Excerpt: 'Ernie: The Autobiography'

I've had quite a run. And since I can still remember most of it, I want to share some of my favorite stories and memories, and maybe give some tips to actors who are just starting out. See, I've made some great pictures, some good pictures, some not-so-good pictures, and a few out-and-out stinkers. (I have the distinction of appearing in more of the 100 Most Enjoyably Awful Movies of All Time as listed in Razzie Award–founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide than any other actor—The Adventurers (1970), The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968), and The Oscar (1966), among them.

Well, they can't all be gems. But what fun they all were, and every one of them was a learning experience.

I've died onscreen almost thirty times. I've been shot, stabbed, kicked, punched through barroom doors by Spencer Tracy and Gary Cooper; pushed in front of moving subway trains, devoured by rats and a giant mutated fish; blown up in spaceships, melted down into a Technicolor puddle, jumped into a snake pit, and I perished from thirst in the Sahara Desert. I bounced around a capsized ocean liner, beat Frank Sinatra to death, impaled Lee Marvin with a pitchfork, and had my way with Raquel Welch.

Any one of those would've been worth the journey.

I've acted in westerns, comedies, war pictures, crime dramas, horror, science fiction, disaster films, and Biblical epics. I once played the head of a Viking clan. I've been bad guys, good guys, cops, crooks, murderers, mob bosses, western villains, and an Amish farmer. I've portrayed Asians, Jews, Italians (not much of a stretch), Irishmen, Swedes, and Mexicans.

Hell, I even played Satan once, in "The Devil's Rain." It wasn't hard— I just channeled some of the agents I've had over the years.

I've sustained countless injuries over the years and even survived a plane crash. I've traveled all over the world for my work; stayed in five-star hotels in Europe and in bug-infested huts in South America. I've been blessed to have worked with some of the greatest writers and directors in film history and almost four generations of stars from Clark Gable and Joan Crawford and Bette Davis to Bart Simpson and Sponge Bob SquarePants. I've seen this business change technologically from the fuzzy photography of live TV to entire movies produced on computers.

I remember when a corned-beef sandwich at Nate 'n Al Delicatessen in Beverly Hills cost 85 cents. (I don't know how much they are now— corned beef is on my look-but-don't-touch list.) When I first came out here in 1952, a house in Beverly Hills went for $30,000; today that same house would go for $5 million. Movie admission was 35 cents; today it's $10 or even $11; a bag of popcorn was a dime. Today it's $5. Once the town made westerns like Shane and The Searchers and The Magnificent Seven and had larger-than-life leading men like Gable and Cooper, Bogart and Cagney, and the tall cowboy everyone called the Duke. Today, I see our so-called movie stars in People magazine and most of them look like they belong on the FBI's Most Wanted List wall at the post office, all tattoos and body piercings.

I started working at a time when a movie cost less than half a million dollars to produce. Now a movie that costs $50 million is considered low budget.

In these pages I'll show you what Hollywood was like more than half a century ago and how it's changed, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

So grazie infinite for stopping by. Divertiti.

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