Nationality: American. Born: Clinton Eastwood Jr. in San Francisco, California, 31 May 1930 (some sources give 30 or 31 May 1931). Education: Attended Oakland Technical High School; studied business administration, Los Angeles City College, 1953–54. Military Service: 1950—U.S. Army; served as swimming instructor at Fort Ord, California. Family: Married 1) Maggie Johnson, 1953 (divorced in mid-1980s), children: Kyle Clinton and Alison; 2) Dina Ruiz, 1996; daughter with Roxanne Tunis: Kimber; daughter with actress Frances Fisher: Francesca Ruth. Career: 1954–55—contract with Universal; 1955—screen debut in Francis in the Navy ; late 1950s—worked sporadically in films, and as lifeguard and for swimming pool contractor; 1959–66—second lead as Rowdy Yates in TV series Rawhide (took over lead as trail boss, autumn 1965); 1964— A Fistful of Dollars for Sergio Leone, first of series of three, was big hit in Europe and, in 1967, in U.S.; 1967—first starring role in U.S. film, Hang 'em High ; formed Malpaso production company; 1971—directed first film, Play Misty for Me ; 1982—first effort at producing,
Francis in the Navy (Lubin) (as Jonesy); Revenge of the Creature (Arnold) (as technician); Lady Godiva (Lubin) (as Saxon); Tarantula (Arnold) (as Air Force pilot)
Never Say Goodbye (Jerry Hopper) (as lab assistant); The First Traveling Saleslady (Lubin) (as Jack Rice); Star in the Dust (Haas) (bit role)
Escapade in Japan (Lubin) (as Dumbo); Ambush at Cimarron Pass (Copeland) (as Keith Williams); Lafayette Escadrille ( Hell Bent for Glory ) (Wellman) (as George Moseley)
A Fistful of Dollars ( Per un pugno di dollari ) (Leone) (as The Stranger)
For a Few Dollars More ( Per qualche dollari in piu ) (Leone) (as The Stranger); "Civic Sense" ep. of Le streghe ( The Witches ) (Visconti, Pasolini, Bolognini, Rossi, and de Sica) (as husband)
Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo ( The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly ) (Leone) (as Joe)
Hang 'em High (Post) (as Jed Cooper)
Coogan's Bluff (Siegel) (as Walt Coogan)
Paint Your Wagon (Logan) (as Pardner)
Kelly's Heroes (Hutton) (as Kelly); Two Mules for Sister Sara (Siegel) (as Hogan)
The Beguiled (Siegel) (as John McBurney); Dirty Harry (Siegel) (as Harry Callahan)
Joe Kidd (John Sturges) (title role)
Magnum Force (Post) (as Harry Callahan)
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (Cimino) (as John "Thunderbolt" Doherty)
The Enforcer (Fargo) (as Harry Callahan)
Every Which Way but Loose (Fargo) (as Philo Beddoe)
Escape from Alcatraz (Siegel) (as Frank Morris)
Any Which Way You Can (Van Horn) (as Philo Beddoe)
Tightrope (Tuggle) (as Wes Block, + co-pr); City Heat (Benjamin)
The Dead Pool (Van Horn) (as Harry Callahan)
Pink Cadillac (Van Horn) (as Tommy Mowak)
In the Line of Fire (Petersen) (as Frank Horrigan)
Don't Pave Main Street: Carmel's Heritage (Cartwright and Ludwig—doc) (as narrator)
Casper (Silberling) (uncredited cameo)
Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick (Robinson) (as himself)
A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries (uncredited; as John "Thunderbolt" Daugherty)
Play Misty for Me (+ ro as Dave Garland)
High Plains Drifter (+ ro as the stranger); Breezy
The Eiger Sanction (+ ro as Jonathan Hemlock)
The Outlaw Josey Wales (+ title role)
The Gauntlet (+ ro as Ben Shockley)
Bronco Billy (+ ro as Bronco Billy McCoy)
Honkytonk Man (+ pr, ro as Red); Firefox (+ pr, ro as Mitchell Gant)
Sudden Impact (+ pr, ro as Harry Callahan)
Pale Rider (+ pr, ro as Preacher)
Heartbreak Ridge (+ pr, ro as Tom Highway)
Bird (+ pr)
White Hunter, Black Heart (+ pr, ro as John Wilson); The Rookie (+ ro as Nick Pulovski)
Unforgiven (+ pr, ro as William Munny)
A Perfect World (+ pr, ro as Red Garnett)
The Bridges of Madison County (+ pr, ro as Robert Kincaid)
Absolute Power (pr, + ro as Luther Whitney); Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (+ pr)
True Crime (+ro as Steve Everett)
Space Cowboys (+ ro as Dr. Frank Corvin)
Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser (Zwerin—doc) (exec pr)
The Stars Fell on Henrietta (Keach) (pr)
Interview with Arthur Knight, in Playboy (Chicago), February 1974.
"Clint Eastwood, Auteur," by R. Thompson and T. Hunter, in Film Comment (New York), January/February 1978.
"Conversation with Clint Eastwood," by Larry Cole, in Oui (Chicago), June 1978.
Interview with R. Gentry, in Millimeter (New York), December 1980.
Interview with David Thomson, in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1984.
Interview with C. Tesson and O. Assayas, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), February 1985.
Rayns, Tony, "Clint at Claridges," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1985.
Interview with Michel Ciment and Hubert Niogret, in Positif (Paris), July/August 1988.
"Flight of Fancy," interview with Nat Hentoff, in American Film (Los Angeles), September 1988.
Interview with Allan Hunter, in Films and Filming (London), November/December 1988.
Interview with R. Gentry, in Film Quarterly , vol. 42, no. 3, 1989.
Interview with Michel Ciment, in Positif (Paris), no. 351, 1990.
"The Man Who Would Be Huston," interview with Graham Fuller, in Interview (New York), October 1990.
"The Padron" (Don Siegel), in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1991.
Interview with M. Henry, in Positif (Paris), no. 380, 1992.
Interview with David Breskin, in Rolling Stone (New York), 17 September 1992.
Interview in Reel West , October/November 1992.
Interview with David Wild, in Rolling Stone (New York), 24 August 1995.
Interview with Ric Gentry, in American Cinematographer (Hollywood), February 1997.
Interview with M. Henry, in Positif (Paris), no. 445, 1998.
Interview with M. Henry, in Positif (Paris), no. 459, 1999.
Douglas, Peter, Clint Eastwood: Movin' On , Chicago, 1974.
Kaminsky, Stuart, American Film Genres , New York, 1974.
Kaminsky, Stuart, Clint Eastwood , New York, 1974.
Agan, Patrick, Clint Eastwood: The Man Behind the Myth , New York, 1975.
Staig, Lawrence, and Tony Williams, Italian Westerns: The Opera of Violence , London, 1975.
Downing, David, with Gary Herman, Clint Eastwood, All-American Anti-Hero: A Critical Appraisal of the World's Top Box Office Star and His Films , London, 1977.
Ferrari, Philippe, Clint Eastwood , Paris, 1980.
Johnstone, Iain, The Man with No Name: Clint Eastwood , London, 1981; rev. ed., 1988.
Zmijewsky, Boris, and Lee Pfeiffer, The Films of Clint Eastwood , Secaucus, New Jersey, 1982; rev. ed., 1988.
Cole, Gerald, and Peter Williams, Clint Eastwood , London, 1983.
Guerif, François, Clint Eastwood , Paris, 1983; New York, 1986.
Ryder, Jeffrey, Clint Eastwood , New York, 1987.
Lagarde, Hélène, Clint Eastwood , Paris, 1988.
Weinberger, Michèle, Clint Eastwood , Paris, 1989.
Plaza, Fuensanta, Clint Eastwood/Malpaso , Carmel Valley, California, 1991.
Frayling, Christopher, Clint Eastwood , London, 1992.
Munn, Michael, Clint Eastwood: Hollywood's Loner , London, 1992.
Thompson, Douglas, Clint Eastwood: Riding High , Chicago, 1992.
Smith, Paul, Clint Eastwood: A Cultural Production , Minneapolis, 1993.
Zmijewsky, Boris, and Lee Pfeiffer, The Films of Clint Eastwood , New York, 1993.
Bingham, Dennis, Acting Male: Masculinities in the Films of James Stewart, Jack Nicholson and Clint Eastwood , New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1994.
Clinch, Minty, Clint Eastwood , London, 1994.
Gallafent, Edward, Clint Eastwood: Filmmaker and Star , New York, 1994.
Ortoli, Philippe, Clint Eastwood: la figure du guerrier , Paris, 1994.
Schickel, Richard, Clint Eastwood: A Biography , New York, 1997.
Clint Eastwood: Interviews , edited by Robert E. Kapsis, Jackson, 1999.
Bodeen, DeWitt, "Clint Eastwood," in Focus on Film (London), Spring 1972.
Kael, Pauline, "Current Cinema," in New Yorker , 14 January 1974.
Shadoian, J., "Dirty Harry: A Defense," in Western Humanities Review (Salt Lake City), Spring 1974.
Vallely, J., "Pumping Gold with Clint Eastwood, Hollywood's Richest Actor," in Esquire (New York), 14 March 1978.
Alpert, Robert, "Clint Eastwood Plays Dumb Cop," in Jump Cut (Chicago), May 1979.
Kehr, Dave, "Clint Eastwood," in The Movie Star , edited by Elisabeth Weis, New York, 1981.
Patterson, E., "Every Which Way but Lucid: The Critique of Authority in Clint Eastwood's Police Films," in Journal of Popular Film (Washington, D.C.), Fall 1982.
Mailer, Norman, "All the Pirates and People," in Parade Magazine , 23 October 1983.
Clint Eastwood section of Positif (Paris), January 1985.
Kehr, Dave, "A Fistful of Eastwood," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), March 1985.
Holmlund, C., "Sexuality and Power in Male Doppelganger Cinema: The Case of Clint Eastwood and Tightrope ," in Cinema Journal , vol. 26, no. 1, 1986.
Chevrie, M., and D. J. Wiener, "Le Dernier des cow-boys," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), March 1987.
Current Biography 1989 , New York, 1989.
Bingham, D., "Men with No Names: Clint Eastwood, the Stranger Persona, Identification and the Impenetrable Gaze," in Journal of Film and Video , vol. 42, no. 4, 1990.
Sheehan, Henry, "Scraps of Hope: Clint Eastwood and the Western," in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1992.
Combs, Richard, "Shadowing the Hero," in Sight and Sound (London), October 1992.
Tibbetts, J. C., "Clint Eastwood and the Machinery of Violence," in Literature Film Quarterly , vol. 21, no. 1, 1993.
Biskind, Peter, "Any Which Way He Can," in Premiere (New York), April 1993; see also August 1992.
Grenier, Richard, "Clint Eastwood Goes PC," in Commentary , March 1994.
Burdeau, Emmanuel, "Physique des auteurs," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), July/August 1996.
Plantinga, Carl, "Spectacles of Death: Clint Eastwood and Violence in Unforgiven," in Cinema Journal (US), Winter 1998.
* * *
It would be difficult to sustain a case for Clint Eastwood as a great actor. Competent, certainly, even polished within a limited range, but hardly a Marlon Brando or even a James Stewart. If comparisons have to be made, the obvious one is with John Wayne, another movie figure whose emblematic significance far outweighed his conventional thespian talents. Both, of course, owed their initial breakthrough to the Western, and both built cleverly on the generic image with which they were furnished.
Eastwood (then taking small parts in Hollywood) first came to public attention in the late 1950s, playing Rowdy Yates in the television Western series Rawhide . Lean, weather-beaten, and a man of few words but much integrity, he epitomized one strand in the classic image of the Westerner. It was this tradition which was to be extended almost into parody in the three massively successful Westerns that Eastwood made with director Sergio Leone: A Fistful of Dollars , For a Few Dollars More , and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly . In all three films he had little to say, and what little there was only just escaped in the wake of the cheroot that he continually rolled from one side of his mouth to the other. The Man with No Name (as the character came to be known) was founded on that mannerism, on Eastwood's distinctive physical appearance, and on his role as the poncho-clad gunfighter who rides into town bringing vengeance and death. Like Leone's films themselves, the Man with No Name was a distillation of a Western myth, and it turned Eastwood into top box-office.
It was a happy conjunction of man and image, and, recognizing that his talents lay here, Eastwood set about constructing a career that made the most of them. Simple variations upon the Man with No Name have served well in the likes of Hang 'em High , Two Mules for Sister Sara , Joe Kidd , High Plains Drifter , and Pale Rider . A modern urban counterpart turned up in Coogan's Bluff in the guise of a policeman from out West blundering none too appealingly through New York, and emerged fully fledged in another film made for Don Siegel, the controversial and highly successful Dirty Harry . Its central character, Harry Callahan, an obsessive, ruthless, and violent cop, became even more ruthlessly violent in its immediate sequels, Magnum Force and The Enforcer , rapidly joining the Man with No Name as a permanent fixture in the modern cinema's chamber of action heroes.
It is on these two interrelated personae that Eastwood's acting style has been built. Only rarely has he had the opportunity to stretch himself beyond these limits (in, for example, The Beguiled , Play Misty for Me , Tightrope , The Bridges of Madison County , and True Crime ) and when he does so he generally produces performances even more understated than those he gives when fully in persona. To put it glibly, he does not so much rise to such parts as allow himself to lapse into them. As an actor, then, Eastwood is a product of his image. His success is based on recognizing that fact and ensuring that every performance uses it in some way. Thus, much of the apparent power of his performance in In the Line of Fire is a consequence of the skillfully wrought contrast (mostly achieved in the editing since they do not play scenes together directly) between Malkovich's actorly intensity and Eastwood's laid-back evocation of that familiar screen persona.
That said, it is important to note that the sheer strength of the Eastwood image can be used to create distance as well as to encapsulate characters. Although most of his roles have been fairly straightforward expressions of his established screen personae, on a few occasions he has sought to open up some space between character and myth. Sometimes that edges close to pastiche, as it does in the cause of heightened effects in the two likably overwrought Westerns, High Plains Drifter and Pale Rider . Sometimes it is more openly humorous, as in the wilder excesses of The Gauntlet , the good natured self-mockery of Bronco Billy , or the rather knowing evocation of the Harry Callahan cycle in The Dead Pool . Just occasionally Eastwood has found some balance between evoking the image and using it as a kind of comment upon itself. One such film is The Outlaw Josey Wales where he plays Josey Wales without the usual superhuman overtones, thus trading on the tension between persona-based expectations and the character's actual behavior. Another case is Heartbreak Ridge , where the assertive masculinity of the Eastwood persona (here in a military version) is to some degree rendered insecure. And yet another instance is Unforgiven which works by allowing the classic persona to emerge slowly in the course of the film. William Munny, former gunman turned responsible single parent, is to be found at the film's opening covered in mud and struggling with his hogs. By its culminating sequence he has recovered his classic guise as Western avenging angel, in the process turning the movie into a formidable expression of the genre's romantic individualism.
These films, of course, are as much the products of Eastwood the director as Eastwood the actor, which may explain both their ambition and the fact that they do not quite pull it off. As a director Eastwood clearly learned well from both Leone and Siegel, the two filmmakers most responsible for his on-screen persona. It is a pity, therefore, that however well he has learned (and he is a good director), the Eastwood image that they conjointly created is now probably too strong to be overcome.