Lived in Lexington, Kentucky and graduated from Lafayette Senior High School with the class of 1944.
Prior to 1971, he was credited in films and on TV as Dean Stanton so as to avoid any confusion with character actor Harry Stanton, both of whom would appear together in a 1969 episode of "Petticoat Junction" (1963).
Had a small role as a jail guard in the 1978 Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong film Up in Smoke (1978), but his scenes were cut.
Stanton has been named as a favorite actor by characters in novels by Elmore Leonard. Skip Gibbs, a serial bomber in the novel Freaky Deaky, watches Straight Time (1978) because Stanton is his favorite actor. Two characters in Leonard's novel Maximum Bob chat about how much the novel's title character resembles Stanton, an actor they both admire. Stanton did not appear in the "Maximum Bob" (1998) TV series, but did have a role in The Big Bounce (2004), also based on an Elmore Leonard novel.
1988: Member of the jury at the Venice Film Festival.
Critic Roger Ebert so admires him that he created the "Stanton-Walsh Rule," which states that "no movie featuring either Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can be altogether bad." Ebert later admitted that Dream a Little Dream (1989), in which Stanton appeared, was a "clear violation" of this rule.
Was tied up and pistol-whipped at his home in L.A. after a robbery. The thieves then took off in the actors car, but were soon apprehended after the car was traced by a tracking device. Stanton suffered only minor injuries. [20 January 1996]