Before Martin Riggs joined Roger Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon; before John McClane did all he could in his power to save his family in Die Hard and before Marty McFly flew back to 1885 (technically, he was traveling from the future) in Back To The Future, there was one man who did it all by himself in Hollywood.
His name is Clint Eastwood and he will be turning 89 on May 31. So, if you are feeling lucky, go ahead and make your day by reading about the many shades of the man who would go onto dethrone John Wayne as the greatest action star, try his hand at comedy with an Orangutan and grow old gracefully, without losing the violent streak that made some of his films iconic.
Man With No Name
Characters: Joe, Manco, Blondie
Film(s): A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For A Few Dollars More (1965), The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly (1966)
Director(s): Sergio Leone
Genre: Spaghetti Western
He came, he drew and he won ‘em all. Clint Eastwood wasn’t that big of a star when he chose to act in the first of these films but after the third one, every director wanted to work with him back in the States. The team of Ennio Morricone-Sergio Leone-Clint Eastwood not only gave a twist to Westerns but also delivered classics that are still popular today. These three films, where Clint Eastwood came from nowhere and dominated the scene is what helped his career.
Character: Harry Callahan
Film(s): Dirty Harry (1971), Magnum Force (1973), The Enforcer (1976), Sudden Impact (1983), The Dead Pool (1988)
Director(s): Don Siegel, Ted Post, James Fargo, Clint Eastwood, Buddy Van Horn
Although Steve McQueen had done Bullitt and Clint Eastwood had starred in Coogan’s Bluff, it was Dirty Harry (1971) that changed the way cop films were made in Hollywood. He wasn’t the perfect man for the job, but Inspector Harry Callahan was always ready to get the job done, even if it meant getting his hands dirty. He tracked a Zodiac-kind of villain in the first film; dealt with vigilante cops in Magnum Force and was paired with a female partner in the third whereas he was at his best in Sudden Impact where he helped a rape victim take revenge from those who had violated her. The last one wasn’t the best but it brought Liam Neeson and Jim Carrey to Hollywood, and we can’t be more thankful to Clint Eastwood for that.
Characters: The Stranger, Josie Wales, Preacher, William ‘Will’ Munny
Film(s): High Plains Drifter (1973), The Outlaw Josie Wales (1975), Pale Rider (1985), Unforgiven (1992)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Call him The Stranger, the Preacher or anything, this Gunslinger always helped those in need even if it meant getting hurt in the process. In High Plains Drifter, he went into an isolated mining town to avenge the death of his friend; in Pale Rider he sort of returned from the dead to kill the very people who put six bullets in him. Josie Wales decided to take the law in his own hands after his wife and child were mercilessly killed while in Unforgiven, he goes for one last battle in exchange for a reward, and ends up doing the right thing, but also paid a much higher cost.
Character: Philo Beddoe
Film(s): Every Which Way But Loose (1978), Any Way Which You Can (1980)
Director(s): James Fargo, Buddy Van Horn
Clint Eastwood was being considered for the role of Superman back in the late 1970s when he decided to try his hand at comedy and Every Way Which But Loose came second to Richard Donner’s Superman – The Movie and is still considered one of Eastwood’s finest. He paired up with his favorite co-star Sandra Locke and an Orangutan to make people laugh, especially those who, at the time, didn’t believe he would be able to pull off a comedy film. The film was so successful that in two years’ time, a sequel was made where the same cast reunited to give a dose of laughter to the satisfied audience.
The Angry Old Man
Characters: Frank Horrigan, Luther Whitney, Steve Everett, Frank Corvin, Tery McCaleb, Frankie Dunn, Walt Kowalski
Film(s): In the Line of Fire (1993), Absolute Power (1997), True Crime (1999), Space Cowboys (2000), Blood Work (2002), Million Dollar Baby (2004), Gran Torino (2008)
Director(s): Wolfgang Peterson, Clint Eastwood
In Hollywood, the more you age, the less heroic you become and that happened to most of Eastwood’s predecessors including William Holden and Co. However, in the case of Clint Eastwood (and to some extent John Wayne), this rule never applied as he became more active with the passage of time.
In Wolfgang Peterson’s In The Line of Fire, he played the dream role of a Secret Service agent who failed to take the bullet for President Kennedy and was being stalked by another ‘Wannabe President Assassin’; in Absolute Power, he took on the US President after he witnessed him committing a murder; in True Crime, he played a journalist who saved an innocent man from being electrocuted and in Space Cowboys, he finally got a chance to travel into space (with his friends) after being replaced by a chimpanzee in his youth. In Blood Work, he solves the murder of the very person whose heart beats inside his body. The best role of his ‘Angry Old Man’ genre came in Million Dollar Baby where he played a boxing trainer who makes a champion out of ‘a nobody’ only to lose her because of an injury. And then there was the old man who hated the Hmong people but loved his Gran Torino, but gave up his life to save the Hmong family that, in the end, meant more to him than the car.
Omair Alavi is a freelance broadcast journalist who can be contacted at [email protected]