like legal thrillers, you’ve probably seen him at least ten times in The Firm. And he made maybe the greatest private eye movie of the 1970s, Arthur Penn’s Night Moves. (It also has an amazing trailer.)
In his retirement years, Hackman has made a few public appearances, written a few novels, and largely kept to himself. He certainly earned a peaceful retirement, but we can’t be the only ones who miss him. If you’re in the mood to celebrate, The Conversation is currently streaming on Amazon Prime and The French Connection is on Hulu.
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