Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Alternate Best Actor 1950: Sterling Hayden in The Asphalt Jungle

Sterling Hayden did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dix Handley in The Asphalt Jungle.

The Asphalt Jungle is a film all about the gritty and rough nature of its characters there are thieves, corrupt cops, lecherous old men no one seems clean in this film. One of the roughest faces though has to belong to Sterling Hayden as the hoodlum Dix who mostly does armed robbery, but soon joins up with a really large scheme conceived by "Doc" Erwin Riedenschneider (Sam Jaffe). Hayden does not really have to do all that much to be convincing as the rough customer that Dix should be with his grizzled face and oppressive stature as he is perfectly cast in this role. There is never a question that Dix isn't someone who should be messed with and at least on the surface seems to be the type of hoodlum all the criminals talk about which is a man without humanity.

Hayden is very effective in being the opposing force that you can't ignore and his mere presence seems to add to the grimy nature of the film. Hayden might very well have been the only leading man of the time who could have really fit the character as well as Hayden does as there isn't any glamor that Hayden tries to add the part and lets himself be the thug that Dix should be. Hayden no nonsense approach works perfectly for the film as Dix never becomes a hero that we follow but rather another one of the crooks who we observe as they attempt their plan. Hayden really doesn't try to be likable but in a way being straight forward in the portrayal still makes him an easy character to follow and effectively reinforces the style the film is going for.

Although the hoodlums are looked at men without a humanity there is a little bit in Dix which mostly pertains to his memories of his days on a horse farm, and his dream to return there someday. The film nor Hayden dwell on these moments for very long, but they are very nicely handled by Hayden as they are just a short genuine glimpse into his humanity. The fact that he doesn't lighten up in any of the other scenes actually makes these brief gentle moments quite poignant as Hayden gives just a bit of tenderness in an otherwise stony hide. This also sets up the climax in an efficient fashion as Dix is almost forced to dream about a better life it actually comes off as quite moving because of the honesty Hayden gave to those earlier bits that contradicted what seems to be the nature of Dix.

I have to say that this actually is a very good performance by Hayden as his style of not really seeming to care works exceedingly well especially with those sprinkled in moments where he does. I doubt anyone could have been better in this role since Hayden's very unique screen presence seemed practically tailor made for this role, and he makes the atmosphere all the more vivid in the part of Dix who if he had been played in a more romantic manner could have easily upset this facet of the film. I do have to say Hayden is not the most interesting part of the film that is Sam Jaffe without a doubt and I do have to give a great deal of credit to the academy for recognizing that performance. Hayden though does make a very important impact on the film as well and achieves something rather special by finding poignancy in such a hard man.

11 comments:

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I assume he's a definite for 1964 Supporting alongside Scott and Pickens?

Louis Morgan said...

Well at least alongside Scott.

RatedRStar said...

gonna say I think theres quite a few snubs from supporting 64 including your favourite actor from Yorkshire Louis lol.

Its leading 64 that I think lacks contenders, as for Sterling, I usually find him quite a wooden or overbearing actor most of the time, I think Jaffe was the one who I thought did best in this.

RatedRStar said...

Peter Sellers would be a contender, im not sure about Richard Burton in Night Of The Iguana, has anybody seen him in that since it looks quite odd?

Psifonian said...

Sellers got nominated, so he won't be in contention.

Louis Morgan said...

RatedRStar: I have seen Night Of the Iguana and he seems like a fairly likely choice for that year especially since it seems to be slim pickens (No pun intended).

Psifonian: I believe he was referring to A Shot in the Dark.

RatedRStar said...

Ye it was A Shot in The Dark I was referring to. I cant really think of any other obvious 64 noms.

RatedRStar said...

I guess you could always look towards the usual 60s actors that usually did good work in them days like Bogarde, Courtenay and Finney.

Also can I ask (anyone at all) who you prefer as an actor out of Tom Courtenay and Albert Finney, because even though they have done good work and are good friends they are not really considered legends in anyway really.

RatedRStar said...

also King and Country might be a film to look forward to from 1964, it looks like quite a sad film from its trailer.

Louis Morgan said...

I might give a slight edge to Courtenay as an actor, but I think Finney chooses the better projects.

Michael Patison said...

I have a couple of good recs for that year but I'll save them for whenever we get there