Catching Up with Candy Clark

Today we wish a sassy 75th to that galactic star Candy Clark (Candace June Clark, b. 1947), whose name always seems to skirt perilously close conceptually to this:

75 is not the roundest benchmark, but we have another excuse for paying her tribute on this particular birthday — this years marks the 50th anniversary of this unique actress’s screen debut. Her TV debut was in a February, 1972 episode of Room 222, in which she played she played a high school girl interested in witchcraft — not so rare nowadays, but back then a topic worthy of a “very special” episode. The role was very much in tune with what would be her screen persona throughout her career: spacy hippie chicks! Her big screen debut, in July 1972 was even more auspicious; she had a terrific fourth-billed role in John Huston’s amazing boxing picture Fat City. I first saw this movie a few months ago and loved it so much I had to immediately watch it all over again.

Clark started out as a teenaged fashion model in New York. If you’ve seen her onscreen you won’t be shocked to know that she’s from Norman, Oklahoma. That happens to be the hometown of my good friend and former accompanist and collaborator Beau Mansfield. (Hey, beau!) And also James Garner and Ed Harris. Not bad for a city of 100,000! Her film career seems charmed, given some of the directors she’s worked for, and actors she’s performed with — and that she hadn’t studied acting before landing those two plum roles any beginning actress would kill for. Her very next job after Fat City was George Lucas’s American Graffiti (1973), for which she was nominated for an Oscar! (I’m pretty sure the first movie I ever saw her in was the 1979 sequel More American Graffiti, which is certainly backwards, but I loved that movie to an irrational degree.)

Other major stuff included Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) with David Bowie; the Jonathan Demme trucker movie Handle with Care (1978), and Michael Winner’s The Big Sleep (1978) with Robert Mitchum. In 1978 she married Marjoe Gortner! This amusing misalliance lasted only about a year, long enough for them to co-star in When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder? (1979).

Clark had the talent and the beauty to be a top Hollywood actress like fellow former model Jessica Lange, though perhaps not (in the eyes of casting agents and producers) the range or the sophistication. It was her lot to be a character actress, specializing in crackerish roles in horror, sci-fi, rock and roll, crime, and cars, although over the decades she’s had great parts in many modern classics. Has she done horror conventions? She really ought to: she’s been in Q: The Winged Serpent (1982), Amityville 3-D (1983), Cat’s Eye (1985), the 1988 remake of The Blob, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992, very different from the TV series that followed), Cherry Falls (2002), and David Fincher’s Zodiac (2007), Then other things like Blue Thunder (1983), At Close Range (1986), Vanilla Ice’s Cool as Ice (1991), Deuce Coupe (1992), and Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant! (2009) with Matt Damon.

Inevitably, David Lynch cast her in his 2017 Twin Peaks reboot. And she has a recurring role as A.J. Cook’s mom on Criminal Minds. That’s good casting. They didn’t make 75 year olds who looked like Candy Clark when I was a kid!