Thursday, March 26, 2009

Recognizing Sterling Hayden's Birthday

In general, I have found few spirits who share my admiration and respect for the work of Sterling Relyea Walter. Here and there, I have waxed heroisodic about a New Englander who, after a youth of privileged knocking about in prep school and such, took to an entertainment medium and achieved some level of success which he may or may not have deserved, according to wags, accomplices, and colleagues.
But I learned to grow from that experience. And to appreciate the unclouded wisdom of the man who co-starred with, married, and then sensibly divorced Madeleine Carroll.Leo G. Carroll. Madeleine Carroll as some chick named 'Carol.' The Carrollpalooza of 1941

Really. If I had a bigger studio publicity shot of a scene that never occurred in the film Bahama Passage, I would show you the gosh-awful swellness of the two filmstars I've mentioned. However, a man sometimes has to resort to other means, embracing and capitalizing on a certain animus: the quality that provokes and sustains. Something that says: "Hey you! Feeble clock-watching rube! Wouldn't it be nice to bend those awkward minutes into a hard dose of indiscrimnate slugs coughed insouciantly into some brown-shoed square's waistcoat?"
"A man -- or, in some men's cases, a woman -- has gotta do something. You know. No matter how generic, neutral, or non-conditional. You go ahead and try to transport that boat on that warter like I did that time in that movie or film or indeterminate period in an offspring's upbringing."When you realize that some day, the sum total of a man's life work is either flashed on the screen at an awards show as the eighty-three seconds he spent as the uniformed heavy in a crappy over-rated fantasy movie about imaginary ethnic low-ballers and bottom-feeders or the anguished minutes he spent trying to steal a movie from Peter Sellers, why wouldn't you give him the opportunity to pop a live round into something while filming?
All of the violence and actual action in Stanley Kubrick's 1956 movie (based on the classic pulp-noir Clean Break by Lionel White) is available for view in the above trailer. Except for this sequence, featuring the terpsichorean adroitness of chess enthusist Nicholas "Kola" Kwariani:
In what I can only describe as a Celtic knot of logic, Hayden was rarely considered a "comfortable" actor. He was, however, often thought of as "a natural," a man's man who was acting because, well, somebody had to play the men. Today, we would watch his every move on the screen because his ease with somewhat wooden delivery makes him look unpolished, and thus honest.
And I guess that's the point. But certinly not his.

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