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Sterling Hayden (March 26, 1916 – May 23, 1986) was an Americanmarker actor and author. For most of his career as a leading man, he specialized in westerns and film noir, such as Johnny Guitar, The Asphalt Jungle and The Killing. Later on he became noted as a character actor for such roles as Gen. Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). He also played the Irish policeman, Captain McCluskey, in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather in 1972. Standing 6-feet, 5-inches tall (196 cm), he is one of the tallest leading actors of all time.

Biography

Early life, education

He was born in Upper Montclair, New Jerseymarker, to George and Frances Walter, who named him Sterling Relyea Walter. After his father died, he was adopted at the age of nine by James Hayden and renamed Sterling Walter Hayden. He grew up in coastal towns of New Englandmarker, and as a child lived in New Hampshiremarker, Massachusettsmarker, Pennsylvaniamarker, Washington, D.C.marker, and Mainemarker, where he attended Wassookeag School in Dexter, Mainemarker.

Hayden was a genuine adventurer and man of action, not dissimilar from many of his movie parts. He ran away to sea at 15, as a ship's boy. His first job was on a schooner en route to Balboa Beach, California from New London, Connecticutmarker. Later, he was a fisherman on the Grand Banksmarker of Newfoundland, ran a charter yacht, and served as a fireman on eleven trips to Cuba aboard a steamer. He skippered a trading schooner in the Caribbean after earning his master's license, and in 1937 he served as mate on a world cruise of the schooner Yankee. After serving as sailor and fireman on larger vessels and sailing around the world several times, he was awarded his first command aged 22, skippering a square rigger from Gloucester, Massachusetts, to Tahiti in 1938.

Hollywood years, military service, communist sympathies

Hayden became a print model and later signed a contract with Paramount Pictures, who dubbed the 6' 5" (1.96 m) actor The Most Beautiful Man in the Movies and The Beautiful Blond Viking God. His first film starred Madeleine Carroll, with whom he fell in love and married.

But after just two film roles, he left Hollywood and joined the Marines as a private, under the name "John Hamilton" (a pseudonym Hayden only used in the military). While at Parris Islandmarker he was recommended for Officer Candidate School. After graduation, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and was transferred to service as an undercover agent with William J. Donovan's COI office. He remained there after it became the OSS.

As OSS agent John Hamilton, his World War II service included running guns through German lines to the Yugoslav partisans and parachuting into fascist Croatiamarker. Hayden, who also participated in the Naples-Foggia campaign and established air crew rescue teams in enemy-occupied territory, became a first lieutenant on September 13, 1944, and a captain on February 14, 1945. He won the Silver Star (for gallantry in action in the Balkans and Mediterranean; "Lt. Hamilton displayed great courage in making hazardous sea voyages in enemy-infested waters and reconnaissance through enemy-held areas"), a Bronze Arrowhead device for parachuting behind enemy lines, and a commendation from Yugoslavia's Marshal Tito. He left active duty on December 24, 1945.

His admiration for the Communist partisans led to a brief membership in the Communist Party. According to his IMDB biography, as the Red Scare deepened in U.S., "he cooperated with the House Un-American Activities Committee, confessing his brief Communist ties" and 'naming names'. His wife at that time, Betty de Noon, insisted that the 'names' her ex-husband provided were already in the hands of the Committee, which had a copy of the Communist Party's membership list. In any event, Hayden subsequently repudiated his own cooperation with the Committee, stating in his autobiography "I don't think you have the foggiest notion of the contempt I have had for myself since the day I did that thing."

Marriages, sailing

Sterling Hayden often professed distaste for film acting, claiming he did it mainly to pay for his ships and voyages. In 1958, after a bitter divorce, he was awarded custody of his children. He defied a court order and sailed to Tahitimarker with all four children, Christian, Dana, Gretchen and Matthew. In 1960, he married Catherine Devine McConnell. They had two sons, Andrew and David, and were married until his death in 1986. McConnell also had a son from her first marriage, the journalist Scott McConnell.

In the early 1960s, Hayden rented one of the pilot houses of the retired ferryboat Berkeleymarker, docked in Sausalito, Californiamarker where he resided while writing his autobiography Wanderer, which was first published in 1963.

In the 1970s, after his appearance in The Godfather, he appeared several times on NBC's Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder, where he talked about his career resurgence and how it had funded his travels and adventures around the world. Hayden bought a canal barge in the Netherlands in 1969, eventually moving it to the heart of Paris and living on it part of the time. He also shared a home in Wilton, Connecticut with his family and had an apartment in Sausalito.

Sterling Hayden died of prostate cancer in Sausalito in 1986, age 70.

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