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Mr. Movie: Paul Dooley is the movie dad

There are lots of great movie Dads. Maybe you’d go for Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. Good choice. Or perhaps you’d prefer Ralph Waite as John Walton Sr. in The Waltons on TV and in the movies. But my vote goes for Paul Dooley, who is still performing in his 90s. 


Dooley was born in 1928 and is going strong at 94. By no means a handsome Hollywood type, his face is instantly recognizable. It’s not really that he played Dads so often. It’s just that he did it so well!


In the wonderful Breaking Away (1979), Dooley plays Ray Stohler, the father of teenage bicycle racer Dave (Dennis Christopher). Dave is so enamored of the Italian racing team that he goes around speaking in Italian phrases. When that team comes to his town, a lot of the shine wears off quickly. Ray and Dave have a walk through the campus of the University of Indiana, with Ray describing the work he did on the various buildings. It is a justifiably famous scene. Barbara Barrie is also quite good as Dave’s bemused mother. This movie garnered one of Mr. Movie’s rare 10 rankings. If you haven’t seen it, do. If you have, watch it again!


Sixteen Candles (1984) stars Molly Ringwald as angst-ridden Samantha Baker, typically dreading but also looking forward to her 16th birthday. Paul Dooley is just letter perfect as her Dad, Jim. Samantha’s older sister is getting married soon and that seems to completely overshadow Samantha’s milestone. Where can she turn for guidance and comfort? To her Dad, of course, and Paul Dooley is there for her. Dooley was so good in this role that for years teenage girls would stop him in the street and tell him they loved him and wish that he was their Dad! 


The HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm starred and was largely written by Larry David. Dooley portrayed the father of Larry’s wife, Cheryl. And, of course, did so quite well.


So how can you top these movie Dad performances? How about doing a one-man show entitled Movie Dad? Dooley started doing this around California settings in 2017. It has been a hugely popular show. I cannot find any streaming possibilities for us. 


Then last year he came out with his autobiography, which is now available. You’ll never guess the title: How about Movie Dad? He talks about his movie roles and his real life family in his quietly unassuming way. 


Oh, by the way, he does have three children of his own.