R.I.P. Dean Stockwell, star of 'Quantum Leap' who began his career as a child star

By: H&I Staff     Posted: November 9, 2021, 11:44AM Tags: obituary

Though he'll always be remembered as Admiral Al Calavicci in the Scott Bakula sci-fi series Quantum Leap, Dean Stockwell accrued hundreds of credits in eight different decades from the 1940s to the 2010s.

His career had quite the arc, from cute child star to James Dean–esque TV guest star to hippie to charismatic character actor.

The New York Times said it best in 1988, after creepy appearances in David Lynch films Blue Velvet and Dune as well as memorable parts in Married to the Mob and Tucker: The Man and His Dream, "The cherub seen scampering with toe-tapping Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh had turned into a dark, intense, charismatic leading man."

Born to actor parents in Los Angeles in 1936, Robert Dean Stockwell and his brother, Guy, were introduced to show business at a young age. When Guy was ten and Dean just seven, they appeared on Broadway in the pirate comedy The Innocent Voyage.

Two years later Dean made his film debut as Paulie in the Greer Garson-Gregory Peck drama The Valley of Decision. Then came Anchors Aweigh, The Boy with Green Hair, The Secret Garden and many others.

Stockwell returned to Broadway in 1957 for Compulsion, adapted from the novel (which was inspired by a real trial) about two wealthy college students who believe they can get away with murder. He then starred with Bradford Dillman and Orson Welles in the 1959 film version.

Stockwell's memorable TV gigs include four appearances in Wagon Train, the classic Twilight Zone episode "A Quality of Mercy," a six-episode storyline in Dr. Kildare as Dr. Rudy Devereux and the Bonanza episode "The Medal."

In 1968, Stockwell starred with Susan Strasburg, Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern in the San Francisco hippie movie Psych-Out.

During a career slowdown in the Seventies, Stockwell earned his real estate license but also appeared in Mannix, Mission: Impossible, Night Gallery, Columbo, and Cannon.

Stockwell's career rebounded after appearing with his friend Harry Dean Stanton in the 1984 film Paris, Texas. From there, he won a string of big-screen supporting roles in Dune, To Live and Die in L.A., Blue Velvet, Beverly Hills Cop II and more.

Stockwell won his most famous role four decades into his career when he became Admiral Al Calavicci in Quantum Leap in 1989. The charismatic, cigar-smoking Al guides Dr. Sam Becket (Scott Bakula) as he travels through time, helping people along the way.

In 2002 Stockwell would work with the series creator of Quantum Leap, Donald P. Bellisario, once again as Senator Edward Sheffield on JAG before retiring from acting in 2015. He passed away this week at the age of 85.