Pages

26 October 2013

Imported from the USA: Clint Eastwood

American film actor and director Clint Eastwood (1930) rose to fame as the Man with No Name in Sergio Leone's classic Spaghetti Westerns Per un pugno di dollari/A Fistful of Dollars (1964), Per qualche dollaro in più/For a Few Dollars More (1965), and Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo/The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). Later in the US, he played hard edge police inspector Harry Callahan in the five Dirty Harry films, which elevated him to superstar status, and he directed and produced such award-winning masterpieces as Unforgiven (1992), Mystic River (2003) and Million Dollar Baby (2004).

Clint Eastwood
Romanian postcard by Colectia Cinefilului Acin.

Towering Height And Slender Frame


Clinton ‘Clint’ Eastwood, Jr. was born in San Francisco, California in 1930. His parents were Clinton Eastwood, Sr., a steelworker and migrant worker, and Margaret Ruth (Runner) Eastwood, a factory worker. Clint has a younger sister, Jeanne. Because of his father's difficulty in finding steady work during the depression, Eastwood moved with his family from one Northern California town to another, attending some eight elementary schools in the process.

Later he had odd jobs as a fire-fighter and lumberjack in Oregon, as well as a steelworker in Seattle. In 1951, Eastwood was drafted into the US Army, where he was a swimming instructor during the Korean War. He briefly attended Los Angeles City College but dropped out to pursue acting.

Eastwood married Maggie Johnson in 1953, six months after they met on a blind date. However, their matrimony would not prove altogether smooth, with Eastwood believing that he had married too early.

In 1954, the good-looking Eastwood with his towering height and slender frame got a contract at Universal. At first, he was criticized for his stiff manner, his squint, and for hissing his lines through his teeth. His first acting role was an uncredited bit part as a laboratory assistant in the Sci-Fi horror film Revenge of the Creature (Jack Arnold, 1955).

Over the next three years, he more bit parts in such films as Lady Godiva of Coventry (Arthur Lubin, 1955), Tarantula (Jack Arnold, 1955), and the war drama Away All Boats (Joseph Pevney, 1956) with George Nader and Lex Barker.

His first bigger roles were in the B-Western Ambush at Cimarron Pass (Jodie Copelan, 1958), and the war film Lafayette Escadrille (William A. Wellman, 1958), starring Tab Hunter and Etchika Choureau.

In 1959, he became a TV star as Rowdy Yates in the Western series Rawhide (1959–1966). Although Rawhide never won an Emmy, it was a ratings success for several years.

During a trial separation from Maggie Johnson, an affair with dancer Roxanne Tunis produced Eastwood’s first child, Kimber Tunis (1964). An intensely private person, Clint Eastwood was rarely featured in the tabloid press. However, he had more affairs, e.g. with actresses Catherine Deneuve, Inger Stevens and Jean Seberg. After a reconciliation, he had two children with Johnson: Kyle Eastwood (1968) and Alison Eastwood (1972), though he was not present at either birth. Johnson filed for legal separation in 1978, but the pair officially divorced in 1984.

Clint Eastwood
German postcard. Photo: Constantin / Paul March.

The Man With No Name Trilogy


In late 1963, Clint Eastwood's Rawhide co-star Eric Fleming rejected an offer to star in an Italian-made Western. Eastwood, who in turn saw the film as an opportunity to escape from his Rawhide image, signed the contract.

The Western was called Per un pugno di dollari/A Fistful of Dollars (1964), to be directed in a remote region of Spain by the then relatively unknown Sergio Leone. A Fistful of Dollars, also with Gian Maria Volonté and Marianne Koch, was a remake of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo (1961).

Eastwood played a cynical gunfighter who comes to a small border town, torn apart by two feuding families. Hiring himself out as a mercenary, the lone drifter plays one side against the other until nothing remains of either side. Eastwood started to develop a minimalist acting style and created the character's distinctive visual style. Although a non-smoker, Leone insisted Eastwood smoke cigars as an essential ingredient of the ‘mask’ he was attempting to create for the loner character.

Per un pugno di dollari/A Fistful of Dollars (Sergio Leone, 1964) was the first instalment of the Dollars trilogy. Later, United Artists, who distributed it in the US, coined another term for it: the Man With No Name trilogy. ‘The second part was Per qualche dollaro in più/For a Few Dollars More (Sergio Leone, 1965), a richer, more mythologized film that focused on two ruthless bounty hunters (Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef) who form a tenuous partnership to hunt down a wanted bandit (Gian Maria Volontè). Both films were a huge success in Italy. They both contain all of Leone's eventual trademarks: taciturn characters, precise framing, extreme close-ups, and the haunting music of Ennio Morricone.

Eastwood also appeared in a segment of Dino De Laurentiis’ five-part anthology production Le Streghe/The Witches (Vittorio De Sica a.o., 1967). But his performance opposite De Laurentiis' wife Silvana Mangano did not please the critics.

Eastwood then played in the third and best Dollars film, Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo/The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966). Again he played the mysterious Man with No Name, wearing the same trademark poncho (reportedly without ever having washed it). Lee Van Cleef returned as a ruthless fortune seeker, with Eli Wallach portrayed the cunning Mexican bandit Tuco Ramirez.

Yuri German at AllMovie: “Immensely entertaining and beautifully shot in Techniscope by Tonino Delli Colli, the movie is a virtually definitive 'spaghetti western,' rivaled only by Leone's own Once Upon a Time in the West (1968).”

The Dollars trilogy was not released in the United States until 1967, when A Fistful of Dollars opened in January, followed by For a Few Dollars More in May, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly in December. Eastwood redubbed his own dialogue for the American releases. All the films were commercially successful, particularly The Good, the Bad and the Ugly which turned Eastwood into a major film star. All three films received bad reviews, and marked the beginning of a battle for Eastwood to win American film critics' respect.

According to IMDb, Sergio Leone asked Eastwood, Wallach and Van Cleef to appear again in C'era una volta il West/Once Upon A Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968), but they all declined when they heard that their characters were going to be killed off in the first five minutes.

Clint Eastwood
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.

Coogan's Bluff


Stardom brought more roles for Clint Eastwood. He signed to star in the American revisionist western Hang 'Em High (Ted Post, 1968), playing a man who takes up a Marshal's badge and seeks revenge as a lawman after being lynched by vigilantes and left for dead.

Using money earned from the Dollars trilogy, accountant and Eastwood advisor Irving Leonard helped establish Eastwood's own production company, Malpaso Productions, named after Malpaso Creek on Eastwood's property in Monterey County, California. Leonard arranged for Hang 'Em High to be a joint production with United Artists. Hang 'Em High was widely praised by critics, and when it opened in July 1968, it had an unprecedented opening weekend in United Artists' history.

His following film was Coogan's Bluff (Don Siegel, 1968), about an Arizona deputy sheriff tracking a wanted psychopathic criminal (Don Stroud) through the streets of New York City. Don Siegel was a Universal contract director who later became Eastwood's close friend, forming a partnership that would last more than ten years and produce five films. Coogan’s Bluff was controversial for its portrayal of violence, Eastwood's role creating the prototype for the macho cop of the Dirty Harry film series. Coogan's Bluff also became the first collaboration with Argentine composer Lalo Schifrin, who would later compose the jazzy score to several Eastwood films in the 1970s and 1980s, including the Dirty Harry films.

Eastwood played the right-hand man of squad's commander Richard Burton in the war epic Where Eagles Dare (Brian G. Hutton, 1968), about a World War II squad parachuting into a Gestapo stronghold in the alpine mountains. Eastwood then branched out to star in the only musical of his career, Paint Your Wagon (Joshua Logan, 1969).

Then, Eastwood starred in the Western Two Mules for Sister Sara (Don Sigel, 1970), with Shirley MacLaine, and as one of a group of Americans who steal a fortune in gold from the Nazis, in the World War II film Kelly's Heroes (Brian G. Hutton, 1970)). Kelly's Heroes was the last film in which Eastwood appeared, that was not produced by his own Malpaso Productions.

Clint Eastwood
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.

Dirty Harry


Clint Eastwood’s next film, The Beguiled (Don Siegel, 1970), was a tale of a wounded Union soldier, held captive by the sexually repressed matron of a southern girl's school. Upon release the film received major recognition in France but in the US it was a box office flop.

Eastwood's career reached a turning point with Dirty Harry (Don Siegel, 1971), The film centres around a hard-edged San Francisco police inspector named Harry Callahan who is determined to stop a psychotic killer by any means. Dirty Harry achieved huge success after its release in December 1971. It was Siegel's highest-grossing film to date and the start of a series of films featuring the character Harry Callahan.

He next starred in the loner Western Joe Kidd (John Sturges, 1972). In 1973, Eastwood directed his first western, High Plains Drifter, in which he starred alongside Verna Bloom. The revisionist film received a mixed reception, but was a major box office success.

Eastwood next turned his attention towards Breezy (Clint Eastwood, 1973), a film about love blossoming between a middle-aged man and a teenage girl. During casting for the film Eastwood met actress Sondra Locke, who would become an important figure in his life.

He reprised his role as Detective Harry Callahan in Magnum Force (Ted Post, 1973). This sequel to Dirty Harry was about a group of rogue young officers (including David Soul and Robert Urich) in the San Francisco Police Force who systematically exterminate the city's worst criminals.

Eastwood teamed up with Jeff Bridges in the buddy action caper Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Michael Cimino, 1974). Eastwood's acting was noted by critics, but was overshadowed by Bridges who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

His next film The Eiger Sanction (Clint Eastwood, 1975), based on Trevanian's spy novel, was a commercial and critical failure. His next film The Outlaw Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood, 1976) was widely acclaimed, with many critics and viewers seeing Eastwood's role as an iconic one that related to America's ancestral past and the destiny of the nation after the American Civil War.

The third Dirty Harry film, The Enforcer (James Fargo, 1976) had Harry partnered with a new female officer (Tyne Daly) to face a San Francisco Bay terrorist organization. The film, culminating in a shootout on Alcatraz island, was a major commercial success grossing $100 million worldwide.

In 1977, he directed and starred in The Gauntlet opposite Sondra Locke. Eastwood portrays a down-and-out cop who falls in love with a prostitute he is assigned to escort from Las Vegas to Phoenix, to testify against the mafia. In 1978 Eastwood starred with Locke and an orang-utan called Clyde in Every Which Way but Loose. Panned by critics, the film proved a surprising success and became the second-highest grossing film of 1978.

Eastwood then starred in the thriller Escape from Alcatraz (1979), the last of his films to be directed by Don Siegel. The film was a major success, and marked the beginning of a critically acclaimed period for Eastwood. Eastwood's relationship with Sondra Locke had begun in 1975 during production of The Outlaw Josey Wales. They lived together for almost fourteen years, during which Locke remained married (in name only) to her gay husband, Gordon Anderson. Eastwood befriended Locke's husband and purchased a house in Crescent Heights for Anderson and his male lover.


American trailer Per un pugno di dollari/A Fistful of Dollars (1964). Source: OldHollywoodTrailers (YouTube).

Go Ahead, Make My Day


In 1980, Clint Eastwood’s nonstop success was broken by Bronco Billy, which he directed and played the lead role in. The film was liked by critics, but a rare commercial disappointment in Eastwood's career. Later that year, he starred in Any Which Way You Can (Buddy Van Horn, 1980), which ranked among the top five highest-grossing films of the year.

In 1982, Eastwood directed and starred in Honkytonk Man, as a struggling Western singer who, accompanied by his young nephew (played by real-life son Kyle) goes to Nashville, Tennessee. In the same year Eastwood directed, produced, and starred in the Cold War-themed Firefox alongside Freddie Jones.

Then, Eastwood directed and starred in the fourth Dirty Harry film, Sudden Impact (1983), the darkest and most violent of the series. ‘Go ahead, make my day’, uttered by Eastwood in the film, became one of cinema's immortal lines. Sudden Impact was the last film which he starred in with Locke. The film was the most commercially successful of the Dirty Harry films, earning $70 million and received very positive reviews.

In the provocative thriller Tightrope (Richard Tuggle, 1984), Eastwood starred opposite Geneviève Bujold. His real-life daughter Alison, then eleven, also appeared in the film. It was another critical and commercial hit. Eastwood next starred in the period comedy City Heat (Richard Benjamin, 1984) alongside Burt Reynolds.

Eastwood revisited the Western genre when he directed and starred in Pale Rider (Clint Eastwood, 1985), based on the classic Western Shane (George Stevens, 1953). It became one of Eastwood's most successful films to date, and was hailed as one of the best films of 1985 and the best Western to appear for a considerable period.

He co-starred with Marsha Mason in the military drama Heartbreak Ridge (Clint Eastwood, 1986), about the 1983 United States invasion of Grenada. Then followed the fifth and final film in the Dirty Harry series The Dead Pool (Buddy Van Horn, 1988), with Patricia Clarkson, Liam Neeson, and a young Jim Carrey. It is generally viewed as the weakest film of the series.

Eastwood began working on smaller, more personal projects and experienced a lull in his career between 1988 and 1992. Always interested in jazz, he directed Bird (Clint Eastwood, 1988), a biopic starring Forest Whitaker as jazz musician Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker. Eastman himself is a prolific jazz pianist who occasionally shows up to play piano at his Carmel, CA restaurant, The Hog's Breath Inn. He received two Golden Globes for Bird, but the film was a commercial failure.

Jim Carrey would again appear with Eastwood in the poorly received comedy Pink Cadillac (Buddy Van Horn, 1989) alongside Bernadette Peters.

In 1989, while his partner Sondra Locke was away directing the film Impulse (1990), Eastwood had the locks changed on their Bel-Air home and ordered her possessions to be boxed and put in storage. During the last three years of his cohabitation with Locke, Eastwood fathered two children in secrecy with flight attendant Jacelyn Reeves, Scott Reeves (1986), and Kathryn Reeves (1988). Eastwood finally presented both children to the public in 2002.


American trailer Per qualche dollaro in più/For a Few Dollars More (1965). Source: OldHollywoodTrailers (YouTube).

Unforgiven


In 1990, Clint Eastwood began living with actress Frances Fisher, whom he had met on the set of Pink Cadillac in 1988. They had a daughter, Francesca Fisher-Eastwood (1993). Eastwood and Fisher ended their relationship in early 1995.

Eastwood directed and starred in White Hunter Black Heart (1990), an adaptation of Peter Viertel's roman à clef, about John Huston and the making of the classic film The African Queen (1951).

Later in 1990, he directed and co-starred with Charlie Sheen in The Rookie, a buddy cop action film. Eastwood revisited the Western genre in the self-directed film Unforgiven (1992), in which he played an aging ex-gunfighter long past his prime. Unforgiven was a major commercial and critical success; and was nominated for nine Academy Awards, and won four, including Best Picture and Best Director for Eastwood.

Eastwood played Frank Horrigan in the Secret Service thriller In the Line of Fire (Wolfgang Petersen, 1993) co-starring John Malkovich. The film was among the top 10 box office performers that year, earning a reported $200 million. Later in 1993, Eastwood directed and co-starred with Kevin Costner in A Perfect World.

At the 1994 Cannes Film Festival Eastwood received France's Ordre des Arts et des Lettres medal, and in 1995, he was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award at the 67th Academy Awards. Opposite Meryl Streep he starred in the romantic picture The Bridges of Madison County (Clint Eastwood, 1995), another commercial and critical success. The film was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Picture and won a César Award in France for Best Foreign Film.

In early 1995, Eastwood began dating Dina Ruiz, a television news anchor 35 years his junior, whom he had first met when she interviewed him in 1993. They married in 1996. The couple has one daughter, Morgan Eastwood (1996).

In 1997, Eastwood directed and starred in the political thriller Absolute Power, alongside Gene Hackman. Later in 1997, Eastwood directed Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, starring John Cusack, Kevin Spacey, and Jude Law. He directed and starred in True Crime (1999), as a journalist and recovering alcoholic, who has to cover the execution of murderer Frank Beechum (Isaiah Washington).

In 2000, he directed and starred in Space Cowboys alongside Tommy Lee Jones as veteran ex-test pilots sent into space to repair an old Soviet satellite.


American trailer Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo/The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). Source: OldHollywoodTrailers (YouTube).

Million Dollar Baby


Clint Eastwood played an ex-FBI agent chasing a sadistic killer (Jeff Daniels) in the thriller Blood Work (2002). He directed and scored the crime drama Mystic River (2003), dealing with themes of murder, vigilantism, and sexual abuse. The film starred Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, and Tim Robbins and won two Academy Awards – Best Actor for Penn and Best Supporting Actor for Robbins – with Eastwood garnering nominations for Best Director and Best Picture.

The following year Eastwood found further critical and commercial success when he directed, produced, scored, and starred in the boxing drama Million Dollar Baby, (2004). He played a cantankerous trainer who forms a bond with female boxer (Hilary Swank). The film won four Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Swank), and Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman).

At age 74 Eastwood became the oldest of eighteen directors to have directed two or more Best Picture winners. In 2006, he directed two films about World War II's Battle of Iwo Jima. The first, Flags of Our Fathers, focused on the men who raised the American flag on top of Mount Suribachi and featured the film debut of Eastwood's son Scott. This was followed by Letters from Iwo Jima, which dealt with the tactics of the Japanese soldiers on the island and the letters they wrote home to family members.

Eastwood next directed Changeling (2008), based on a true story set in the late 1920s. Angelina Jolie stars as a woman reunited with her missing son only to realize he is an impostor.

Eastwood ended a four-year self-imposed acting hiatus by appearing in Gran Torino (2008), which he also directed, produced, and partly scored with his son Kyle and Jamie Cullum. Gran Torino eventually grossed over $268 million in theatres worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing film of Eastwood's career so far.

Eastwood's 30th directorial outing came with Invictus, a film based on the story of the South African team at the 1995 Rugby World Cup, with Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela. In 2010, Eastwood directed the drama Hereafter, with Matt Damon as a psychic, and in 2011, J. Edgar, a biopic of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, with Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role.

Eastwood starred in the baseball drama Trouble with the Curve (Robert Lorenz, 2012), as a veteran baseball scout who travels with his daughter for a final scouting trip. Director Lorenz worked with Eastwood as an assistant director on several films.

Clint Eastwood is also politically active and served as the nonpartisan mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California from 1986 to 1988. Shawn Dwyer at TCM: “Although a registered Republican since the early-1950s, Eastwood's politics, like the man himself, were that of a true iconoclast. Over the years he had voted for candidates from both parties and publicly denounced the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. And while he had initially wished President Barack Obama well during the start of his first term in office, Eastwood, became a vocal booster for Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, dissatisfied with what he viewed as Obama's inability to govern.”

But the cinema is Eastwood’s major career. He has contributed to over 50 films as actor, director, producer, and composer. According to the box office-revenue tracking website, Box Office Mojo, films featuring Eastwood have grossed a total of more than US $1.68 billion domestically, with an average of $37 million per film.


Trailer for Gran Torino (2008). Source: The Movie Planet (YouTube).

This was the tenth and final episode of 'Imported from the USA'. Earlier episodes were dedicated to Jayne Mansfield, Josephine Baker, Lex Barker, Anna May Wong, Carroll Baker, Farley Granger, Louise Brooks, Orson Welles and George Nader.

Sources: Shawn Dwyer (TCM), Yuri German (AllMovie), Bruce Eder (AllMovie), Wikipedia and IMDb.

No comments: