Clint Eastwood Biography

Clint Eastwood. Handsome but never an overt sex symbol. Rugged, yet no ruffian. Tough, certainly, but never conspicuously macho. His image transcends cultural barriers and generation gaps. He is as popular in Japan as he is in the USA-as much a hero to the young as to the not so young. From mundane bit-parts, to splendidly laconic leading roles, to a film director of distinction, to major character actor, to Hollywood doyen. Clint Eastwood's position in World Cinema is unique.

Clint Eastwood entered the film industry in 1955. A series of undistinguished walk-on appearances in sundry Universal potboilers-including Revenge of the Creature, Tarantula and Lady Godiva-proved sufficient collateral to secure the gangling young actor the plum role of Rowdy Yates in the TV series Rawhide, an ongoing chronicle of cattle drives along the old Chisholm Trail, which aired for a successful seven seasons. Eastwood's easy manner, lean good looks and obvious affinity with Western lore endeared him to viewers, who came to prefer the youngster to the program's nominal star Eric Fleming, who played the tough trail boss Gil Favor. The success of Rawhide was immeasurably aided by its infectious theme tune, a wonderfully evocative invention of veteran Hollywood composer Dimitri Tiomkin, a wily hand with tales of the old West-from High Noon and Gunfight at the OK Corral to Rio Bravo and The Alamo.

Nineteen-sixty-four heralded a precipitous moment in Cinema history - the coming together of film director Sergio Leone, actor Clint Eastwood, and composer Ennio Morricone. Their collaboration would irrevocably alter the face of film making. Certain cinematic concepts would never be the same again-the Western, the Hero, the Film Score, accepted standards of mayhem and morality-all would be trans-formed in the extraordinary stylistic melting pot which was A Fistful of Dollars.

The Hollywood Western had long been in decline, cliché had displaced originality, torpor had replaced vigor, ethical conflict superseded by bland moral certainties-dull familiarity reigned. Suddenly, surprisingly, Italian Cinema resuscitated the genre, producing a spate of violent and profane Westerns-the look, ambience and amorality of the Old West persuasively recreated. Paramount among this insolent new breed of horse-operas was A Fistful of Dollars. When Sergio Leone originally envisaged recasting the Japanese period movie Yojimbo in a Western mould he had hoped to hire James Coburn to play his mordant hero, but finding him too expensive, the irrepressible Italian director opted for someone who came replete with an authentic frontier image-the young actor currently playing Rowdy Yates in Rawhide-Clint Eastwood. Leone took a chance, Eastwood had never starred in a film, and had been absent from the big screen for six years, but the gamble paid dividends. Eastwood etched an indelible portrait as "the man with no name"-originating the Cinema's first authentic anti-hero-an unkempt leading character who was quick to violence, to whom vengeance was virtuous, a man with few scruples, bereft of conscience, inherently amoral-yet roguishly, irresistibly, attractive. The Screen Hero would never be the same again. The clean-cut, morally-upright, authoritarian leading man born of conservative middle-America, an outmoded legacy of the McCarthy era, was suddenly relegated to history. In future, the film hero would follow his own star, do his own thing, remain tight-lipped, never give an inch, never hazard a second chance, never allow a second thought before keenly despatching all who crossed him.

A Fistful of Dollars proved a massive audience pleaser, although orthodox critical opinion raged against the film-centering on Sergio Leone's seemingly cello approach to violence-but inevitably the furor merely fuelled the bandwagon of publicity preceding the movie as it clinched success in territory after territory. Clint Eastwood was suddenly a star; Sergio Leone was now a celebrated, if controversial, director; and composer Ennio Morricone, the final member of the triumvirate, discovered universal popularity for his admittedly outlandish mode of movie scoring His music was a stylistic continent apart from either the symphonic or the folksy approaches long favored by Hollywood Westerns. Morricone was launching a new musical vocabulary-he was breaking quite a few rules, but also furrowing fresh ground; nothing quite like his music for A Fistful of Dollars had been heard before. Most specifically, in areas of tonal color, Morricone was forging a new over all sound-certainly his choice of instrumentation was radical, and the daring juxtaposition of unorthodox timbres induced remarkable results. Added to this idiosyncratic orchestral melee was an extraordinary facility for rhythmic devices - the resulting music not only alluringly kaleidoscopic in color but also pulsatingly potent. Subtlety was never the aim, and Morricone's later scores for Leone, particularly The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, exhibit blatant musical abandon, with vocal and all manner of ethnic and percussive effects brought joyously into play. Ennio Morricone was, and is, a venerated original.

With A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly successful throughout the world, Hollywood elected to imitate Leone's magic formula, luring Clint Eastwood back from Italy with Hang 'Em High, an archetypal revenge western but specifically tailored to exploit Eastwood's newly-forged laconic screen persona. Hollywood had done its homework, and Hang 'Em High follows Leone's star religiously-caustic, callous and violent, yet not managing to emulate Leone's mordant sense of humor. Dominic Frontiere's musical score shamelessly shadows much of Morricone's innovative work, but fails to quite equal the quirky Italian's distinctive panache.

In 1969 Clint Eastwood took corporate control of his destiny by forming his own production company, Malpaso, and masterminded Two Mules For Sister Sara, which, following the unrelieved solemnity of Hang 'Em High, did display ample humor amongst the mayhem. Eastwood engaged the fiesty director Don Siegal to helm Two Mules For Sister Sara, the two forming an artistic alliance which was later to prove as significant as the Eastwood-Leone partnership. Ennio Morricone traveled to Hollywood to provide the score-his exceptional main title music shot through with irrepressible humor-a sturdy religious theme for Sister Sara countered by orchestral mimicking of a braying mule! Now a major star, Clint Eastwood was courted by the premier studios, with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer securing him for the wartime romp Where Eagles Dare, although the leading role was ostensibly played by Richard Burton, with Eastwood on hand presumably to assure this was an action movie, not Shakespeare, given Burton's literary affiliations. Where Eagles Dare, bolstered by lashings of schoolboy enthusiasm, enthralls for nearly three hours, the tension ably assisted by Ron Goodwin's striking musical score. Goodwin, noted for his musical preludes for such diverse films as 633 Squardron, Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines and The Trap, here delivers another memorable overture; a battery of snare drums introduce a rousing call to adventure from full brass and treble woodwind prior to a spare, stealthy fugal development of the score's main thematic material, culminating in a crashing crescendo for full ensemble.

The "man with no name" aside, if Clint Eastwood is associated with any role, or any particular type of character, then he is most identified with "Dirty Harry"-a brutally apt Americanization of the Italian anti-hero, a detective at once ruthless, unorthodox, uncompromising, unpredictable-a policeman teetering on the knife-edge of the law, his modus operandi hardly distinguishable from that of the criminals he so hotly pursues-except that his motives are pure, his conscience clean.

Don Siegal masterminded the eponymous Dirty Harry movie, but the character proved enduring enough for several gritty sequels, including Magnum Force, directed by Ted post, who had handled Hang 'Em High, and Sudden Impact, searingly executed by Eastwood himself. These three films are embraced by singularly significant scores. Lalo Schifrin's edgy music fits the trilogy like a steel glove, punchy and resonant, the scores prime examples of a specific mode of movie music - a vibrant, urgent symphonic jazz-funk indicative of the fresh musical frontiers being broached at the turn of the Seventies.

Clint Eastwood's initial foray into directing had been with the terse thriller Play Misty for Me, a debut film which has grown in reputation during ensuing years-right from the start Eastwood's sterling qualities as a director were notably evident. Eastwood also stars-but in a surprisingly more restrained and passive role than is usual-as a late-night disc jockey pursued, at first romantically, and then homicidally, by an avidly crazed listener, Jessica Walter, a psychotic, forever requesting a spin of Errol Garner's classic and romantic "Misty."

Eastwood was to cement his reputation as the Cinema's leading exponent of the Western, both in front and behind the camera, with The Outlaw Josey Wales. Although following the familiar Eastwood plot premise of revenge and retribution, authoritative handling of both characterization and landscape result in an epic saga, a film of breadth and depth, perhaps the definitive Western. Jerry Fielding, a composer working in a particularly modern idiom, provides a score of stark contrasts-from the openly pastoral to, the blatantly heroic. The Outlaw Josey Wales maintained a paramount position in the Western stakes for a full seventeen years before the advent of Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood's most recent oater, again as director and star. Unforgiven subverts many of the traits previously typified by Eastwood in his films; clichés are inverted and formula moments are transposed in an ironic tale which views violence, and the wellsprings of violence-envy, revenge, greed-as loathsome and unnecessary; Unforgiven is hardly an archetypal Western, but it is a classic essay on Western mores and morals, brilliantly probing, and often dissecting, not only the maxims and truisms of frontier life, but also contemporary attitudes to violence.

The sheer starkness of the film, and its pervading somber ambience, demand little in the way of music, but a winsome melody for lonely guitar (penned by Eastwood himself) recalls, or perhaps looks forward to, a better era than that depicted in the film-a time of tenderness, a time of blissful remembrance.

There were those in and around the film industry, mostly naive reactionaries, who had consistently regarded Clint Eastwood as an upstart, a meager actor playing to the gallery, a laconic presence whose films were morally dubious and aimed at the lowest common audience denominator. For years they ignored the obvious artistic merit of his films and were contemptuous of his box-office success. However, Unforgiven proved potent enough to enlist even the most disdainful of critics to Eastwood's banner. The film gained Eastwood the Academy Awards for Best Producer and Best Director, confirming what audiences had long known, that within his particular perimeters, where tough cops or grizzled westerners were concerned, Eastwood had no equals. He was now deified by Hollywood, regarded as one of the industry's leading figures.

How to follow, how best to top both the artistic and commercial success of Unforgiven is a quandary which would presumably daunt even the most secure actor or director. That Clint Eastwood succeeds so successfully to do just that with In the Line of Fire is a tribute to his astuteness. True, in this instance he has passed the directorial reins to Wolfgang Peterson, fresh from his triumph with Shattered, but Eastwood's performance as the aging, world-weary CIA agent given a chance to atone for past mistakes, reveals a depth and an acting range which surprised many, enhancing his reputation even more. In the Line of Fire's terse, edgy ambience is greatly enhanced by Ennio Morricone's sharp, rhythmic, angular scoring, the music stark and desperate, and crowned with heraldic devices-strikingly apt fanfares for Clint Eastwood, now enthroned as the King of Hollywood.