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Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood: A Cultural Production

Volume: 8
Copyright Date: 1993
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Clint Eastwood
    Book Description:

    The first full-length study of Clint Eastwood (or any contemporary figure in film) that not only interprets and critiques his films but demonstrates their complex and problematic relationship to American culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8387-1
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xviii)

    Clint Eastwood stands over the supine and wounded body of a black man, pointing his trademark Magnum .44 at him and daring him to move for his gun. The camera gives a view from beneath Eastwood, almost from the point of view of the man now in his control. A viewer might register the characteristic sneer on Eastwood’s lips, the brow furrowed almost vertically, those small and undemonstrative eyes, the general hardness of this lined and weathered face, the roughness of the material of his jacket. This is an image that has in a sense escaped from the film from...

  5. Subaltern Spaghetti
    (pp. 1-18)

    Sergio Leone’s trilogy of so-called spaghetti westerns—A Fistful of Dollars(1964),For a Few Dollars More(1965), andThe Good, the Bad, and the Ugly(1966)—whatever their merits as movies, constitute an undoubtedly important and almost unique moment in the history of Hollywood cinema. Even though they were financed primarily by European capital, were shot in Italy’s Cinecitta studios and on location in Spain, and used a mostly Italian work force, they have had a significant impact on the shape, style, and potentials of American movies ever since. Their importance is partly a function of the fact that...

  6. Genre
    (pp. 19-26)

    The spaghetti westerns stretch to the limits what Steve Neale calls “generic verisimilitude” (1990, 47). That is, their relation to the texts that together are commonly understood to constitute the genre of westerns is a relation of resistance and in a way dissent: theyarewesterns, but unexpected ones, and to judge by their critical reception, which I have mentioned before, they are ones that are unwanted in some respects. And yet the fate of westerns in the years following the American success of the spaghettis is in many ways dependent upon the nature of these very movies. In the...

  7. Restitution
    (pp. 27-54)

    Christopher Frayling notes thatHang ’em Highin 1968 is “the first Western made in Hollywood to cash in on Eastwood’s ‘Dollars’ image—and cash in it did, to the tune of $17 million” (284); it is also the first movie made under the auspices of Eastwood’s own production company, Malpaso, which was started up that year. In many ways the film is a literal return to Hollywood for Eastwood. Although the image of the grim and ruthless Eastwood, playing Jedediah Cooper, continually evokes the spaghettis and alludes to them, by and large the movie takes very little from the...

  8. At the Smithsonian
    (pp. 55-58)

    There is a moment inBronco Billywhen the obnoxious upper-class heiress, who is unwillingly traveling with Bronco Billy’s band of contemporary “cowboys and Indians,” gets into an argument with Billy and is promptly removed from the truck cab and deposited at the roadside. What she has done to deserve this is to suggest that Billy is “nothing but an illiterate cowboy.” Having got rid of her, Billy warns that “no one talks like that about a cowboy.”

    It is apparently true, even after the effective demise of westerns as a continuing Hollywood project, that you cannot say things like...

  9. Homesteaders
    (pp. 59-68)

    By 1968, due to the huge popular success of the spaghetti westerns, Clint Eastwood had become a major star and box-office draw, and he has, of course, remained so to the present His films—certainly nearly all those in which he has performed and most of those which he has directed—are simply and phenomenally successful in industry terms As of January 1988 (up to and including the release ofHeartbreak Ridge),no fewer than twenty-eight of the pictures in which Eastwood has appeared were included onVariety’s list of alltime domestic hits According toVariety’s figures, those films made...

  10. Misogyny
    (pp. 69-84)

    As I suggested earlier, the most important member of the Malpaso “family business”—in its early days, certainly—was Don Siegel, the man who directed Eastwood in his second major American film,Coogan’s Bluff (1968), and in several other of his post-spaghetti movies, including his perhaps best-known film,Dirty Harry(1971). Of the eight movies with which Eastwood was associated in the years 1968-71, four were directed by Siegel:Coogan’s Bluff, Two Mules for Sister Sara(1970),The Beguiled(1971), andDirty Harry. A fifth Siegel-Eastwood collaboration appeared in 1979 withEscape from Alcatraz.WhileDirty Harryis, even two...

  11. Just Entertainment
    (pp. 85-100)

    The film industry’s need to construct the kind of fusion I have previously referred to—between cultural verisimilitudes and generic ones—is a situation often muddied by the theoretical and descriptive terms that tend to be used in relation to it, both in the discourses of the industry and in the discourses of critics, theorists, and workers in the tributary media. In terms of the discourses that, as it were, greet the film product’s release, I have tried already to suggest some of the difficulties of two of the most common ways of conceiving of the relation between the product...

  12. The Opposite of Fascism
    (pp. 101-108)

    Eastwood’s defense ofDirty Harryin the context of the critical controversy that the film provoked really makes matters worse rather than better. I do not mean by that to simply reject the political options that Eastwood takes here, but to point out one way in which his self-presentation is coincident with that of the industry in which he works; coincident, too, with the narrative structures of Hollywood. That is, he is apparently willing to espouse the politics represented in the fantasized narratives of American cinema and speak of them as if they were applicable to the politics of everyday...

  13. Pauline’s Knee, Harry’s War
    (pp. 109-120)

    Eastwood’s critical nemesis, the critic Pauline Kael, says that movies such asMagnum Forcehave replaced the old-style John Wayne hero with “a man who essentially stands for nothing but violence”(New Yorker,14 Jan 1974, 86) She goes on to point out how the Callahan character “lives and kills as affectlessly as a psychopathic personality” It is the numbing and distancing effect of such movies that she objects to, claiming that they routinize violence to the point of alienation, and that they give no encouragement to the audience to think about the social issues—which may well directly affect...

  14. Amongst Men
    (pp. 121-136)

    Scorpio’s first victim inDirty Harryis an attractive young woman whom he shoots while she is swimming. The movie’s opening sequence shows the killer’s gun barrel close up and his view of her in the sights of his high-velocity rifle, before a single bullet enters her neck and she sinks beneath the water. The scene is replayed inMagnum Forcewhen the assassins throw a bomb and fire machine gun bullets into a crowded private pool party. The camera picks on several of the victims, but particularly on another young woman, swimming topless, who receives a bullet between her...

  15. “Who Knows? Maybe It Was You”
    (pp. 137-142)

    Concluding his article aboutTightrope,Ron Burnett says that it “reveals the burden of male fantasy as simultaneously blind, unmoving, empty, yet, as it were, the geographic site where change must begin” (84). His point agrees with the one I have just been making insofar as he recognizes that the film profers itself as an investigation of heterosexual male fantasies, and yet at the same time can emerge with only the most superficial and generic—that is to say, “blind, unmoving, empty”—ways of closing the books on the investigation. While indeed the film may lay out the problematic of...

  16. Gay Subtext
    (pp. 143-150)

    My descriptions of the representations of male sexuality in Eastwood’s films, and my considerations of the meaning of such representations, have been predicated upon the notion that these representations and meanings derive from the power of what I have been calling the “amongst men.” The “amongst men” operates as a foundational logic that has as its telos the almost contradictory goal of establishing the centrality of heterosexual relations in the culture—an end-point that is, of course, emblematized perfectly inTightrope.Much of what gets represented in Eastwood’s films in regard to masculinity registers the way in which this telos...

  17. Eastwood Bound
    (pp. 151-172)

    There is a quite well known photo portrait of Clint Eastwood, made by Annie Leibowitz, which figures the star in what have become his trademark street clothes—green T-shirt, brown corded trousers, and running shoes. He is standing erect against the backdrop of what looks like the film set of a western. The rebellious, maverick, sometimes Promethean hero that Eastwood is so frequently and fully taken to represent is here heavily tied by ropes around his body and legs. His hands, also heavily bound, are held out in front of the body at about waist height. His expression is perhaps...

  18. Burlesque Body
    (pp. 173-180)

    The point that I have been wanting to make here is that action movie narratives, as those of Eastwood illustrate, tend to represent for the viewer a kind of masochistic trial of masculinity and its body—the kind of narrative that Nina Baym (1985) has described as “melodra mas of beset masculinity’ But this masochistic testing is perhaps most accuratelv seen as a kind of preening display attendant upon the narrative impulsion toward a different kind of state a state where the body has in fact disappeared, and the masculine insolence of objectification and display in the masochistic scenario has...

  19. Lethal Weapons
    (pp. 181-190)

    InPink CadillacTommy marks the inception of his alliance with Lou Ann by vainly reminding himself, “This is so wrong.” He continues regardless, and finds himself pulled into the narrative lines of force that I have described. This reminder to himself is interesting in that it indicates how for the male protagonist to enter such an alliance he must drop or at least loosen some kind of moral code. This in its turn entails a confrontation with or a turning away from the forces in the diegesis that define the cultural stakes of what it is supposed to mean...

  20. Drugs
    (pp. 191-194)

    In an article inEsquirein July 1985 (111), it was reported that Eastwood “owns an informal option” on a screenplay called “Sacrilege,” worked up by Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw. These two people had previously been responsible for the best-selling bookLife Extension: A Practical Scientific Approach,which despite its subtitle can only be described as a somewhat eccentric guide to some of the outer reaches of the world of physical and emotional self-help. Eastwood had figured in the book, under the pseudonym “Mr. Smith,” as a devotee of this health program, and Jeffrey Ryder, in his bookClint...

  21. Servicemen
    (pp. 195-206)

    Clint Eastwood is perhaps not best known for his war movies, but there are several in the Eastwood corpus, specifically two of his early movies, both directed by Brian Hutton and both set in World War II:Where Eagles Dare(1969) andKelly’s Heroes(1970). One can also think ofFirefoxas a war movie since it is a movie about military things, set in and released during what we call the cold war, and of course there isHeartbreak Ridge,which is more recent than any of these and of all Eastwood movies the one most overtly concerned with...

  22. Performance and Identification
    (pp. 207-224)

    TheEsquirefeature on Clint Eastwood (14 Mar. 1978) from which the first epigraph is taken is one of the many that have appeared over the years in the tributary media and magazines, celebrating Eastwood as man and as star. In this instance the journalist Jean Valleley follows Eastwood on his daily round at his home in Carmel, seeming to be especially intrigued by his exercise routine and watching him build his body for the hard work that he puts it through when making films. At that point in his life, Eastwood was apparently able to submit himself to two...

  23. The Meaning of Black
    (pp. 225-242)

    The first epigraph is taken from James Baldwin’sThe Devil Finds Work(1976, 69), which is a powerful attempt to convey the experience of an African-American man struggling to grasp simultaneously three aspects of his existence as a black in America: the cultural power of the Hollywood entertainment industry in relation to black experience, the structural and chronic pervasiveness of white racism in America, and the possibility of hope for black people. The second epigraph comes from an interview with Jack Green, the cinematographer who worked on Eastwood’s film about the jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker,Bird(Gentry, 7); Green is...

  24. Auteur-Father
    (pp. 243-262)

    There is the beginning of a shift in the shape of Eastwood’s public image that roughly coincides with the release ofPale Riderin 1985 andHeartbreak Ridgein 1986. The first of these two movies constitutes, as I have argued (see “Restitution”), the reconstruction of the western genre after the damage done to it by the first big movies of Eastwood’s career, and it is a film that resolves into what is almost the exact type of the western.Heartbreak,by the same token, is perfectly consonant with Hollywood’s general project of fusing cultural and cinematic verisimilitudes; despite the...

  25. Coda
    (pp. 263-268)

    Clint Eastwood’s newest movie, a western calledUnforgiven(1992), broke industry records for an August release when it opened: it took $15 million in its first weekend, and went on to pick up over $55 million on the domestic market in just a month.Entertainment Weeklyattributed the film’s initial success to “a strong trailer,” and, indeed,Unforgiven’s prepublicity and its reviews were encouraging. Even if many of the press reviews expressed minor criticisms about one or another aspect of the movie, most of them were unexpectedly laudatory. Westerns had been supposed dead; older actors like Eastwood’s co-stars Richard Harris,...

  26. Notes
    (pp. 269-282)
  27. Bibliography
    (pp. 283-288)
  28. Index
    (pp. 289-292)
  29. Back Matter
    (pp. 293-293)