Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mug Shots #6: Sterling Hayden AKA The Nothing Man

Click here to read my new essay on Sterling Hayden over at Criminal Element.

He is as subtle as a scalding cup of coffee. His art is, as they say, in his artlessness. Gruff and bellowing, his art is actually found in his artifice, his lack of “reality” making him as perfectly suited to noir as black and white cinematography. Three great performances (as a thug in Huston’s
The Asphalt Jungle, as a mastermind in Kubrick’s The Killing, and as a surly cop in De Toth’s underrated Crime Wave) are his claim to fame. He also gave some purely awful performances, but who gives a shit? Even more than Charles McGraw, Hayden is a man with almost no subtext. What you see is what you get, and what you get is wonderful. One of the true icons of the genre.

Offscreen, Hayden was a truly fascinating character, a free spirit who loathed Hollywood and the profession of acting and eventually quit, grew a wicked beard and sailed around the world writing books. Here's an interview.

And here's a snippet of a French television program about Hayden. It's short, but it features some footage with the man himself. What a character. They don't make actors like this anymore.

The Killing
The Asphalt Jungle
Crime Wave

Best of the Rest:
Naked Alibi
The Come On

Non-Noir Work:
Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb
The Godfather
Johnny Guitar
Terror In A Texas Town

Not My Favorites:
The Long Goodbye
Crime Of Passion