Dean Riesner

Active - 1923 - 1991  |   Born - Nov 3, 1918   |   Died - Aug 18, 2002   |   Genres - Drama, Action, Comedy, Western, Crime

Share on

Biography by Jason Buchanan

The son of prolific silent film director Charles Riesner, child actor turned popular screenwriter Dean Riesner would pen one of cinema's most memorable moments when he gave renegade cop on the edge Dirty Harry the clinching dialogue, "Do you feel lucky? Well, do you, punk?" in the film of the character's namesake. Born in November 1918 in New York City, Riesner made his film debut when at age five Charlie Chaplin cast him in The Pilgrim. Though he would appear in a few films in the years to follow, a comment made by Riesner's mother to his father concerning the youngster's enjoyment of his childhood years resulted in a brief departure from the screen; he later made his screenwriting debut with 1939's Code of the Secret Service. Occasionally returning to the screen as an actor for such efforts as The Cobra Strikes (1948) and Operation Haylift (1950), Dinky Dean, as he had come to be known, also penned scripts for such memorable television series as Rawhide, Ben Casey, and The Outer Limits. Upon meeting with a young Clint Eastwood during his writing tenure on Rawhide, the two found that they shared similar sensibilities and, with the feature Coogan's Bluff (1968), formed what would become a fruitful collaboration in the following years. Though he would continue to write numerous scripts for television and film, Eastwood collaborations such as Play Misty for Me (1971), Dirty Harry (1972), High Plains Drifter (1972), and The Enforcer (1976) helped to establish Eastwood's standing as a screen legend as well his further his career as a developing director. Working mostly as an uncredited script doctor throughout the 1980s, Riesner assisted in tightening up the scripts for such features as Das Boot (1981), Blue Thunder (1983), and director John Carpenter's Starman (1984). As a filmmaker, Riesner won an honorary Oscar for his sole directorial effort, Bill and Coo, in 1948. Though the tale of a pair of birds stalked by a malevolent crow captured the imaginations of audiences and children alike, Riesner would never return to the director's chair. Shortly after the death of his wife, Riesner died of natural causes in his Encino, CA, home. He was 83.

Movie Highlights

See Full Filmography