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The Cinema of Clint Eastwood

The Cinema of Clint Eastwood: Chronicles of America

David Sterritt
Series: Directors' Cuts
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    The Cinema of Clint Eastwood
    Book Description:

    He became a movie star playing The Man With No Name, and today his name is known around the world. Measured by longevity, productivity, and profits, Clint Eastwood is the most successful actor-director-producer in American film history. This book examines the major elements of his career, focusing primarily on his work as a director but also exploring the evolution of his acting style, his long association with screen violence, his interest in jazz, and the political views -- sometimes hotly controversial -- reflected in his films and public statements. Especially fascinating is the pivotal question that divides critics and moviegoers to this day: is Eastwood a capable director with a photogenic face, a modest acting talent, and a flair for marketing his image? Or is he a true cinematic auteur with a distinctive vision of America's history, traditions, and values? From A Fistful of Dollars and Dirty Harry to Million Dollar Baby and beyond, The Cinema of Clint Eastwood takes a close-up look at one of the screen's most influential and charismatic stars.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-85071-1
    Subjects: History, Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Play Mystic For Me
    (pp. 1-6)

    He became a movie star playing The Man With No Name, and today his name is known around the world. You don’t have to say Clint Eastwood – just Clint will do, since he belongs to the small handful of celebrities with first-name recognition almost everywhere American movies are seen.

    Eastwood has been excoriated by some critics, including the influential Pauline Kael, who famously called him ‘a tall, cold cod’.¹ He has been lavishly praised by others, such as Jonathan Rosenbaum, who calls him ‘one of the finest directors alive’, and Richard Schickel, one of his biographers, who deems him a...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Pros and Cons: The Case For/Against Clint
    (pp. 7-23)

    A theme of this book is Clint Eastwood’s perennial attraction to a pair of meta-genres that can be called the Myth-movie, which tells stories centered on individual lives yet rooted in the collective American unconscious, and the History-picture, which revises and reworks grand narratives of America’s distant and recent past. As noted in the introduction, the steadiness of Eastwood’s pictures in this regard can be cited as evidence of the seriousness and cohesion that signal the presence of an auteur, or – just as logically, for those who dislike his films on aesthetic or thematic grounds – as signs of a narrowness...

  6. CHAPTER TWO A Fistful of Movies: Rowdy Yates and the Man With No Name
    (pp. 24-55)

    Clinton Eastwood Jr. was born on 31 May 1930 in San Francisco, California, a city and state that play ongoing roles in his life and work.¹ His mother, Ruth Runner Eastwood, was a lover of music and dance who had once hoped to become a ballerina. His father, Clinton Eastwood, was a University of California dropout who had the ill fortune to be working as a bond salesman when the stock market crashed in 1929, putting quite a damper on that particular line of work. Clint’s childhood was punctuated with moves the family made to facilitate the various jobs his...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Rising Star: Clintus, Siegelini, and Company
    (pp. 56-86)

    All told, 1968 was the most productive year Eastwood had enjoyed so far in his career. After wrappingHang ’Em Highhe went straight to a pair of very different starring roles, and the first one brought about a momentous event – his initial meeting with Don Siegel, who became his filmmaking mentor as well as one of his most effective directors. Universal, now keen to work with the actor it had broken into the business and then unceremoniously spurned just a few years before, offered him the lead inCoogan’s Bluff(1968), a modern-day western about one Walt Coogan, a...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Any Which Way He Can: From Misty and Harry to High Plains Drifter and The Outlaw Josey Wales
    (pp. 87-139)

    Eastwood’s middle period commenced in the key year of 1971, when he showed new sides of his acting talent inThe Beguiled, made his feature-directing debut withPlay Misty for Meand scored a pop-cultural bullseye inDirty Harry. Firmly established as a star, a celebrity and a quasi-studio chief, Clint was now positioned to follow up on an ambition he had nurtured since his earlyRawhidedays – that of directing his own movies. He both directed and starred inPlay Misty for Me, portraying a California disc jockey who is emotionally and then physically menaced by an unstable woman...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Portrait of the Artist as a Major Player: From Pale Rider to Bird
    (pp. 140-160)

    A gunfighter known only as the Preacher rides into a California mining camp that is besieged (like the endangered homestead in George Stevens’s classicShane) by an avaricious landowner, who has enlisted a corrupt sheriff in his campaign to seize the miners’ claims by force. Intervening on behalf of the miners, the Preacher proves superhumanly proficient at the protective mission he has undertaken, and the likelihood that he is superhuman soars when the camera reveals scars on his body representing manifestly deadly wounds. His departure at the end is no less enigmatic than was his arrival at the beginning.


  10. CHAPTER SIX Invictus: From John Huston to Jersey Boys
    (pp. 161-218)

    In his next picture, Eastwood set himself a task similar to the one he set for Forest Whitaker inBird– to impersonate a famous figure with verisimilitude and conviction while charging the character with enough psychological depth to give a plausible sense of what made the person tick. Although the protagonist ofWhite Hunter Black Heartis named John Wilson, his personality and exploits are unabashedly based on those of John Huston, a multiple-threat filmmaker not unlike Eastwood himself. Huston had directed a prodigious number of movies, fromThe Maltese Falconin 1941 toThe Deadin 1987, the year...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Eastwood’s Politics: ‘Leave everyone alone’
    (pp. 219-242)

    What are Clint Eastwood’s politics? Some observers, such as liberalNew York Timescolumnist Frank Rich, affirm his ‘free thinker’ self-image by saying his ideas ‘defy neat categorisation’. Clint has supported both Republicans and Democrats over the years; one of the latter was Gray Davis, the California governor who was ousted by a recall election and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, in 2003. As to his own beliefs, he told Rich in 2005 that he ‘professes the libertarian creed of “less government” and “was never a big enthusiast for going to Iraq but never spoke against it once the...

  12. EPILOGUE: ‘If somebody’s dumb enough to ask me…’
    (pp. 243-245)

    In an unforeseen development of 2012, Clint Eastwood made a national media appearance that may well stand as the most memorable political act of his career. Invited to speak his mind at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, the superstar celebrity opted for an impromptu performance in which he addressed an empty chair, making believe that President Obama was in it. He got the idea from ‘I Am … I Said’, a 1971 hit by pop singer Neil Diamond, which he heard on his hotel-room radio before giving his speech. Eastwood later told a journalist that his actions at...

    (pp. 246-257)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 258-268)