by Tony Dayoub
This morning, I was pondering the mini-movie-marathon TCM will be dedicating to one of my favorite actors, Sterling Hayden, on his birthday, March 26th. The tall, Nordic-looking blond was often relegated to heading up B-Westerns and crime stories in the '40s and '50s, like Arrow in the Dust and Suddenly, before finding a fan in director Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick first used Hayden in just that type of film, 1956's The Killing, an early genre piece that really didn’t set the box office on fire. Hayden's reputation didn't really begin to attain a certain stature until a few years later. By then, Stanley Kubrick had become Kubrick™, the reclusive, one-named auteur who’d buck the Hollywood establishment and direct Hayden in the slightly bent role of Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). This atypical, blackly comic role helped Hayden get darker, pivotal roles from many of the top auteurs who'd come after Kubrick, as they ascended in the New Hollywood's director-led artistic revolution, filmmakers like Robert Altman (The Long Goodbye), Bernardo Bertolucci (1900) and most notably, Francis Coppola. It was then, while thinking of Hayden’s role in Coppola’s The Godfather, that something wild occurred to me.
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