Friday, January 9, 2009

Profiles of America's Beloved TV Celebrities (19): The Control of Sterling Hayden

Edited by Alex Constantine

Sterling Hayden

"Sterling Hayden was an American actor and author. For most of his career as a leading man, he specialized in westerns and film noir, such as Johnny Guitar, The Asphalt Jungle and The Killing. Later on he became noted as a character actor for such roles as Gen. Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove (1964). He also played the Irish policeman, Captain McCluskey, in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather in 1972."
Stanley Kubrick and CLASSIFIED WAR PLANS in Dr. Strangelove

YouTube Video: "Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove Depicted Classified Plans"
Sterling Hayden and the OSS

They Called Him a Wanderer

" ... Just before the U.S. entered WWII, Sterling, obviously craving some genuine excitement and danger again instead of the synthetic Hollywood variety, turned his back on acting, enlisted under a pseudonym and went to work for the Coordinator of Information agency, later renamed the OSS. His assignments took him into the European Theater, where his intelligence and daring served him well. It was his work and friendship with Yugoslavian Communist rebels and his subsequent minor involvement in the Communist Party, which would lead to the episode he came to regret. ... "

"... Sterling Hayden, as a member of the nascent O.S.S., only joined the communist party in 1946 for the purpose of infiltration to identify actual leaders, both in Europe and in Hollywood. ... "
The Stoolie

" ... Hayden named seven acquaintances, including his former mistress, ... and spent the rest of his life regretting having become 'a stoolie for J. Edgar Hoover.' ... "
Psychiatric "Conditioning" of the Stoolie

Blacklisted: Psychiatry Causes Disloyalty - Ernest Phillip Cohen, Sterling Hayden and HUAC

Tied to the second wave of HUAC hearings in the early 1950s was an analyst, Ernest Phillip Cohen, who betrayed both the Communist Party and his patients. While Cohen did not hold a degree as a psychologist, he completed three years of graduate work in psychology at the University of Chicago and came to Hollywood in 1937 to start his practice as a therapist. In 1939, he went to Seattle, Washington for more graduate work at the University of Washington. There he met his wife Liz and joined the Communist Party. He then returned to Hollywood as a lay analyst in 1942.

Cohen also, incidentally, worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Writer-director Abe Polonsky invoked his Constitutional right not to name names before the HUAC. However, he did say: “ ... I know he was reporting confidences to the FBI. There’s no question about that. And he was turning patients into stool pigeons. He didn’t reveal his politics until the last minute.”

Cohen claimed he didn’t try to influence his patients. At least a dozen of Cohen’s patients cooperated with the committee.

Victor S. Navasky, author of Naming Names, interviewed Bill Wheeler, the HUAC chief investigator who said that Cohen didn’t tell him who his patients were, but that he gave him plenty of help. According to Wheeler, Cohen said: “If you subpoena one of my patients, I’ll try to condition him to testify.”

“Condition or convince?” Navasky asked.

“What’s the difference? It was part of the therapy. The whole thing,” Wheeler replied.

One of Cohen’s patients who became an informant was Sylvia Richards. “I don’t think that Phil actively set out to make me take any positions about HUAC,” she said, “ ... but the slightest remark from him, I’d follow.” Richards said he “made it clear that since she had quit the Party,” failure to testify “would be a self-destructive if not suicidal act.”

While trying not to identify Cohen as the culprit, Sterling Hayden described his therapist’s role in making him name names in his book, Wanderer. He wrote, “Son of a bitch, Doc, I’m not sure I can take much more of this.... I’ll make no bones about it, I’m thinking of quitting analysis.... I’ll say this, too, that if it hadn’t been for you I wouldn’t have turned into a stoolie for J. Edgar Hoover. I don’t think you have the foggiest notion of the contempt I have had for myself since the day I did that thing.... F – - it! And f – - you too.”

Cohen was not the only therapist to convince his patients to testify. Director Elia Kazan suggested that his decision to give evidence against his former colleagues was encouraged by his psychoanalyst, Dr. Bela Mittelman. When Kazan stated that he wanted to defy the Committee, Mittelman asked him, “Wouldn’t that make you unacceptable to the film industry?” And when Kazan replied that it probably would, Mittelman followed with, “Wouldn’t that be a terrible loss for you?” Prodding further guilt, Mittelman asked, “I’m wondering if your fellow members would do the same for you if they were called upon to protect you by endangering their careers.” Mittelman’s questions gave Kazan cause to change his mind. After his session with Mittelman, Kazan cooperated with the HUAC and testified.

Navasky describes Cohen as “a master of manipulation operating at the murky crossroads where the mystique of Freud met the mystique of Marx.”

As an analyst, Cohen had a potentially pernicious influence over his patients. His outstretched hands offering advice and help carried only betrayal. The results were catastrophic to certain members of the entertainment industry.

... In 1941, Lieutenant Hayden transferred to Office of Strategic Services (OSS), quickly winning promotion, and assuming the nom de guerre Captain Hamilton. Captain Hayden was subsequently awarded the Silver Star for his work in running guns and materiel through the Axis blockade of the Adriatic to supply Marshal Tito’s Yugoslav Partisans. Hayden personally witnessed the destruction of Belgrade in 1941, chagrined that he was unable to provide additional arms and ammunition from his supply base at Papuk, to reinforce the city’s defences. He and Tito had become close friends, such that Hayden attended the Marshal’s funeral in 1980, in the Serbian capitol, Belgrade, ostensibly for Rolling Stone magazine, and “…to say goodbye to an old friend.”

Sterling Hayden’s brief post war flirtation with and rejection of communism, his testimony as a ‘friendly witness’ to HUAC, the House Un-American Activities Committee, his personal travails and eventual return to film celebrity are well documented in his autobiographical masterpiece, Wanderer and are beyond the scope and intent of this article.

Less well known known, and inexplicably not documented in his Silver Star citation is Captain Hayden/Hamilton’s highly successful operation of underground escape networks for ‘downed’ American and Allied fliers in Yugoslavia. Frequently personally vetting and escorting airmen at great personal risk to partisan ‘safe houses’ Hayden was responsible for the return of scores of fliers to safe haven in Bari and Brindisi, Italy. ...
Winter Kills, Drug Money and Kennedy Assassintion

" ... If Richert realized his directorial debut was being funded with drug money and was about to run out, he doesn’t show it. ... When Winter Kills was finally completed and released [it] didn’t stay in theaters long. Richard Condon theorized that the distributor – Avco Embassy – had major defense contracts. ... "

Winter Kills, Reverberation of the John Kennedy Murder and Cover-Up

Film Review Of Winter Kills (1979)
Copyright © by Joe Valdez
Joe's website:

On a cargo vessel off the coast of Malaysia, Nick Kegan (Jeff Bridges) is visited by Keifeitz (Richard Boone), the do-dirt man who works for Nick’s father, owner of the shipping company, among other global interests.

Keifeitz has with him a man in bandages (Joe Spinell) who wants to confess: he was the gunman responsible for killing Nick’s half-brother - President Kegan - nineteen years ago from an office tower in Philadelphia.

The ne’er-do-well Nick recovers the rifle used in the assassination, which was blamed on a lone gunman later shot dead by a nightclub owner with mob ties. Before Nick can present this evidence to the authorities, the policemen with him are shot dead by a mysterious lady riding a bicycle with a child on the back.

Nick adjourns to the desert compound of his Pa (John Huston), who wants the truth behind his son’s assassination. He dispatches Nick to meet with a rival tycoon (Sterling Hayden) who rides tanks around his property and believes the Philadelphia Police are implicated.

An ex-cop who runs a chicken farm points to a mob connection, while an incarcerated Cuban mobster (Tomas Milan) believes a Hollywood agent had the president killed after the movie star he was having an affair with killed herself.

Nick is in love with a French journalist (Belinda Bauer) who has very loud orgasms and Nick wrapped around her finger. He asks her for help, against the warnings of Pa. While in Cleveland meeting with mobsters, Nick encounters the bicycle riding female assassin again.

The only man who seems to have any credibility is Cerruti (Anthony Perkins), the director of Pa’s intelligence apparatus who works from a secret silo and taps phone conversations around the world. Cerruti tells Nick the truth about his girlfriend, and Pa, implicating the old man in the assassination of his own son.

Winter Kills was a novel by Richard Condon, author of The Manchurian Candidate and Prizzi’s Honor. It was a complex murder mystery that made no attempt to disguise that it was about Joe Kennedy and a conspiracy in the assassination of JFK.

No one in Hollywood wanted to touch it. Enter Robert Sterling and Leonard Goldberg, marijuana smugglers who had made somewhat of a name for themselves by producing the soft core Emanuelle pictures. Aspiring to go legit, they purchased the film rights to Condon’s novel.

Their first choice to direct was Milos Forman, but Forman’s agent informed the producers that the Oscar winning filmmaker wasn’t available. The agent suggested another client, a screenwriter named William Richert, who had never directed a feature film. Richert felt the only way to approach the tragic material would be to do it as a political Alice In Wonderland and emphasize the satirical elements.

Without the backing of a studio, the quality of Richert’s adaptation attracted an all-star cast including Jeff Bridges, John Huston, Elizabeth Taylor (in an unbilled cameo as a mob madam), and others. Shooting commenced on five huge soundstages at MGM. What no one realized was that Goldberg didn’t have the money to pay for any of this. He figured if enough people were owed money, they’d let him finish the movie.

Instead, the union shut it down, and the picture declared bankruptcy before it could be completed. Richert shot for a week in Philadelphia with cast and crew – including famed director of photography Vilmos Zsigmond and production designer Robert Boyle - working for free, but the union shut them down again due to funding shortages. Shortly thereafter, Goldberg was found handcuffed to his bed, shot dead by someone he owed money to.

Richert came up with the idea to take Jeff Bridges and Belinda Bauer to Germany to shoot a script he’d written called The American Success Company, selling the distribution rights to finish Winter Kills. When Winter Kills was finally completed and released two years later, it was well reviewed, but didn’t stay in theaters long. Richard Condon theorized that the distributor – Avco Embassy – had major defense contracts and that the Kennedy clan pressured them to bury the movie.

Winter Kills is one of the great overlooked films of the last thirty years. Richert found a pitch perfect tone for the picture, which works as a visually stunning conspiracy thriller, and a goofy satire of conspiracy thrillers. Along with Tron in the 1980s and The Big Lebowski in the 1990s, it also confirms Jeff Bridges’ affection for smart, idiosyncratic films with unique vision and off-beat wit.

If Richert realized his directorial debut was being funded with drug money and was about to run out, he doesn’t show it. The movie has a staggering visual palette, courtesy Vilmos Zsigmond’s mysterious lightning, and rich production design by Robert Boyle. Maurice Jarre provided a musical score that’s also top drawer.

There are a number of sly visual touches, including the bicycle riding angel of death, and the finale, where Huston dangles from a giant American flag. The picture was cast beautifully. Jeff Bridges and Belinda Bauer maintain a wonderful sense of humor, without trying to go for laughs. Instead of doing the audience’s thinking and answering all our questions, Richert smartly presents any number of theories, which like a dessert tray, the audience is free to pick their favorite from.
Suddenly on DVD (1954)

Starring: Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, James Gleason, Nancy Gates, Kim Charney, Paul Frees, Willis Bouchey, Christopher Dark, Charles Smith
Director: Lewis Allen

Run time: 72 mins
Genres: Thriller
Languages: English
Released: 21/01/2002
Brief synopsis of Suddenly

A tense, somewhat prescient drama in which Sinatra plays a psychopathic triggerman hired to kill the United States President. On the way he and his two partners take over a widow's house, which is perfectly situated for an ambush. After Kennedy's assassination, the film was shelved and Sinatra tried to have the prints destroyed.
Hayden Testifies Before Joe McCarthy's HUAC

" ... Sterling Hayden publically regretted cooperating with the H.U.A.C. but privately celebrated his contribution to ferreting out a lot of commie Hollywood ratfink actors. ... "

"As much as I have admired SH ... I don't know if it has been pointed out sufficiently that the major part of his career (1950 on) was only made possible due of his testimony before the HUAC. If he had not named names, etc., his career in Hollywood would have ended, at least for a decade or more. Even though he hated himself ever after for this testimony, nevertheless he took this step to protect his career, along with his eventual financing of all his yachting adventures. The result was his ability to make 20-30 mostly junk films after that. The irony is that if he had stood up for his ideals, no easy thing at that time, he would probably still have had a chance to come back in the mid '60's to do his most famous part in Dr. Strangelove, if not others. He helped to destroy some creative artists by his actions (e.g., A. Polanski) while safeguarding his own interests. The sad thing is that SH was one of the most irreverent of the Hollywood types, yet even he was not able to stand up for what he believed. Ah SH, ah humanity."

- cliff meneken

In his autobiography, Hayden wrote of the damage he'd done to friends and associates with his HUAC testimony: “I think of Larry Parks,” he wrote, “[who] consigned himself to oblivion. Well, I hadn’t made that mistake. Not by a goddamned sight. I was a real daddy longlegs of a worm when it came to crawling.... I [then] swung like a goon from role to role.... They were all made back to back in an effort to cash in fast on my new status as a sanitary culture hero.” Kazan saved his skin and made another 11 films after his informing. But what was left of him?"

1 comment:

William Richert said...

Dear Alex Constantine,

This is a very well written and informative article. Sterling Hayden was even bigger in life than on the screen, where he was mighty big. Thanks for your insights. William Richert