WolfmanOz at the Movies #94


The Man from Malpaso (Part 1)

Clint Eastwood turns 94 on May 31st and he’s still making films as he’s currently directed the film Juror No.2. His career has spanned over 65 years whilst being movie superstar for close on 60 years whether it be acting in over 60 films, directing over 30 films, producing and composing. Such is his mark on cinema I couldn’t just restrict myself to one post so I’ll be covering his career both this week and next.

Eastwood got his major break on TV in the eight season western cowboy series Rawhide (1959 – 1965). Although he appeared in several earlier films, mostly uncredited, his breakout film role was as The Man With No Name in the Sergio Leone directed Dollars TrilogyA Fistful Of Dollars (1964), For A Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966) which weren’t released in the United States until 1967/68. Today they still stand as some of the best westerns ever made and the The Man With No Name is one of cinema’s most iconic characters.

https://youtu.be/0Z_QluLgx2w

Following his success with these three spaghetti westerns, Eastwood formed his own production company Malpaso Productions which has produced all but four of his American films. The company’s first film was the revisionist western Hang ‘Em High (1968) in which Eastwood’s character survives a lynching and becomes a Deputy U.S. Marshal. the film was a major success cementing Eastwood as one of Hollywood’s newest stars.

He had a monster hit co-starring with Richard Burton in the classic WWII adventure film Where Eagles Dare (1968) and he showed he could sing in the overblown musical Paint Your Wagon (1969) but Eastwood had an itch for directing and the opportunity soon presented it to him with Eastwood helming Play Misty For Me (1971), a coolly calculating psychological thriller that was a success both critically and commercially.

From the very early days of his career, Eastwood was frustrated by directors’ insistence that scenes be re-shot multiple times and perfected, and when he began directing he made a conscious attempt to avoid any aspects of directing he had been indifferent to as an actor. As a result, Eastwood became renowned for his efficient film directing and ability to reduce filming time and control budgets. He often avoided actors’ rehearsing and prefered to complete most scenes in one take.

He also assembled a stock company of character actors which appeared in many of his films during the 1970s including John Quade, Bill McKinney, Geoffrey Lewis, Dan Vadis, William O’Connell, Anthony James and Roy Jensen.

Eastwood has gone on to direct over 30 films, including westerns, action films, musicals and dramas, winning 2 Academy Awards for Best Director. He is one of the few top Hollywood actors to have also become a critically and commercially successful director. He is IMO cinema’s greatest actor/director.

In 1971 Eastwood played another of his iconic characters – Inspector Harry Callahan in the film Dirty Harry in would play him in another four times in Magnum Force (1973), The Enforcer (1976), Sudden Impact including directing (1983) and finally The Dead Pool (1988). Callahan became the template for a new kind of film cop: an anti-hero who does not hesitate to cross professional boundaries in pursuit of his own vision of justice, especially when the law is poorly served by an inept, incompetent bureaucracy.

https://youtu.be/sOV15jUAuSQ

Eastwood returned to directing himself in 1973 with the offbeat and supernatural western High Plains Drifter but he surpassed this with one of the best westerns of the 1970s with The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976).

Here he played a Missouri farmer whose family is murdered by Union militia during the Civil War. Driven to revenge, he joins a Confederate guerrilla band and makes a name for himself as a feared gunfighter. After the war, all the fighters in Wales’ group except for him surrender to Union soldiers, but the Confederates end up being massacred. Wales becomes an outlaw and is pursued by bounty hunters and Union soldiers as he tries to make a new life for himself. 

This is another classic Eastwood role, relating it with much of America’s ancestral past and the destiny of the nation after the American Civil War.

The 1970s also saw Eastwood starring in films Thunderbolt And Lightfoot (1974), The Eiger Sanction (1976), The Gauntlet (1977) and the superb Don Siegel directed prison drama Escape From Alcatraz (1979) where Eastwood played Frank Morris who led the 1962 escape attempt from Alcatraz.

In 1978 Eastwood had a change of pace in appearing in the offbeat comedies Every Which Way But Loose and its’ sequel Any Which Way You Can (1980) in which he played a bare knuckle fighter with a pet orangutan. They were both huge hits and even today remain enjoyably entertaining.

Entering in the 1980s Eastwood’s films had a bit of a lull in quality but he returned to top form as both director and actor in the superlative western Pale Rider (1985). 

Playing Preacher he quietly appears to aid independent gold prospectors against a mining baron. The movie’s title is taken from the Book of Revelation, chapter 6, verse 8: “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.” The reading of the biblical passage describing this character is neatly choreographed to correspond with the sudden appearance of Preacher.

https://youtu.be/1s9kzbLF-4E

For me it’s the best western of the 1980s.

Well for next week I’ll cover his career from the faltering late 1980s, to a resurgence in the 1990s including universal critical claim and Academy Awards to an unparalleled run of superlative films in the 2000s.

Enjoy.


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duncanm
duncanm
February 15, 2024 10:25 am

Great topic – I’ve always loved Eastwood’s films. He certainly aged well, his exploration of the Western theme throughout his career has created a unique lineage, much like the dollars trilogy.

I look forward to part two.

His only failing, imho, was giving his latest squeeze too many favours.

Sondra Locke comes to mind.

Fair Shake
Fair Shake
February 15, 2024 12:14 pm

Well done WOz. Eastwood stands above the pack.

The Man with No Name movies are just great to watch.

I absolutely love the Any which way movies. Who didn’t want an Orangutan as a best friend in the 80s? Revisited these back during Melbourne lock-down 1 thru 6. The actors looked like they really enjoying being on set. ..except Sandra Locke, OMG her singing is awful. Scrap the Caddie Clyde!

Favourite is Where Eagles Dare. The never-emptying machine gun from the rear of the bus. Take that Nazis! LOL.

But how could CE go from riden, shooten, drinken and fighten to the Bridges of Madison County? Oh man. What was he thinking?

Drax
Drax
February 15, 2024 12:16 pm

The Good the Bad and the Ugly, is not only a great western but it has arguably the best western music score which contributed to its success. Written by Enio Mariconi it is still played by orchestras around the world. The best, IMHO, is by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra which can be seen on YouTube. A post on Mariconi and his contribution to film music would be interesting.

Diogenes
Diogenes
February 15, 2024 12:47 pm

Thanks Wolfman,
Mrs D and I did a Clint Eastwood movie a day over the last school holidays. Still blown away by the volume and quality of his work. WRT Paint your Wagon, I’m with Homer Simpson https://youtu.be/FpPf_39uemA?feature=shared

duncanm
duncanm
February 15, 2024 1:25 pm

arguably the best western music score

arguably… but for single songs, Jill’s theme, and her entry in Once Upon a Time in the West can’t be beat

ianl
ianl
February 15, 2024 1:32 pm

I always regarded his spaghetti westerns as gently mocking of the western genre, with the films increasing in confidence as they found audience favour. Eastwood found he could modestly mock his audience’s taste for violent black humour and be rewarded at the box office; The Good, Bad and Ugly is a fine example of this. He became so practiced at it that Josey Wales almost perfected this sub-genre. ( Decades later, Quentin Tarantino borrowed a sequence from Josey Wales for Django Unchained).

He then showed his marketing maturity in this field with Unforgiven, extracting wonderful performances from Gene Hackman and especially Richard Harris. Unforgiven almost completely abandoned the mockery and portrayed the western “glory” as quite sordid, with the Harris character displaying both as exception. Altogether, a very astute film.

I hadn’t fully realised just how many films Eastwood had done or directed until I read the compiled list here. Quite prolific, with a fair number of them containing some real quality.

Fair Shake
Fair Shake
February 15, 2024 1:40 pm

Off topic for a moment. Once Upon a Time in the West. I saw that for the first time last week. I’ve never been a fan of the Fonda clan but boy when old Henry comes on scene as a baddie, he steals the show. Can really see some of Tarantino’s homage at play in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Christine
Christine
February 15, 2024 1:55 pm

Never tire of Clint Eastwood.
In the so-familiar scene where he stood focused, tall and handsome, dealing with the punk, I noticed for the first time his tie and white shirt-collar (looking neater than some prime ministers).
Thank you.

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
February 15, 2024 2:00 pm

A man’s got to know his limitations!

Roger
Roger
February 15, 2024 2:11 pm

Or, as he’s known in our household, Squint Eastwood.

Hard to think of another contemporary actor who’s added greater value to the films he’s been in, which is something given his modest acting range. As a director he’s really in his element.

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
February 15, 2024 2:44 pm

If he’d chosen a chimpanzee instead of an orangutan he could’ve been President!

The empty chair speech was one of the most head exploding political speeches ever. Completely ad lib, as far as I’ve heard. The chair was a perfect prop. And yes Clint was elected to high office once.

Bruce in WA
February 15, 2024 4:15 pm

Speaking of Eastwood’s unique directorial style, here’s Tom Hanks’ take on it.

(Having Gemma Atherton on the couch too doesn’t hurt one little bit.)

Pogria
Pogria
February 15, 2024 4:28 pm

Great choice Wolfman.
Cry Macho was dreadful though. I couldn’t believe Eastwood could make a film that bad.
Thank God for all the great stuff.

Diogenes, I watched the Simpsons clip you linked to, I remember that, really funny.
There was an interesting link in the sidebar of what has become of the actors from Pale Rider.
Pretty interesting.

Entropy
Entropy
February 15, 2024 4:39 pm

Pale Rider is definitely a definitive western.
Oppressed powerless people already struggling with the elements are under threat from the big end of town, who are quite clearly bad guys.
A stranger with seemingly no past turns up to do useful but menial tasks, and is admired by an adolescent. The story is essentially seen through the adolescent’s eyes.
The situation with the bid end of town gets bad. Really bad. Someone important the adolescent might get hurt.
The stranger, whose past is now revealed to a limited extent – but still remains a mystery – turns out to be a gunslinger and sorts out the baddies.
Then rides off into the sunset, perhaps wounded.

Every western copies Shane in parts, if not in every detail. Pale Rider dials the homage up to 11. And does it well.

Bear Necessities
Bear Necessities
February 15, 2024 6:23 pm

A powerful scene in Pale Rider is when Marshall Stockburn, who is about to get killed, recognises who the Pale Rider is and says ‘You!’ before being shot dead. It adds to the mystery of the character when you leave the theatre. Top stuff.

johanna
johanna
February 16, 2024 6:14 am

One of the things I like about Eastwood is his humility (in private) compared to the blowhards currently infesting movie screens.

He started as a secondary actor in a low budget TV show (Rowdy Yates in Rawhide) and nobody who watched it could have imagined that he would become a superstar actor/director.

I read an interview with him where he said that he always tried to learn everything he could about the business, starting in those days. Not for him was the imperious ‘artiste’ who just focused on making himself look good. He watched and asked questions and learned as much as he could about acting, lighting, sets, scripts, directing, casting and so on.

We see the results later in his career, once he was able to make his own movies, all of which were profitable, some immensely so.

He used a lot of unknown but talented actors, eschewing the easy path of paying big names a fortune – apart from himself, of course. 🙂

I have no doubt that this approach filtered down right through his productions. He found good people who were not big names and didn’t cost a fortune to do the backend stuff. For them, the payoff was having a well known and successful film on their CV – a fair trade, IMHO.

Also, he avoided the ‘red carpet’ scene and the conspicuous consumption and scandals that became de rigeur for a lot of his then peers.

You can’t fake that for a lifetime. It was real, and boosted his credibility in the public mind in a way that no amount of money and publicity can deliver.

Louis Litt
Louis Litt
February 16, 2024 7:20 am

Unforgiven – the best Eva- to me that’s exactly how life was.
It showed life on the land, in the town, sort sightedness, big talk, the emotion of a girl cut up, revenge the concept of”goodwill” in a business, threats – just brilliant.
In the 80 Clint was transitioning to directors and the every which way movies were great low income life shows.
Living in that part of America looked great, the road trips, the fishing, the camping, the scenery, the lifting of an engine block in Clint’s arms.
As to crime and Clint’s ideas of law and order, comming for a”strict home” I was blown away in the cinema the audience reaction in Sudden Impact.
Everyone loved it. No it’s societies fault.
What I find interesting is males today are watching westerns. Turn away from this nonsense.
Clint’s films are about people – no ned for big budgets.

eb
eb
February 16, 2024 11:48 am

No mention of “Kelly’s Heroes”?

Alamak!
February 16, 2024 11:58 am

johanna
Feb 16, 2024 6:14 AM

Nice comments. In the end it seems like he is exactly the character he (mostly) portrays, which is rare.

My recent favourites for Clint are Mystic River (great cast) and The Mule

Pretty much nailed the cranky old bugger who doesn’t take shit from anyone market.

Fair Shake
Fair Shake
February 16, 2024 12:04 pm

Kelly’s Heroes! How could I have forgotten that one. Great cast. …

Kelly : No, because you’re gonna be up there, baby, and I’ll be right outside showing you which way to go.
Oddball : Yeah?
Kelly : Yeah.
Oddball : Crazy… I mean like, so many positive waves… maybe we can’t lose, you’re on!

I’ve always felt that is a plot line that could be re-visited.

Bespoke
Bespoke
February 16, 2024 10:52 pm

I think Gran Torino was his best.

  1. Facts! mUntyfa don’t care for your facts! Why would you believe your lyin’ eyes when lefturds can give you a…

  2. Wasn’t it cakes, rather than bread? Not that is a critical issue. Beyond doubt is that he was Great.

  3. Hairy and I have been revisiting the ’60’s too in all of this. I can recall the Kennedy Assassination very…

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