ICONS: The Films of Clint Eastwood
For over 50 years, Actor/Director/Producer/Musician Clint Eastwood has been an icon in the world of cinema. From the early days when he starred as “The Man With No Name” and Dirty Harry through to when he got behind the camera to tell his own cinematic stories, Clint has been one of our biggest heroes working in the film business. With his latest controversial box office hit “AMERICAN SNIPER” currently in theaters we thought now would be the perfect time to make a new list of our favorite furious films from his acting career. Included are some brief synopsis’ and thoughts on the titles we’ve chosen.
The Dollars Trilogy (1964-67, Dir: Sergio Leone)
Following his role as Rowdy Yates on the popular Western TV show Rawhide, these three groundbreaking spaghetti westerns turned Clint into an internationally famous star. They are some of the greatest works of genre cinema ever produced.
Hang ‘Em High (1968, Dir: Ted Post)
When Clint arrived back in America after working with Sergio Leone, this Western was his first Hollywood outing. Jed Cooper (Eastwood), a cattleman, is wrongly accused of murder and stealing from a rancher. He is then hung by a lynch mob but barely survives. Cooper later becomes a deputy for the Oklahoma territory and sets out to bring the gang of men who attacked him to justice. Co-starring Inger Stevens, Bruce Dern, Ed Begley Sr, Dennis Hopper.
Coogan’s Bluff (1968, Dir: Don Siegel)
In Clint’s first collaboration with his pal Don Siegel he plays Coogan, an Arizona lawman who travels to New York City to extradite a criminal (Don Stroud) on the lam. This modern urban Western set during the hippie era is still striking for its depiction of violence. Co-starring Susan Clark, Lee J. Cobb.
Dirty Harry (1971, Dir: Don Siegel)
In this hit crime-thriller, Clint is Harry Callahan, a rebellious San Francisco police detective who must catch a psychopathic serial killer known as “Scorpio” (Andrew Robinson) spreading fear in the city. Harry turned out to be one of Clint’s most famous roles and featured memorable dialogue like “Do ya feel lucky punk?”. It would be followed by several successful sequels. Co-starring Reni Santoni.
High Plains Drifter (1973, Dir: Clint Eastwood)
A Western that brought in supernatural thriller elements to the genre which gave it a much needed reimagining. “The Stranger” (Eastwood) a mysterious drifter, stops to rest in a small mining town where the residents are haunted by the death of their former sheriff. The Stranger’s deadly skill with a gun turns him into the town’s only hope when a trio of murderous outlaws come looking for revenge. Co-starring Billy Curtis, Geoffrey Lewis, Anthony James, Mitchell Ryan.
The Eiger Sanction (1975, Dir: Clint Eastwood)
College art history professor Jonathan Hemlock (Eastwood) is a retired secret assassin for the government. When his former director of operations Mr. Dragon (Thayer David) approaches him with a new assignment, Hemlock refuses. Dragon then blackmails Hemlock into taking on the job by mentioning his priceless art collection, bought with untaxed funds from his past “work”. Hemlock’s advanced skills in mountain climbing also come into play when he learns his latest target is taking part in a competition. Co-starring George Kennedy, Vonetta McGee, Jack Cassidy.
Play Misty For Me (1971, Dir: Clint Eastwood)
You might expect Clint’s directorial debut to be a Western, but he opted for a chilling Fatal Attraction style psychological thriller instead. The story focuses on a California based radio DJ (Eastwood) who is stalked by an obsessed psychotic female fan (Jessica Walter). Clint filmed this in and around his hometown of Carmel, California.
Two Mules For Sister Sara (1970, Dir: Don Siegel)
An outlaw named Hogan (Eastwood) saves Sister Sara (Shirley MacLaine) a nun from being raped by two men. She then asks Hogan to accompany her to a Mexican camp, where she’s to aid a group of Juarista revolutionaries fighting the French occupation. The two unlikely partners face several obstacles as they make their way across rough terrain filled with scavengers and Indians. An Odd Couple themed Western adventure peppered with sexual tension and humor. Featuring an excellent, twangy score by Ennio Morricone which recalls his earlier work on the Leone films.
Kelly’s Heroes (1970, Dir: Brian Hutton)
A comical, action packed World War II caper/Men on A Mission movie in which a squad of American soldiers led by Kelly (Clint Eastwood) take a detour from their official duties fighting the Nazis to seek out a cache of gold bars being held behind enemy lines. Featuring an excellent supporting cast including Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, Donald Sutherland and Carroll O’Connor.
Where Eagles Dare (1968, Dir: Brian Hutton)
Clint and Richard Burton co-star in this WWII Men on A Mission classic about two commandos that go undercover to rescue an American officer being held by Nazis in a fortress high in the Bavarian Alps. Co-starring Patrick Wymark, Mary Ure, Robert Beatty.
Escape From Alcatraz (1979, Dir: Don Siegel)
Based on true events, Clint stars as Frank Morris, a prisoner on Alcatraz Island who decides to plan an escape with the help of a few fellow inmates. Meanwhile he must endure the cruelty of the sadistic warden (Patrick McGoohan) and unwanted attention from a big brute. Co-starring Fred Ward, Paul Benjamin.
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976, Dir: Clint Eastwood)
During The Civil War, a band of renegade Union soldiers known as “Red Legs” attack the peaceful homestead of a Southern farmer named Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood). Following the burial of his wife and son, Josey vows to get revenge on the men responsible while he fights for the Confederacy. After the war ends, Josey becomes the last hold out, refusing to give himself into the new US government. On the run, he finds a new family in some misfit travelers while evading the Union soldiers who are ordered to bring him in. Co-starring Chief Dan George, Sonia Locke, Sam Bottoms, John Vernon, Bill McKinney.
Honkytonk Man (1982, Dir: Clint Eastwood)
A country singer named Red Stovall (Eastwood) hits the road with his nephew (Kyle Eastwood) and a young runaway (Alexa Kenin) and heads for Memphis Tennessee hoping to get showcased at the Grand Ole Opry. Red has got plenty of talent but his declining health due to a bad case of tuberculosis begins to impede his dreams of being the next big sensation. A touching tale that showcased Clint’s love of music.
The Gauntlet (1977, Dir: Clint Eastwood)
An alcoholic cop, Ben Shockley (Eastwood) from Phoenix Arizona is ordered to bring prostitute Gus Mally (Sondra Locke) to Las Vegas so she can testify against the mob in a trial. On the way, Shockley and his rambunctious prisoner come under attack from a variety of outside forces trying to stop them. Co-starring Pat Hingle, Bill McKinney.
Unforgiven (1992, Dir: Clint Eastwood)
An infamous retired gunslinging killer named William Munny (Eastwood) in need of funds to keep his farm going, joins The Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) and an old friend Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman) to collect a reward placed on two cowboys. Will’s choice to take part in the bounty hunt sets off a series of events that bring back his repressed murderous side. This Academy Award winning masterpiece by Clint was a demystification of the earlier macho movies he made in the Western genre, showing the raw, brutal reality of killing. Co-starring Gene Hackman, Richard Harris, Frances Fisher.
The Beguiled (1971, Dir: Don Siegel)
During the Civil War, a Union officer John McBirney (Clint Eastwood) is wounded and taken in by a southern woman (Geraldine Page) that runs an all girls school. As McBirney recuperates, he begins getting closer to several of the women who fall for his charms. McBirney’s wreckless flirtations and trists soon stirs up something he didn’t expect. A suspenseful thriller where Clint has the tables turned on him by the opposite sex. Co-starring Elizabeth Hartman, Mae Mercer.
Gran Torino (2008, Dir: Clint Eastwood)
Aging Korean war veteran/widower Walt Kowalski (Eastwood) must overcome his prejudices when a Korean family moves in next door. One night, Walt’s new teenage neighbor Thao (Bee Vang), tries to steal his cherished Gran Torino muscle car as a gang initiation but is caught. Thao, who Walt nicknames “Toad”, is ordered to help do yard work and other chores as payback. Meanwhile, Thao’s cousin, a gangbanger and bully terrorizes him for turning his back on the group. This leads to a series of dangerous confrontations with Walt stuck in the middle. One of Clint’s most emotionally resonant works that showed yet another side of his tough guy movie persona.
Joe Kidd (1972, Dir: John Sturges)
An ex-bounty hunter Joe Kidd (Clint Eastwood) is asked by wealthy rancher Frank Harlan (Robert Duvall) to join a party out to get Luis Chama (John Saxon) a Mexican revolutionary leading a revolt against farmers who are kicking the native residents off their land. Kidd agrees to ride with Harlan but later finds himself morally conflicted during the hunt. Co-starring Don Stroud, Paul Koslo, Dick Van Patten.
Magnum Force (1973, Dir: Ted Post)
In this exceptional follow up to Dirty Harry, Harry (Eastwood) finds himself in the middle of a deadly conflict when a group of young cops decide to take the law into their own hands and become vigilantes on the streets of San Francisco. Screenplay written by John Milius and Michael Cimino. Co-starring David Soul, Tim Matheson.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974, Dir: Michael Cimino)
A professional bank robber known as “The Thunderbolt” (Eastwood) on the run from his ex-partners, befriends a young drifter Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges) and the two work together to plan a new robbery. A superbly directed, rollicking buddy/road/crime movie. Co-starring George Kennedy, Geoffrey Lewis, Gary Busey.
Heartbreak Ridge (1986, Dir: Clint Eastwood)
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Tom Highway (Eastwood) a jarheaded hero is on the verge of retirement from duty. After managing to be transferred back to his former unit, he comes under the wrath of a brash young officer (Everett McGill) who sees him as a relic of a time long forgotten. Highway’s new platoon are a rowdy bunch of slackers with no discipline. Gunny soon lays down the law and retrains the clowns, turning them into true badass soldiers. He also tries to regain lost love with his bitter, estranged ex-wife Aggie (Marsha Mason). Co-starring Mario Van Peebles, Bo Svenson.
Clint Eastwood’s film High Plains Drifter (1973)
The first time I saw High Plains Drifter was probably in the late 1970s. Clint Eastwood stars in and directs the film. Most westerns are either about cattle drives or cowboys and Indians. High Plains Drifter is different: this is a God’s-Judgment-on-the-wicked western.
Clint Eastwood plays a stranger who rides into the town of Lago–and he has a really bad attitude. This stranger is also very good with a side arm. During the course of the film, the stranger ends up killing some bad guys and burning the town of Lago to the ground. There are a couple of flashbacks of one Marshall Jim Duncan being whipped to death. At the end of the film, the audience can see that the stranger was the Second Coming of Marshall Duncan:
The stranger rides out of the town of Lago past the cemetery. This little guy named Mordecai is writing something on a grave marker.
The stranger looks at Mordecai and Mordecai looks up and says, “I’m almost done here.”
Then Mordecai asks the stranger, “I never did know your name.”
And the stranger replies, “Yes, you do.”
As the stranger rides off, the camera shows the grave marker: “Marshall Jim Duncan.”
I have a short story entitled “High Plains Drifter” (Ethos, March & May 1995); I have a book entitled High Plains Drifter: A Hitchhiking Journey Across America (PublishAmerica, December 2008); I have a blog called “High Plains Drifter.” So is this some sort of gunslinger fixation or is there method to my madness? The clue is in one Scripture: “In the mouth of two or three witnesses let every word be established.”
There is a lot of sin (unrepented sin) in the United States and in the world. When people continue to live in sin, eventually God’s Judgment falls. The more people try to hide their sin, the greater God’s Judgment. The people of Lago tried to hide the murder of Marshall Duncan, but their sin was found out. You can’t hide from God.
There is a scene in High Plains Drifter where this lady tells the stranger, “Ever since Marshall Duncan’s death, the people in this town are afraid of strangers.”
“When the Stranger says: ‘What is the meaning of this city?
Do you huddle close together because you love each other?’
What will you answer? ‘We all dwell together
To make money from each other’? or ‘This is a community’?
“Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger.
Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.
“There is one who remembers the way to your door:
Life you may evade, but Death you shall not.
You shall not deny the Stranger.”
Choruses from “The Rock”
There is another scene in High Plains Drifter where the people of Lago [the town of Lago reminds me of Algona, Iowa] are meeting at the church. One of the guys is speaking in the front of the church. The camera then pans to the right and shows a bulletin board with this Scripture:
Isaiah 53: 3-4: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
Marshall Jim Duncan was whipped to death; Jesus Christ was at least nine-tenths whipped to death. The stranger riding into Lago (the first scene of the film) is a symbol of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ: not as the Lamb of God, but as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.
Isaiah 63: 1-6: “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me. And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth.”