Wanderer : An autobiography by Sterling Hayden

Wanderer : An autobiography by Sterling Hayden

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New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1963. Hardcover. 434 pages ; 21 cm. Price clipped dust jacket with a few minor small tears around the jacket edges. Pages are unmarked and binding is firm.


STERLING HAYDEN had made thirty-five motion pictures, held a multi-film contract, and was earning an average of $160,000 a year when he suddenly quit. He walked out on Hollywood, walked out of a shattered marriage, defied the federal courts, and set sail on January 20, 1959, with his four children, on the schooner Wanderer — bound for the South Seas.

He had no money, no job, no prospects for future Hollywood roles. He was an outlaw, subject to punitive action by the United States government. And he was deeply in debt.

Four months later, Wanderer an-chored in Tahiti, where Hayden found hundreds of letters, from men and women, expressing admiration and sympathy for his dramatic gesture of revolt.

Wanderer would be a memorable book if only for the story of that voyage. But it is much more. Embedded in the narrative is the odyssey of Wanderer's master, Sterling Hayden, of a life crammed with action, events, adventures, success, and failure—at sea, in war, in love, and in Hollywood.

Sterling Hayden began life in Montclair, New Jersey, in a typical middle-class suburban world. His father's death and the depression curtailed his schooling and sent him off to sea. For the next eight years, Hayden was a deckhand on sailing ships, doryman off the Grand Banks, mate and captain. At the age of twenty-two, with a pick-up crew, he delivered an 89-foot brigantine to a South Seas port halfway around the world. A year later, partly as a result of the newspaper publicity surrounding that adventure, Paramount Pictures offered him a screen test. Hollywood liked what it saw, found his rugged good looks, winning candor, and romantic, seafaring background assets it could exploit. With a minimum of coaching, he was pushed to stardom. Almost immediately, he became the leading man for one of the screen's most beautiful and gracious women.

After the war came big success— money, position—and with it a growing dissatisfaction with his life and his work. Roles in which he took a creative interest —in The Asphalt Jungle and in two or three other films — were rare. He was "typed" in Hollywood, and, he felt, typed in life as well.

Wanderer is the testament of a man who has tasted all that our society calls success—and despises it. His last attempt to escape from it launches this autobiography. This is the candid, sometimes painfully intimate, confession of a man who scrutinizes every defeat and self-betrayal in the unblinking light of conscience. It is also the unexpected creative triumph of a complex and contradictory man.

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