Sterling Hayden ran away to sea at 15 and was a ship’s captain at 22. Very tall, blond, and ruggedly handsome, he signed with Paramount and acted with Madeleine Carroll, whom he married in 1942 and divorced in 1946.
After two films he left Hollywood to join the marines, returning to Paramount in 1947 and then freelancing. He won critical respect as the horse- loving robber in The Asphalt Jungle.
But this was followed in 1951 by the traumatic experience of collaborating with the House Un-American Activities Committee and naming names of former communist comrades.
He was very busy throughout most of the Fifties, but only a few good roles – as the preacher in Take Me to Town, the enigmatic gunfighter in Johnny Guitar and the stoic racetrack robber in The Killing – stood out from the general run of mediocre Westerns and action movies.
He then embarked on a long sea voyage with his children and returned to films as an occasional character actor in the Sixties and Seventies. He evidently preferred the sea to Hollywood, but his tough reticence gave a detached quality to his performances that added to their strength.
He was born in 1916 and died in 1986.