DIRTY HARRY: THE MAN WITH NO NAME

by

Naveen Gupta

Cool Customer - Tough Guy

                             

Clinton Eastwood Jr. was born in San Francisco, California on May 30, 1930 to a steelworker father and a  factory worker mother and was raised in a "middle class Protestant home". The family moved often as his father worked at a variety of jobs along the West Coast. Eastwood as a  teen graduated from Oakland Technical High School in 1949.He then worked as a gas station attendant, as a firefighter, and played ragtime piano at a bar in Oakland, before being drafted into the Army in 1950 during the Korean War, and was aboard a military flight that crashed into the Pacific Ocean north of San Francisco. He escaped serious injury, but had to remain behind to testify at a hearing investigating the cause of the crash. This kept him from being shipped to Korea with the rest of his unit.

Eastwood first entered the film industry in the mid-1950s, and began work as an actor with brief appearances in B-films.. His break as an actor came in 1958 when he took on the role of Rowdy Yates in the TV series’ Rawhide’. As Rowdy Yates, he became a household name across the United States for next seven years. While appearing in the series Eastwood  was contacted by Italian director Sergio Leone.Eastwood was called upon to audition for Leone's picture ‘A Fistful of Dollars ‘(1964), but Eastwood was not the first actor who was approached to play the main character. Originally, the director Sergio Leone intended James Coburn to play the role of the "Man With No Name". However, the production company could not afford Coburn. Leone offered Charles Bronson the part who declined the role because  the script was too bad.

The film was shot in Spain, and was a tribute to Akira Kurosawa's ‘Yojimbo’ (1961), the film would become a benchmark in the Spaghetti Western genre that evolved from the mid 1960s. Eastwood was instrumental in creating the Man With No Name’, character's distinctive visual style. The black jeans ,the hat and the trademark black cigars became the signature of the outlaw. Leone commented on his protégée, "I like Clint Eastwood because he has only two facial expressions: one with the hat, and one without it".

Eastwood in ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly ‘(1966).

 In ‘For a few dollars more’(1965) and the cult classic ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’(1966) Leone depicted a wilder, more lawless and desolate world than traditional westerns. All three films were hits, Eastwood became a star and in turn redefined the traditional image of the American cowboy, his character being a gunslinger and bounty hunter rather than a traditional hero. Stardom brought 68'starrer ‘Where Eagles Dare,’ in the same year, he starred in Don Siegel's  Coogan's Bluff,’ in which he played a lonely deputy sheriff who comes to New York to enforce the law in his own way. The controversial film launched a more than ten-year collaboration between Eastwood and Siegel, and the dye for the macho cop hero that Eastwood would play in the Dirty Harry films was cast.

 In 1971 Eastwood launched his own production company, Malpaso,  and directed and starred in the thriller, ‘Play Misty for Me.’ But it was his portrayal as Harry Callahan in ‘Dirty Harry’, that propelled Siegel and Eastwood in to Hollywood lore. Dirty Harry is arguably Eastwood's most memorable character, with the immortal tag-line, ”Come on punk! Make my day!” pointing  a .44 magnum in the face of a rapist. The film has been credited with inventing the vigilante cop genre, that is imitated to this day. Eastwood's tough, no-nonsense cop touched a cultural nerve with many who were fed up with crime in the streets. Dirty Harry led to four sequels: ‘Magnum Force' (1973), The Enforcer (1976),’ Sudden Impact’ (1983), and The Dead Pool’ (1988).

Eastwood as Inspector "Dirty" Harry Callahan in’ Dirty Harry’ (1971).

1970s saw  Eastwood direct High Plains Drifter (1973), ‘Breezy’(1973) and ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ (1976). His distinctive acting style was showcased in ‘Thunderbolt and Lightfoot’(1974),’ The Eiger Sanction,’(1975) , ’ The Gauntlet,’(1977)  offbeat comedy ‘Every Which Way But Loose,’(1978)  and the memorable prison movie ‘Escape from Alcatraz,’(1979) which was also his last collaboration with Don Siegel.

1980s found Eastwood’s films lacking the box office punch his films had achieved in previous decades. Eastwood alternated between commercial films to fund his personal projects, such as directing ‘Bird’ (1988), a biopic of  jazz legend Charlie "Bird" Parker (essayed by Forrest Whittaker) and snagged his first nomination for the Golden Palm in the Cannes Film Festival

Eastwood revisited the western genre, an ace up his sleeve one final time in the self-directed 1992 film, ‘Unforgiven,’ as a washed out gunfighter with Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, and Richard Harris, it was a film that was ambiguous in morals and in unromantic light befitting the genre.  However it was a great success both in terms of box office and critical acclaim, it was nominated for nine Oscars, it won four, including Best Picture and Best Director for Eastwood.

In the Line of Fire’ (1993) directed by Wolfgang Petersen and ‘ The Bridges of Madison County ‘(1995) established Eastwood’s status as a Superstar for all generations. In 2003 he directed the sleeper hit ‘Mystic River’ for which he garnered a Best Director nomination. His biggest success at Oscars was very next year,  Million Dollar Baby’, ( 2004) won 4 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and Eastwood was nominated for Best Actor (the award went to Jamie Foxx). In 2006, he directed, ‘Flags of Our Fathers,’ and ‘Letters from Iwo Jima’. Both films were highly praised by critics and garnered several Oscar Nominations, including Best Director and Picture.

But it is Eastwood  redefining himself as a director and receiving  greater critical acclaim for his directing than he ever did for his acting, that has foxed his detractors and general public alike. He is a master of bleak, poetic, highly visual dramas that nobody ever expected from a tall, taciturn mannered and leathery looking leading man of B-films!

Eastwood has had a total of ten nominations for the Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture, winning in both categories for ‘Unforgiven’ and ‘Million Dollar Baby.’ Besides Warren Beatty he is the only artist to have been nominated twice for Best Actor and Best Director for the same film (Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby) He is one of only three living directors (along with Miloš Forman and Francis Ford Coppola) to have directed two Best Picture winners. At age 74, he was the oldest director to achieve this distinction. He directed two actors, Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, in Academy Award winning roles as Best Supporting Actor in consecutive years.He also directed Sean Penn in his Academy Award winning role as Best Actor in ‘Mystic River,’ as well as Hilary Swank in her second win for Best Actress in ‘Million Dollar Baby’ and Gene Hackman in ‘Unforgiven.’ And at 78, Dirty Harry is still trigger happy!

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