Cinema Station

John Huston Tests Sterling Hayden for Asphalt Jungle | October 6, 2011

… I step on a butt, take several deep breaths, and advance toward no-man’s land. Huston intercepts me, throws an arm around my shoulder, and walks me around the stage. His voice is urgent, but I’m thinking about the scene. When we stop we’re next to the camera…

A girl named Jean Hagen sits on a high stool. She is a redhead with a glorious smile, pretty but not too pretty, fresh from Broadway, and set to play in the picture…

“Kid,” Huston says, “play it the way it feels best. Lie down, sit up, walk around, do any damn thing you please. Wherever you go, we’ll follow. Take your time. Let me know when you’re ready.” He drops in a canvas chair and starts to read a book. The girl smokes, not looking at me just yet. It is absolutely silent.

Have I got the words, I wonder. Just like old times. I mess around with my shirt, trying hard to concentrate. I sit on the edge of the cot and clutch at the cage of my ribs. A minute passes, maybe more. Huston has closed the book. Our eyes meet and I nod.”

-Sterling Hayden, excerpt from Wanderer



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