Three With Sterling Hayden
Tall, battered, and wary, Sterling Hayden bestrode several of the 1950s' most interesting movies, sniffing suspiciously at the many B-movies he graced as the decade wore on and his star fell away. The adventurous Fine Arts Cinema in Berkeley presents three films featuring the reluctant star from Sunday to Tuesday of this week; all are, in their way, classics. John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle (1950), a legendary film about a heist going wrong, is the A-movie high point of Hayden's career, and even there he's doomed from frame one. The last scene -- Hayden in a pasture with a horse -- is as memorable a finale as any movie criminal ever had; it's set up by a distancing long shot, almost as if Huston himself couldn't bear the emotion. Reticence serves Hayden equally well in the face of the fustian dialogue of Nicholas Ray's highly stylized Johnny Guitar (1954), Hayden's bitter musician an island of restraint amid the purplish feuding of Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge. Some two decades later Hayden filled out an important supporting part in Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye (1973), as a drunken has-been of a macho author down to his last long drafts of aquavit. Altman's directorial formula is Ray divided by Huston: stylized play with genre and style stripped of Ray's agonized honesty and replaced by Huston's affable cynicism. Hayden's rogue author brings the agony back in the side door, as his raging bully incarnates a decayed Hemingway-esque hero (a hero that Huston among others helped immortalize). (And those seeking still more Hayden can catch him as Gen. Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove on Saturday at the UC Theater and on Sunday at the Castro.)
-- Gregg Rickman
The tribute to Sterling Hayden plays Sunday through Tuesday, Jan. 25-27, at the Fine Arts Cinema, 2451 Shattuck (at Haste) in Berkeley. Tickets are $6; call (510) 848-1143. See Reps Etc., Page 70, for a complete schedule.