As a girl, I can’t say I appreciated your spaghetti Westerns. I remember sitting in the movie house and there was a long close up of someone chewing their food. Gross. I liked the music, though, and when I think of you, Ennio Morricone’s score enters my mind. Fast forward to 1971. I didn’t see Play Misty for Me until I was older, and I thought it was creepy. It was a psychological thriller about a stalker who fell hard for your character, Dave Garver, a disk jockey at a California radio station. Jessica Walter played the pretty fan who calls in when Garver is on the air and requests to hear the jazz song “Misty”.
The film popularized the Johnny Mathis version and your choice for the film was perfect because it functioned as an effective contrast. The cozy melody associated with a sexy, female voice became the ice breaker in an “accidental” meeting in a bar and the one-night-stand. From there, Evelyn’s harmless personality transformed into a descent into psychotic fury punctuated with the butcher knife that should scare any man from succumbing to the one-night-stand; the plot was revisited in the 1980s version, Fatal Attraction, but I prefer your version of the confident, soft female who is casual yet percolates passion. Play Misty for Me was a compelling, low-budget film that made you millions. As director, the film allowed you a new playground for which to play, and over the years I’ve noticed your films employed trademark techniques that have made you one of the most commercially successful directors to date.
As a director, your status has grown to heights rarely seen in the history of movie making. Your reputation as a man’s man and your sex appeal–you were fifty when you starred in Play Misty for Me, and the filming of the sex scene with Donna Mills at the waterfall showed tasteful eroticism with a romantic sensibility–you’ve wooed women for decades.
Your stature grew as a director after winning Best Director for Unforgiven (1992). What a prolific decade the 2000s were for you with many Oscar nominated films for best direction: Mystic River (2003), Million Dollar Baby (2004), Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) Gran Torino (2008).
When I watch your films, I have noticed similarities in your directing style. Your camera follows the story through the perceptions of one protagonist. Through sensory variation, your films are beautiful because you see, hear, smell, and touch the setting through the camera lens. This first person telling allows me to share the experience, and therefore, enter the film.
Clint, you love contrast. You highlight a body part while the rest is in the dark. I will hear a monologue but only see a torso or a hand. I appreciate how you incorporate the setting fully into your films. For example, I liked how you strategically hung signs around the set that enhanced the theme of the film. In Million Dollar Baby all the signs in the boxing gym reiterated key lines such as “Tough Ain’t Enough” referring to Maggie who had more heart than anyone on the planet. It was a philosophical film; the boxing ring was a metaphor for life. It’s my favorite film of yours. I like how you give life to the feelings of a character’s emotions with the movement of the camera. If the agonized character expels fury, the camera shoots up the fury to the sky like in Mystic River.
Your films feature misunderstood, strong characters who are alone in their world and rise from adversity. You love the underdog. You often star as well as direct your own films, and you enjoy portraying grumpy old-man who try to survive in a world that has changed too fast. If you aren’t the poster-boy for the angst of baby-boomers, I don’t know who is, for you are the man who epitomizes a generation where real-men-don’t-cry and your surly countenance hides a soft, romantic heart.
One of my favorite films for which you star in is In the Line of Fire with John Malkovich. You wore your typical Dirty Harry tough guy expression, but the suspenseful cat-and-mouse game made a thrilling film to watch. As far as acting goes, I loved your performance in Gran Torino best. You weren’t Clint Eastwood, you were a man who came to terms with the Korean War and the hero who rose above his prejudices. It was a great film. And of course, in Million Dollar Baby, watching you weep on your knees in the Catholic pew disturbed me more than I can say.
Clint Eastwood, you are a desperado and a universal character and Hollywood’s long-enduring icon. At eighty-three, you are the manifestation of all your characters. I wish you were my neighbor; we’d listen to jazz music, drink, and watch the sunset. I bet your stories are amazing as your career.
Your Favorite Fan
I was bummed when the Governator booted him off the states parks commission due to his objections to sticking a private toll road in the middle of state park.
I did not much care for his recent empty chair spectacle but I do enjoy his work as both an actor, director and conservationist.
I try not to mix personal exploits with professional careers. I think it’s cool when artists who have profound impact on youth/masses uses their fame for good. It’s crazy to think they are perfect; they are human and make stupid mistakes like us all (me) but thank God my exploits aren’t advertised.
I remember watching Rawhide when I was a kid and thinking that this guy can’t even deliver a line – so he won’t be around long.
But fate and destiny had a different idea.
After a short lapse … where I figured he’d rightfully disappeared … he surfaced in some strange, low budget foreign Westerns that nobody else wanted to be in – which came to be called the Dollars Trilogy. And became a superstar. I enjoyed these movies – I’m a Western fan – and they confirmed my theory that Fame and Fortune in Hollywood, has nothing to do with talent or acting ability – though he had improved. Then, he started to make the Dirty Harry movies … and movies with orangutans … and such. And I wondered: why do people watch this stuff? But they did. In droves. He was the box office Superstar.
I recall (paraphrasing) a quote by Richard Burton about Clint when Burton was questioned about acting with Eastwood in Where Eagles Dare, and Burton answered something to the effect that Clint came from a the Gary Cooper tradition of Hollywood minimalist acting – or something to that effect. I nearly fell out of chair. Laughing.
And still I wondered: is he gonna keep churning this stuff out?
Then I noticed he had started directing – and Play Misty for Me was pretty good. I was surprised.
After a while he did an Art Film (White Hunter Black Heart (1990)) expressing his admiration for Director John Huston. It failed at box office, but …
Who knew ?? that he would eventually rise to one of the best Directors in the business ??
Not me. Way to go Clint !!
Fantastic! I love your comments. Yeah, he’s a strange, awesome! Everyone loves him even when he’s traveling with an ape. He’s golden.
Beautifully-written piece, Cindy, I love how you described Clint’s film style. I quite like him in ‘In the Line of Fire’ and also ‘Space Cowboys.’ I even like his curmudgeon self in ‘Gran Torino.’ 😀
I forgot about ‘Space Cowboys’ fun and charming. reminds me of the upcoming ‘Last Vegas’.
You just “made my day” thanks Cindy!
As an actor and director, he’s a longtime favorite of mine. Great tribute, Cindy.
p.s., his ‘Hereafter’ is another of his underrated films. I was sorry I delayed in watching it. It was his ‘European’ film, for sure.
Never saw it! I will now, thanks so much for commenting on my blog, Michael.