Actors of Legend: Clint Eastwood
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Actors of Legend: Clint Eastwood

Clinton "Clint" Eastwood, Jr. (born May 31, 1930) is an American film actor, director, producer, composer and politician. Following his breakthrough role on the TV series Rawhide (1959–65), Eastwood starred as the Man with No Name in Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy of spaghetti westerns (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) in the 1960s, and as San Francisco Police Department Inspector Harry Callahan in the Dirty Harry films (Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact, and The Dead Pool) during the 1970s and 1980s. These roles, along with several others in which he plays tough-talking no-nonsense police officers, have made him an enduring cultural icon of masculinity.

Hollywood is not what it used to be. Hollywood has become overcrowded with so many entertainers that somehow got lucky and made it big due to popularity but not necessarily capability. Looking back on when Hollywood was full of legends who took pride in their work rather than just making a movie for a pay check I would like to nominate my own “Actor’s of Legend.”

According to the CBS press release for Rawhide, Universal Studios, then known then as the Universal-International film company, was shooting in Fort Ord when an enterprising assistant spotted Eastwood and arranged a meeting with the series' director. According to Eastwood's official biography the key figure was a man named Chuck Hill, who was stationed in Fort Ord and had contacts in Hollywood. Later, in Los Angeles, Hill became reacquainted with Clint Eastwood and managed to sneak him into one of Universal's studios, where he showed him to cameraman Irving Glassberg. Glassberg arranged for an audition with Arthur Lubin who, although impressed with Eastwood's appearance and 6-foot-4-inch frame, initially questioned his acting skills remarking, "He was quite amateurish. He didn't know which way to turn or which way to go or do anything". Lubin suggested he attend drama classes and arranged for his initial contract in April 1954 at $100 per week. After signing Eastwood was initially criticized for his stiff manner, his squint and with hissing his lines through his teeth, a feature that would become a life-long trademark.

In May 1954 Clint Eastwood auditioned for his first role in Six Bridges to Cross, but was rejected by Joseph Pevney. After many unsuccessful auditions he eventually landed a minor role as a laboratory assistant in director Jack Arnold'sRevenge of the Creature, a sequel to The Creature from the Black Lagoon. He then worked for three weeks on Lubin's Lady Godiva of Coventry in September 1954, then won a role in February 1955 as a sailor in Francis in the Navy as well as appearing uncredited in another Jack Arnold film, Tarantula, in which he played a squadron pilot. In May 1955 Eastwood had a brief appearance in the film Never Say Goodbye, during which he shared a scene with Rock Hudson. Universal presented him with his first television role on July 2, 1955, in NBC's Allen in Movieland, which starred Tony Curtis and Benny Goodman. Although he continued to develop as an actor Universal terminated Eastwood's contract on October 23, 1955.

Clint Eastwood then joined the Marsh Agency and although Lubin landed him his biggest role to date in The First Traveling Saleslady (1956) and later hired him for Escapade in Japan, without a formal contract Clint Eastwood struggled. He met financial advisor Irving Leonard, who would later arguably take most responsibility for launching his career in the late 1950s and 1960s, whom Clint Eastwood described as being "like a second father to me". On Leonard's advice Eastwood switched talent agencies to the Kumin-Olenick Agency in 1956 and to Mitchell Gertz in 1957. He landed several small roles in 1956 as a temperamental army officer for a segment of ABC's Reader's Digest series, and as a motorcycle gang member on a Highway Patrol episode. Eastwood had a minor uncredited role as a ranch hand in his first western film, Law Man, in June 1956. The following year he played a cadet in the West Point television series and a suicidal gold prospector in Death Valley Days. In 1955 he played a Navy lieutenant in a segment of Navy Log and in early 1959 he made a notable guest appearance on Maverick, opposite James Garner, as a cowardly villain intent on marrying a rich girl for money. Clint Eastwood had a small part as an aviator in the French picture Lafayette Escadrille and took on a major role as an ex-Confederate renegade in Ambush at Cimarron Pass, a film which Eastwood viewed as disastrous and the lowest point of his career.

In late 1963 Eastwood's co-star on Rawhide, Eric Fleming, rejected an offer to star in an Italian-made western called A Fistful of Dollars; to be directed in a remote region of Spain by Sergio Leone who was relatively unknown at the time. Other actors, including Charles Bronson, Steve Reeves, Richard Harrison, Frank Wolfe, Henry Fonda, James Coburn, and Ty Hardin, were also considered for the role. Knowing that he could play a cowboy convincingly Harrison suggested Eastwood, who in turn saw the film as an opportunity to escape from Rawhide. He signed a contract for $15,000 in wages for eleven weeks' work with a bonus of a Mercedes automobile upon completion and arrived in Rome in May 1964 Clint Eastwood later spoke about the transition from a television western to A Fistful of Dollars: "In Rawhide I did get awfully tired of playing the conventional white hat. The hero who kisses old ladies and dogs and was kind to everybody. I decided it was time to be an anti-hero." Clint Eastwood was instrumental in creating the Man with No Name character's distinctive visual style and although a non-smoker, Leone insisted he smoke cigars as an essential ingredient of the "mask" he was attempting to create with the loner character.

Some interior shots for A Fistful of Dollars were done at the Cinecittà studio on the outskirts of Rome, before production moved to a small village in Andalusia, Spain. The film became a benchmark in the development of spaghetti westerns, with Leone depicting a more lawless and desolate world than in traditional westerns; meanwhile challenging stereotypical American notions of a western hero by replacing him with a morally ambiguous antihero. The film's success meant Eastwood became a major star in Italy and he was re-hired by Leone to star in For a Few Dollars More (1965), the second film of the trilogy. Through the efforts of screenwriter Luciano Vincenzoni, the rights to the film and the final film of the trilogy (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) were sold to United Artists for roughly $900,000.

In 1970 Clint Eastwood starred in the western Two Mules for Sister Sara with Shirley MacLaine and directed by Don Siegel. The film follows an American mercenary who gets mixed up with a whore disguised as a nun and ends up helping a group of Juarista rebels during the reign of Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico. Clint Eastwood once again played a mysterious stranger—unshaven, wearing a serape-like vest, and smoking a cigar. Although the film received moderate reviews the film is listed in The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made. Later the same year Eastwood starred as one of a group of Americans who steal a fortune in gold from the Nazis in the World War II filmKelly's Heroes with Donald Sutherland and Telly Savalas. Kelly's Heroes was the last film in which Clint Eastwood appeared that was not produced by his own Malpaso Productions. Filming commenced in July 1969 on location in Yugoslaviaand in London. The film received mostly a positive reception and its anti-war sentiments were recognized. In the winter of 1969–70, Eastwood and Siegel began planning his next film, The Beguiled, 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 and is considered one of Eastwood's finest works by the French. However, it grossed less than $1 million.

Clint Eastwood's career reached a turning point in 1971. Before Irving Leonard died he and Eastwood had discussed the idea of Malpaso producing Play Misty for Me, a film that was to give Eastwood the artistic control he desired and his debut as a director. The script was about a jazz disc jockey named Dave (Eastwood) who has a casual affair with Evelyn (Jessica Walter), a listener who had been calling the radio station repeatedly at night asking him to play her favorite song—Erroll Garner's "Misty". When Dave ends their relationship the fan becomes violent and murderous. Filming commenced in Monterey in September 1970 and included footage of that year's Monterey Jazz Festival. The film was highly acclaimed with critics such as Jay Cocks in Time, Andrew Sarris in the Village Voice, and Archer Winsten in the New York Post all praising the film, as well as Eastwood's directorial skills and performance. Walter was nominated for a Golden Globe Best Actress Award (Drama) for her performance in the film.

The script for Dirty Harry (1971) was written by Harry Julian Fink and Rita M. Fink. It is a story about a hard-edged New York City (later changed to San Francisco) police inspector named Harry Callahan who is determined to stop a psychotic killer by any means. Dirty Harry is arguably Eastwood's most memorable character and has been credited with inventing the "loose-cannon cop genre", which is still imitated to this day. Author Eric Lichtenfeld argues that Eastwood's role as Dirty Harry established the "first true archetype" of the action film genre. His lines (quoted at left) have been cited as among the most memorable in cinematic history and are regarded by firearms historians, such as Garry James and Richard Venola, as the force which catapulted the ownership of .44 Magnum pistols to unprecedented heights in the United States; specifically the Smith & Wesson Model 29 carried by Harry Callahan. Dirty Harry proved a phenomenal success after its release in December 1971, earning some $22 million (US$119 million in 2011 dollars) in the United States and Canada alone. It was Siegel's highest-grossing film and the start of a series of films featuring the character of Harry Callahan. Although a number of critics praised his performance as Dirty Harry, such as Jay Cocks of Time magazine who described him as "giving his best performance so far, tense, tough, full of implicit identification with his character", the film was widely criticized and accused of fascism.

Following Sean Connery's announcement that he would not play James Bond again Eastwood was offered the role but turned it down because he believed the character should be played by an English actor. He next starred in the loner Western Joe Kidd (1972), based on a character inspired by Reies Lopez Tijerina who stormed a courthouse in Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico, in June 1967. Filming began in Old Tucson in November 1971 under director John Sturges, but Eastwood suffered symptoms of a bronchial infection and several panic attacks during filming. Joe Kidd received a mixed reception, with Roger Greenspun of The New York Times writing that the film was unremarkable, with foolish symbolism and sloppy editing, although he praised Eastwood's performance.

In 1973 Eastwood directed his first western, High Plains Drifter, in which he starred alongside Verna Bloom, Marianna Hill, Billy Curtis, Rawhide's Paul Brinegar and Geoffrey Lewis. The film had a moral and supernatural theme, later emulated in Pale Rider. The plot follows a mysterious stranger (Eastwood) who arrives in a brooding Western town where the people hire him to defend the town against three felons who are soon to be released. There remains confusion during the film as to whether the stranger is the brother of the deputy, whom the felons lynched and murdered, or his ghost. Holes in the plot were filled with black humor and allegory, influenced by Leone. The revisionist film received a mixed reception from critics, but was a major box office success. A number of critics thought Eastwood's directing was "as derivative as it was expressive", with Arthur Knight of the Saturday Review remarking that Eastwood had "absorbed the approaches of Siegel and Leone and fused them with his own paranoid vision of society". John Wayne, who had declined a role in the film, sent a letter of disapproval to Eastwood some weeks after the film's release saying that "the townspeople did not represent the true spirit of the American pioneer, the spirit that made America great".

Eastwood directed the 1980 comedy Bronco Billy as well as playing the lead role in alongside Locke, Scatman Crothers, and Sam Bottoms. His children, Kyle and Alison, also had small roles as orphans. Eastwood has cited Bronco Billy as being one of the most affable shoots of his career and biographer Richard Schickel has argued that the character of Bronco Billy is Eastwood's most self-referential work. The film was a commercial failure but was appreciated by critics. Janet Maslin of The New York Times believed the film was "the best and funniest Clint Eastwood movie in quite a while", praising Eastwood's directing and the way he intricately juxtaposes the old West and the new. Later in 1980 Eastwood starred in Any Which Way You Can, the sequel to Every Which Way but Loose. The film received a number of bad reviews from critics, although Maslin described it as "funnier and even better than its predecessor". The film became another box office success and was among the top five highest-grossing films of the year.

Clint Eastwood has a massive resume. This article would be far too long to cover everything he has done up to the current years. What Clint Eastwood has accomplished deserves recognition beyond what he has already been given in my opinion. This article covers accomplishments up to the 80’s and still has not covered everything if that tells you how much work he has done over the years.

Clinton "Clint" Eastwood, Jr. (born May 31, 1930) is an American film actor, director, producer, composer and politician. Following his breakthrough role on the TV series Rawhide (1959–65), Eastwood starred as the Man with No Name in Sergio Leone's Dollars Trilogy of spaghetti westerns (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) in the 1960s, and as San Francisco Police Department Inspector Harry Callahan in the Dirty Harry films (Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact, and The Dead Pool) during the 1970s and 1980s. These roles, along with several others in which he plays tough-talking no-nonsense police officers, have made him an enduring cultural icon of masculinity.

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Article by Kevin C Davison

“I write to entertain, and for a cause.”

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Comments (1)

Brilliant, comprehensive discussion of this great icon. The Dollars Trilogy and Dirty Harry are some of my favourite movies of all time.