Sterling Hayden's “Summer Under the Stars” Day will take place on Saturday, Aug. 22.
Now, Sterling Hayden is an interesting choice for the Turner Classic Movies series. Like previous TCM “Summer Under the Stars” honoree Gloria Grahame, Hayden – though tall, blond, and handsome – was never a major Hollywood personality or a top box office attraction. And despite his presence in several important and still well-known films – The Asphalt Jungle, Johnny Guitar, Dr. Strangelove, The Godfather – he's hardly a recognizable name today. And that's why TCM's decision to dedicate a day to him is so welcome. I mean, let's take a break from Judy Garland…
Sterling Hayden Day will offer no less than five TCM premieres, of which I've only seen one.
The five films taking their TCM bow are the Korean War adventure tale Battle Taxi (1955); the crime drama Manhandled (1949), starring a de-saronged Dorothy Lamour; the Western The Iron Sheriff (1957); the pirate story The Golden Hawk (1952), with Rhonda Fleming; and perhaps most interesting of all, Loving (1970), a drama directed by Irvin Kershner, and starring George Segal as an artist looking for meaning in his life while trying to handle wife, kids, and mistress. The always excellent Eva Marie Saint plays the wife, while the supporting cast includes veterans Keenan Wynn and Roland Winters, and future studio honcho Sherry Lansing.
Directed by Sidney Salkow, The Golden Hawk is a brightly colored pirate flick that doesn't have all that much to offer save good-looking men, good-looking women, and good-looking vistas. For some that'll probably more than suffice.
Of the other scheduled Sterling Hayden films, I've only seen three:
Dr. Strangelove is a great Peter Sellers (above) showcase and it provides Hayden with what may well be the best role of his career – he's the bomb-crazed Brigadier General Jack Ripper. Yet, this Stanley Kubrick classic, considered by many one of the greatest films of the 1960s (perhaps of all time) doesn't do all that much for me. I do like it, mind you, but all the same I find it more than a little overlong, and much of the humor falls flat. Even so, those who haven't seen it must check it out. And those who have might want to take a look at it again. War crazies, after all, remain with us more than four decades after the film's original release, and Dr. Strangelove is a good reminder of where those types can lead us all if they take control of things.
The Asphalt Jungle (1950) is another major classic – this time in the film noir genre – that left me unimpressed. And this time, I was really unimpressed. Neither scuzzy Louis Calhern nor sultry Marilyn Monroe were able to make this John Huston-directed heist flick very appealing to me – though Jean Hagen is good in a supporting role. You may think otherwise, so why not check it out? After all, John Huston did get an Oscar nod for his efforts. Come to think of it, perhaps I should check it out again myself. It's been a while since I last saw it.
Directed by Nicholas Ray from a screenplay by Philip Yordan (based on Roy Chanslor's novel), Johnny Guitar (1954) is another Hayden classic, this time around in the Western genre. (Hayden looked comfortable – or at least comfortably stiff – no matter the guise.) Now, this is a classic that even I can appreciate – in fact, in my view Johnny Guitar is one of the top five or so Westerns ever made.
Hayden stars as the Johnny G. of the title, but this psychological drama set in the American West actually belongs to two larger-than-life women: Joan Crawford (right) as Johnny's love interest, the saloon owner Vienna, and Mercedes McCambridge as Emma Small, a local toughie consumed by a grudge against poor Vienna. What's that grudge? Well, silly excuses aside (“jealousy,” “competition”), let's just say that the line separating mad hatred from mad love is quite fine indeed.
At 81 minutes, Zero Hour!, co-starring Linda Darnell and Dana Andrews, sounds like it could be enjoyable tale about an airplane in trouble (unlike the similarly themed – and ponderous – The High and the Mighty), while Crime of Passion (1957) stars Barbara Stanwyck. Can't think of a better reason to recommend a movie – any movie.
Now, hopefully TCM will one day unearth Bahama Passage (1941), in which Sterling Hayden co-stars with his future wife (1942-1946), the ravishingly beautiful Madeleine Carroll. (Virginia, made that same year and which also paired Hayden and Carroll, is a total dud.)
3:00 AM Battle Taxi (1955)
A hotshot jet pilot joins a helicopter rescue team during the Korean War. Cast: Sterling Hayden, Arthur Franz, Marshall Thompson. Dir.: Herbert L. Strock. Black and white. 80 min.
4:30 AM Terror In A Texas Town (1958)
A whaler inherits his father's farm but has to fight off a corrupt town boss. Cast: Sterling Hayden, Sebastian Cabot, Carol Kelly. Dir.: Joseph H. Lewis. Black and white. 81 min.
6:15 AM Ten Days to Tulara (1958)
A charter pilot in Mexico is forced to help a criminal gang when his son is kidnapped. Cast: Sterling Hayden, Grace Raynor, Carlos Muzquiz. Dir.: George Sherman. Black and white. 76 min.
8:00 AM Five Steps To Danger (1957)
Can a couple keep important secrets from Communist spies? Cast: Ruth Roman, Sterling Hayden, Werner Klemperer. Dir.: Henry S. Kessler. Black and white. 80 min.
9:30 AM Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964)
A mad United States General orders an air strike against Russia. Cast: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Keenan Wynn. Dir.: Stanley Kubrick. Black and white. 95 min.
11:30 AM Zero Hour! (1957)
When a flight crew falls ill, the only man who can land the plane is afraid of flying. Cast: Dana Andrews, Linda Darnell, Sterling Hayden. Dir.: Hall Bartlett. Black and white. 81 min.
1:00 PM Johnny Guitar (1954)
A lady saloon owner battles a female rancher out to frame her for murder. Cast: Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Mercedes McCambridge. Dir.: Nicholas Ray. Color. 110 min.
3:00 PM Last Command, The (1955)
Texas hero Jim Bowie defends against Mexican general Santa Ana. Cast: Sterling Hayden, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Richard Carlson. Dir.: Frank Lloyd. Black and white. 110 min.
5:00 PM Asphalt Jungle, The (1950)
A gang of small time crooks plots an elaborate jewel heist. Cast: Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Marilyn Monroe. Dir.: John Huston. Black and white. 112 min.
7:00 PM Manhandled (1949)
A phony psychiatrist's secretary gets caught up in a murder case. Cast: Dorothy Lamour, Sterling Hayden, Dan Duryea. Dir.: Lewis R. Foster. Black and white. 96 min.
9:00 PM Crime Of Passion (1957)
An executive's wife barters sex for her husband's business success. Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Sterling Hayden, Raymond Burr. Dir.: Gerd Oswald. Black and white. 86 min.
10:30 PM Golden Hawk, The (1952)
Male and female pirates join forces against a corrupt Caribbean governor. Cast: Sterling Hayden, Rhonda Fleming, Helena Carter. Dir.: Sidney Salkow. Color. 82 min.
12:00 AM Iron Sheriff, The (1957)
A sheriff tries to clear his son of the murder of a stagecoach driver. Cast: Sterling Hayden, Constance Ford, John Dehner. Dir.: Sidney Salkow. Black and white. 73 min.
1:30 AM Loving (1970)
A conflicted artist tries to find a sense of purpose in life. Cast: George Segal, Eva Marie Saint, Sterling Hayden. Dir.: Irvin Kershner. Color. 89 min.