Saturday, November 6, 2010
Bowie knife duel from "The Last Command," 1955, set at the Alamo and starring Sterling Hayden as Jim Bowie and Ernest Borgnine as the fictional Mike Radin. The portly Borgnine, wielding what appears to be an oversized butter knife, is clearly at a disadvantage against the powerfully built, 6-foot 5-inch Hayden.
Borgnine is the most famous person ever to hail (McHale?) from my hometown of Hamden, Connecticut. (His closest rival would be Thornton Wilder, the writer.) In 2010, 55 years after he filmed this scene, Borgnine starred in "RED" at age 93. He revealed the secret of his longevity to Fox News.
Sterling Hayden (1916-1986) was a real-life adventurer who disdained his career as a movie star. A few snippets from his IMDb bio: Ran away to sea at 17; sailed around the world a number of times; became a ship's captain; met producer Edward H. Griffith who signed him to a Paramount contract; abandoned Hollywood prior to Pearl Harbor to become a commando with the COI (later the OSS); joined the Marines; ran guns to Yugoslav partisans; was awarded Silver Star; joined the Communist Party due to his friendship with Yugoslav Communists, but later testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee; returned to film work in order to pay for a succession of sailing vessels; and ended up with 70 film and TV credits, working for such directors as Kubrick, Coppola, and Bertolucci. "Incredible, really - how I got away with it; parlaying nine years at sea into two decades of posturing," he said of his acting; also: "If I had the dough I'd buy up the negative of every film I ever made . . . and start one hell of a fire."