Thursday, 26 February 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1956: Sterling Hayden in The Killing

Sterling Hayden did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Johnny Clay in The Killing.

The Killing is terrific heist film, well except for the unfortunate studio mandated narration, about a group of men who come up with a complex scheme to make off with a huge sum of money from a race track.

Sterling Hayden is no stranger to the heist film in fact the last time I review a lead performance by him it was for the Asphalt Jungle where he also played one of the men in a complex heist. In that film though Hayden played the guy who was only there to be the muscle and just was considered to be a thug. Hayden takes almost the opposite role this time playing the brains behind the operation. Hayden makes this considerable leap quite effectively actually. Hayden is of course still the always imposing specimen but Hayden adjust his performance well to no longer being the thug. Hayden honestly just comes off as a lot smarter of a sort here quite naturally. This is even before he says much of anything but instead of carrying the bluntness harshness of the muscle he carries the confidence of the brains. Hayden effortlessly setting up the character of Johnny Clay as he does is quite essential as The Killing is an extremely tightly wound thriller in that it basically goes from one essential point to another essential point with the utmost precision.

Hayden's performance really is all about efficiency here as everything has to be very much to the point. Well is pretty terrific here in playing that style. He's a master of the hard bitten dialogue that Johnny Clay has as he sets up every part of the plot, giving each gang member their duty, and even hiring an extra guy to shoot a horse for an extra bit of distraction. Hayden delivers these well as he shows that above else Johnny's a true professional. Hayden plays it with a certain cool style that's really quite effective while bringing a certain edge to still convey the dark territory his plan involves. Hayden though never makes it feel like simple expository dialogue, even though technically that's what much of it is. Hayden brings a life to it in his whole demeanor. He is the professional but Hayden also brings a life around the words really. A particularly like the scene where he hires the horse assassin as Hayden just brings something a bit extra that's hard to describe, but it makes the whole scene play out in a far more interesting way than simply just getting part of the plot ready to go.

There is even some emotionality to this performance which is also very brief and to the point. Johnny has a girl who we spend a little time with near the beginning of the film. It's not overly emotional but Hayden is convincing in still setting up the relationship, and creates enough of an investment to care about the two of them potentially making it off with the cash. In addition there is a scene just before the eventual heist where he speaks to one of his guys as they are about to go off to perform their individual parts of the mission. There is suddenly a sweet moment where between Johnny and one of the elderly partners in the plot and they have sort of a heart to heart. Well Hayden absolutely delivers in the moment making it a surprisingly poignant scene. In just really a second Hayden realizes the whole surrogate father son type relationship between the two which really was not given much time at all before this point. Hayden makes it feel natural to Johnny and natural to the film, and again it is only a very brief moment.

In terms of the actual heist Hayden certainly knows how to make movement spellbinding as he carries these scenes especially while despite only having some relatively lines to go with him. His best scene though comes at the end of the film when he's trying to leave the country with a very large container of cash. Hayden's great in portraying the stress within the attempt to stay cal as he tries to talk the airport to allowing him to carry the very large suitcase. Then eventually when the misfortune involving the suitcase Hayden is just about in portraying Johnny's reaction of disbelief as well as urgency as he knows he has to get out of there fast. This is only trumped by his brilliant last moment where Johnny, rather than fighting or running, accepts his fate knowing there's no point in escape. Hayden is quietly moving in showing basically the professional Johnny being professional to the bitter end. This is not the easiest performance to review, even though I really liked it, because it seems so simple yet that's kinda the magic in the performance. Hayden hits every note of his character so quickly yet so flawlessly and stays compelling every minute he is on screen.

31 comments:

Michael McCarthy said...

Eh, I personally never found Hayden all that interesting when he wasn't playing General Jack D. Ripper.

Anonymous said...

What are your ratings and thoughts on Marie Windsor in The Killing?

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Thoughts and ratings on the rest of the cast?

RatedRStar said...

@Louis: Narration?, I havent seen the film yet but is it like, the original Blade Runner narration where it is just pointless and adds nothing or?

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

RIP Leonard Nimoy

luke higham said...

RIP Leonard Nimoy
Live Long And Prosper

Matt Mustin said...

RatedRStar: Pretty much, yeah.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Louis, I would like to change my request for Duvall in To Kill A Mockingbird to Robert Shaw for Supporting 1976, Robin and Marian

RatedRStar said...

RIP Leonard Nimoy, such a loving wise soul.

@Donald: To be honest you probably didn't need to suggest him since I think Shaw was a lock anyway for Robin and Marian, I think it is greatest Robin Hood film, at least in terms of how gritty realistic Robin Hood should be dealt with.

Robert Shaw plays the main villain very differently then how a normal hood villain would play it, he plays it as very smart but also not entirely evil as he shows a lot of respect for Robin Hood, like an old adversary should.

1976 supporting for me is quite a sad one as 4 of my choices for the nominees would either pass away or be giving their final great performance.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@RatedRStar: What rating would you give Shaw, I'd give him a solid 5 and joint first with Carl Weathers. Who are your nominees for 1976 supporting?

I guess I'll stick with Duvall for the timebeing...thanks!

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Also your ratings for the rest of Robin and Marian cast

Connery 4.5
Hepburn 4
Williamson 4
Harris 4

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: Do you think there will be 10 reviews for '07 lead or Louis will just stick to the requests, because if you think the latter, my next request will definitely be Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@luke: Oh man I would love to request Bale as well but Duvall is too good to resist :D

luke higham said...

GDSAO: If you, so happen to win another request before me, can you request Bale.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@Luke: Sure. I was torn between Bale or Gregory Peck in The Omen but since the latter seems likely, I'll help out one of the best commentators on this blog :D

luke higham said...

GDSAO: Thanks, also I was actually going to suggest Peck as well since you mentioned him awhile back.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@Luke: As good as Peck is in The Omen, Bale in Rescue Dawn is a very unique performance, I think Louis will love.

luke higham said...

GDSAO: Well, Bale's the better actor overall, but anyway, The Omen's my favourite horror film of all time. Whitelaw (RIP), the soundtrack and the famous decapitation scene still give me chills to this day, all in all, I would like to see a review for Peck, which for me is his second best performance after TKAM.

With 69 and probably 76 coming soon, the only performances I seriously want to see a review for is Peck and Michael Caine in The Italian Job (I'd say his most well known role, although not necessarily his greatest, that honour goes to Get Carter.)

Just to clarify, I still prefer Bale to be requested.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I honestly thought Steve Zahn was MUCH better than Bale in Rescue Dawn.

mcofra7 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Windsor - 4(Does the callous wife rather well in portraying a certain sultriness while having clearly nothing but a passive disdain towards her husband. She's effectively despicable and is quite good in her final scene where she still portrays the shallowness of her character right in her final moments)

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar:

Although save Cook for the moment.

Gray - 3(I liked her in her scenes with Hayden, but she does not really get to do too much)

Edwards - 2.5(He fulfills his role but compared to some of the other performances is pretty forgettable)

Flippen, Corsia, Sawyer - 3.5(Although three do a very good job of bringing just enough life into their parts to make them seem like actual men who have their own motivations and aren't just in the film to fulfill their obligations to the heist)

Carey - 3.5(He's very good as the outside man creating something rather intriguing just in his slightly off beat manner. He's great though in his scene with the parking attendant as he first puts on the act of courtesy then one of cruelty while still showing that his mind is clearly always on his job at hand)

RatedRStar:

Worse I would actually say since at least in Blade Runner it was a character doing it. Also at least in that case they were explaining a science fiction world, here some of it is not far off from something like "Then Johnny Clay slowly walked towards his car" (while the film shows him walking towards his car).










RIP Leonard Nimoy

Matt Mustin said...

Little Children did that with the narration too. One of the many things I hated about that movie.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Little Children had a narration that tried to convince us Kate Winslet wasn't totally hot.

Matt Mustin said...

Yup. "Boyish" my ass.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I keep forgetting how JEH was basically that film's only redeeming quality.

Matt Mustin said...

Oh, absolutely.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Yws I'm so glad you're potentially reviewing Cook.

Anonymous said...

Louis, can I have your thoughts/ratings on Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient and Diane Keaton in Marvin's Room?

RatedRStar said...

@Donald:

Shaw (5)
Connery (4.5)
Hepburn (4.5)
Harris (4)
Williamson (3.5)

My sad 1976 supporting nominees would be (I know Ron Howard was requested but these would be mine)

Oskar Werner - Voyage Of The Damned (his final performance)
Marty Feldman - Silent Movie (his final great performance, he was requested by Jack)
Robert Shaw - Robin and Marian (His final great performance)
Toshiro Mifune - Midway (His final great performance)
Robert Duvall - Network

Michael Patison said...

I'm very interested in what people would nominate in 1959 in Picture, Actor, and Supporting Actor. Mine (in preferential order):
Picture:
*Anatomy of a Murder
North by Northwest
Room at the Top
The 400 Blows
Ben-Hur

Actor:
*James Stewart in Anatomy of a Murder
Cary Grant in North by Northwest
Laurence Harvey in Room at the Top
Jean-Pierre Leaud in The 400 Blows
Victor Sjostrom in Wild Strawberries (I've gone with the US release date)

Supporting Actor (my top 2 flip-flop regularly):
*George C. Scott in Anatomy of a Murder
Stephen Boyd in Ben-Hur
Ben Gazzara in Anatomy of a Murder
Joseph Schildkraut in The Diary of Anne Frank
Arthur O'Connell in Anatomy of a Murder

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Thomas - 3.5(She's fine really in that I would not be able to point in any scene where she's actually or really even close to it. She delivers as it seems she should, but like Fiennes's performance I find myself oddly detached from her work despite how much romance and tragedy is involved)

Keaton - 4(I actually did rather like her performance here as she did the cheery aunt routine fairly well. She does effectively create the way her character basically has the constant cheery outlook, while still conveying the quite somberness involved in that as she kinda wants to cover over the fact that's she's dying)