It started with a movie called "The Killing". It caught my eye because it was directed by Stanley Kubrik. I began to watch it and was instantly blown away by Hayden, who played the starring role. He was huge. He was rough and tough. He smoked and he did it angrily.
It was a fantastic film all round and you get the feeling that Sterling Hayden was just walking through it, like he was not even trying. He was just being himself. Then the end came. His character, Johnny Clay, watched two million dollars blow away before his eyes all over the airport tarmac. You could actually feel the wind get knocked out of him as he stood there, a defeated man. Brilliant.
I figured it was a fluke. Hayden must have been a "one and done" guy, who lucked out on a great film and disappeared into obscurity. So I rented "The Asphalt Jungle" and was blown away again. He was definitely the real deal.
I am no officially hooked on Hayden so I started to research him online. Turns out he was even more manly than the characters he played. He left home at age 15 and lived on the high seas as a sailor most of his life. He started his modeling and acting career and left it behind at its pinnacle to become a marine under a false name to serve in World War II. He was an officer and an OSS Agent who ran guns through German lines, parachuted into Croatia, and formed rescue teams for air crews. He received the Silver Star for his actions.
If you ever get the chance, check him out. He also had roles in more popular films such as "The Godfather" and "Dr. Strangelove".
I hope I live long enough to grow a beard like Hayden did back in 1973 - whatta guy!