Eastwood, Clinton, Jr. ("Clint")

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EASTWOOD, Clinton, Jr. ("Clint")

(b. 31 May 1930 in San Francisco, California), actor and director whose films reshaped the western genre.

Eastwood was the oldest of two children born to Clinton and Ruth Eastwood. During the Great Depression the family moved frequently as Eastwood's father struggled to find employment, eventually landing an executive position with the Container Corporation of America in Oakland, California. Following his graduation from Oakland Technical High School in 1948, Eastwood worked as a lumberjack and forest firefighter in Oregon. In 1950 he was drafted into the army, although he did not see combat in the Korean War, primarily serving as a swimming instructor at Fort Ord in California. After his discharge in 1953 he briefly studied business administration at Los Angeles City College before securing a contract with Universal Studios, which brought him $75 a week.

Appearing in bit parts for such undistinguished films as the Francis the Talking Mule series (1950–1956), Eastwood was ready to abandon his pursuit of a film career when he was offered the part of Rowdy Yates in the television series Rawhide, which aired on the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) from 1959 to 1966. Rawhide was a realistic television western focusing on a group of cowboys herding cattle from Texas to Sedalia, Missouri. The series was initially quite successful, and as Yates, the assistant trail boss, Eastwood was a television star. When ratings for Rawhide declined in 1965, the series lead, Eric Fleming, was fired by CBS, and the Eastwood character was elevated to the position of trail boss and first lead. This change, however, was unable to save Rawhide, which was canceled after the 1966 season.

Meanwhile, Eastwood planned for work on the big screen. During the summer of 1964, while taking a break from filming Rawhide, Eastwood traveled to Spain to make a low-budget film directed by the Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone. Although he acknowledged that he was initially attracted by the promise of a summer vacation in Spain, the actor also found promise in Leone's script, which transcended the mediocrity of most Italian "spaghetti westerns." Adapting his story from the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's film Yojimbo, about the exploits of a fourteenth-century samurai, Leone created an antihero who would strike a chord with many young people during the turbulent 1960s.

After persuading Leone to pare what Eastwood perceived as the lead's overblown dialogue, the filmmakers created the persona of the "Man with No Name": a rootless, disheveled, ill-shaven, cheroot-smoking (although Eastwood was a nonsmoker), enigmatic gunfighter. Short on dialogue and plot, A Fistful of Dollars (1964) featured Eastwood as a gunman who hires himself out to two rival gangs who are fighting over a large sum of money. By the time the gun smoke clears, the Man with No Name has killed off both gangs and departs with the money. Made for approximately $200,000, including Eastwood's salary of $15,000, A Fistful of Dollars was a box office hit in Europe, earning more than $7 million in its initial release.

This success gave birth to two sequels. In 1965 Eastwood agreed to return to Spain, reportedly for the sum of $50,000, and reprise his role in the even more violent For a Few Dollars More (1965), which proved to be more popular with European audiences than the original Leone-Eastwood collaboration. The final film in this trilogy was The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966), for which Eastwood received $250,000 plus a percentage of the profits. Costarring Lee Van Cleef (who had appeared as a villain in For a Few Dollars More) and Eli Wallach, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly was a more pretentious film, but it again featured the alienated Man with No Name hero and ample violence.

Release of the trilogy in the United States was delayed owing to legal questions regarding indebtedness to Yojimbo, but in February 1967 A Fistful of Dollars finally premiered. Audience reaction was positive, and United Artists released For a Few Dollars More later in the year, followed by The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in early 1968.

The films were panned by such film critics as Judith Crist, Bosley Crowther, and Pauline Kael, who bemoaned the gratuitous violence and moral ambiguity. However, the spaghetti westerns made Eastwood an international film star who was especially popular among a young audience that perceived the Man with No Name as an antiestablishment figure. Eastwood, a conservative Republican with libertarian leanings and a commitment to the environment, adorned many a college dorm room wall in a best-selling poster featuring the gun wielding, unshaven, and ponchoclad Man with No Name. Eastwood's youth appeal fit well with other cinematic antiheroes of the late 1960s, such as Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke (1967) and Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Amid political assassinations, urban and campus unrest, and the Vietnam War, Eastwood's spaghetti westerns reflected the moral ambiguity and growing violence of American life during the 1960s. Some also labeled the Eastwood westerns as misogynist, although as with Bonnie and Clyde and Dr. Strangelove (1964), the decision to deal openly with violence rather than sexuality might indicate that Americans were more comfortable with violence than sex. Nevertheless, the Man with No Name was certainly an alienated individual in an amoral and violent society where established authority offered no hope for salvation.

On the other hand, the Eastwood persona could appeal to an older audience, for he was modernizing one of Hollywood's most traditional and successful genres. He was a man of few words, like Gary Cooper, and appeared to play himself effortlessly on the screen, like John Wayne. In modernizing the western, however, Eastwood provided a sense of irony missing from the works of Cooper and Wayne.

Capitalizing on his fame and financial status, Eastwood in 1968 formed his own production company, Malpaso Productions, whose first film, Hang 'Em High (1968), was distributed by United Artists. Eastwood received $40,000 plus 25 percent of the profits for what proved to be a popular film. In Hang 'Em High, Eastwood plays Jed Cooper, who survives his own hanging and seeks revenge against the responsible parties. Again, the Eastwood character is the outsider who can find no solace within the system. In his next film, Coogan's Bluff (1968), however, Eastwood portrays an Arizona lawman who tracks a criminal to New York City. Eastwood is again the outsider, but the film, directed by Don Siegel, expresses misgivings regarding the moral decadence of countercultural types in the big city, foreshadowing the character of Dirty Harry, which Siegel and Eastwood would introduce in the 1970s.

By 1969 Eastwood was the world's top film box office draw, but he sought to expand his film image with roles in Where Eagles Dare (1969), a World War II action picture with Richard Burton; Paint Your Wagon (1969), a musical set on the American frontier; Kelly's Heroes (1970), a World War II farce; Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970), a western with Shirley MacLaine; and The Beguiled (1971), in which Eastwood portrays a wounded Union soldier victimized by residents of a southern girls school during the Civil War.

In 1971 Eastwood played the lead in and directed Play Misty for Me, in which a disc jockey is pursued by a psychopath. That same year, under the direction of Siegel, Eastwood introduced the character of the San Francisco police inspector Harry Callahan. Dirty Harry was a controversial film labeled as "fascist" by some critics. Frustrated by liberal judges who release a killer on a technicality, Callahan works outside the system to bring retribution. The popular Dirty Harry role was reprised five times by Eastwood in the 1970s and 1980s. Some observers felt that Callahan was the antithesis of the Man with No Name, but both characters were antiestablishment individuals who worked outside the system.

Eastwood's acting and directing career continued through the 1980s, 1990s, and into the twenty-first century. In 1992 his western Unforgiven, in which Eastwood also starred, earned the former Rawhide star Academy Awards for best picture and best director. His film career was honored with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award (1995) and the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award (1996). Eastwood also served as mayor of Carmel, California, from 1986 to 1988.

On 19 December 1953 Eastwood married Maggie Johnson, and the marriage produced two children before the couple divorced in 1980. He also fathered a daughter with the dancer and actress Roxanne Tunis and another with the actress Frances Fisher, and he had two children with Jacelyn Reeves, a flight attendant. He had a lengthy relationship between 1975 and 1989 with the actress Sandra Locke, who costarred with Eastwood in such films as The Gauntlet (1977). On 31 March 1996 he married the television news anchor Dina Ruiz; they had a child that same year. Ever the outsider, Eastwood eschews the glamour of the Hollywood lifestyle, pursuing a passion for jazz and continuing to examine the human condition through his films.

For biographical information, see Douglas Thompson, Clint Eastwood: Riding High (1992), and Richard Schickel, Clint Eastwood: A Biography (1997). Eastwood's career and image in the 1960s are explored in David Downing with Gary Herman, Clint Eastwood, All-American Anti-Hero: A Critical Appraisal of the World's Top Box Office Star and His Films (1977), and Iain Johnstone, The Man with No Name: Clint Eastwood (1981).

Ron Briley