After the usual travails of the aspiring actor, Clint was enthusiastic when he landed a contract with Universal Pictures in 1955. He muffed his very first line in his uncredited role of a lab technician in "Revenge Of The Creature". Throughout the year, he appeared (also uncredited) in such classics as, "Francis In The Navy", "Lady Godiva". and "Tarantula". Finally, in 1956, he landed the role of "Will" in "Never Say Goodbye", starring Rock Hudson as a prominent surgeon, Dr. Michael Parker, along with Eastwood's life-long friend, David Janssen. Thrilled to finally have a speaking part (one scene) in a major production, Clint secured a pair of prop glasses in an attempt to further develop his character. When his scene was being shot, Rock Hudson halted the shoot and stated that as a prominent surgeon, his character should be wearing the glasses. The director promptly removed Clint's glasses and Hudson wore them for the scene (the only scene in the film where Hudson wears glasses).

Such was Clint Eastwood's life as an eager young contract player at Universal. It turned out to be a short one--the studio dropped him after a year and a half. He then returned to what young actors do: acting classes, constant workouts at the gym, auditions, and the never-ending odd jobs. Once in a while, he would land a TV acting job, "Highway Patrol", "Death Valley Days", "West Point Stories", and an episode of Warner Bros.' hit western "Maverick". He did manage to score good billing in a feature film "The First Traveling Saleslady", playing opposite Carol Channing; but the film was a flop. He thought for awhile that he had one of the leads in another feature, "Lafayette Escadrille", but he had to settle for a much smaller role instead.  When he finally got a decent part in a movie, the B western, "Ambush At Cimarron Pass", the movie was so bad he considered quitting the business.

After four years of the archetypal show-biz struggles, Clint was visiting a friend at CBS and was strolling down one of the office corridors, when an studio executive popped out of a door, took a long look at the good-looking young man and asked,  "Are you an actor?"
It turned out CBS was looking for an actor for the second lead in a western series called  "Rawhide" that was under development by the network. That day proved to be the birth of rugged, young cowhand, Rowdy Yates, plus the 50+ year career of film legend, Clint Eastwood. This role would enable Clint to achieve his first fame and, if not fortune, definitely the financial security from a hit television series which lasted for seven years. Rowdy Yates epitomized the characters that Clint portrayed during those early years in his career, a nice young man, politely spoken and highly principled.

Clint description of his Rawhide character, Rowdy Yates: "not very interesting". Clint once confided to an interviewer that he knew he - "wouldn't make any impact until [his] 30s". He knew that, in those days, he still looked like he was about 18 and: "had a certain amount of living to do".

Unfortunately (career-wise), he was still playing Rowdy when he reached his early 30s, which he found terribly frustrating. Hoping to escape the clutches of type-casting, he agreed to spend the 1964 Rawhide hiatus in Spain, making a western for a then unknown Italian director, Sergio Leone. His $15,000 salary was minimal, the professional prestige was nonexistent, but the film did offer Clint an opportunity to finally play a role very different from Rowdy: - "a grizzled adult, tough and morally ambiguous, who never hesitated to kill when necessary".

Eastwood has never really received enough credit for the risky, imaginative leap this undertaking represented. He had the foresight, plus the courage it required, to willfully subvert his safe, boyish image of that time. By taking this long shot, he not only ended his long acting apprenticeship, he was about to become a true rarity in the motion picture industry, an entirely self-made star.
Sergio Leone's film, "Per un Pugno di Dollari" was released in Italy and received an unexpected, overwhelming response. Its popularity spread throughout Europe and into countries west. It was eventually dubbed in English and released in the US in 1967 as 
     "
A Fistful of Dollars".
Little did Eastwood suspect that in an effort to escape the evils of typecasting, he would again be consumed by a character that would follow him for 28 years.
His cowboy, with a variety of names, appeared in a dozen Western films, aging before the eyes of audiences, eventually retiring as William 'Bill' Munny (the old, burned-out gunslinger), in 1992's Academy Award winning classic "Unforgiven".
Clint Eastwood once said:"I never considered myself a cowboy, because I wasn't,"
 "But I guess when I got into cowboy gear
I looked enough like one to convince people that I was."

Surely, there were short, chubby, talkative cowhands in the Old West, but in Hollywood, these guys are called "Sidekicks". In the movies, the classic western heroes have always been tall, thin, laconic--and usually, low talking and flinty-eyed. Does the name John Wayne ring a bell? Clint looked the part, and he gained his first featured movie roles ("The First Traveling Saleslady", "Ambush at Cimarron Pass"), his first taste of fame (Rowdy Yates - Rawhide), the beginnings of his international film stardom (three spaghetti westerns with Sergio Leone) a twenty year film career (a dozen western characters) and finally, the ultimate coup, his Academy Awards (Unforgiven), all for playing the role of the quintessential "cowboy hero".
When he left for Italy to film 'A Fistful of Dollars", Eastwood thought: 
"the western was in a dead place, encrusted with myth, poetry, stale pictorialism and simple moralizing."

 The thing that drew him to this unlikely, low-paying project was the innate quality that has earned it and his other two Leone films so much disapproval when they first appeared--their straightforward, darkly comic insistence on the primitive and entirely ignoble nature of frontier life. The impact on the genre by Leone's western trilogy was ultimately liberating, both for Clint Eastwood as well as to most of the others working within the form. In the first Leone film, Clint's character was styled as "a grizzled Christ figure" (to use critic Richard Corliss' phrase) who undergoes a Calvary and a resurrection before bringing redemption--at the end of his gun barrel--to the hellish Mexican border town of San Miguel.

The first film from Clint Eastwood's Malpaso Productions, "Hang 'Em High" Clint's character, Jed Cooper, is hanged and left for dead in the movie's opening minutes. Rescued, he becomes a lawman, and enacts his revenge. In the process, he liberates an entire frontier territory from its reliance on the age-old "lynch law". In "High Plains Drifter", the first western Clint directed, his character quite possibly represents a figure reincarnated to bring justice to a town every bit as evil as San Miguel. In "Pale Rider"  his Preacher role is unquestionably such a figure--returned from the grave to defend the meek from their tormentors.

In the two most aspiring western films Clint has directed: "The Outlaw Josey Wales" and "Unforgiven", he plays a man broken in spirit who finds redemption through altruistic actions reluctantly undertaken (and in the latter, more ambiguously stated).
Some aspect of the western landscape obviously moves Clint Eastwood to thoughts of regeneration, a subject not addressed in his other films. Perhaps such meditations can be traced back to his boyhood, when his parents took him to California's Yosemite National Park. He remembers when he first "looked down into that valley" and was
"moved to something like a spiritual experience by the silence, the emptiness, the beauty of the place". If ever a man were lost and needed to find himself, it is in such a place that he might begin the search. What we find in his westerns, harsh and "realistic" as they may be in tone, is a whispered yearning for--dare one use the word--"transcendence",
that can sometimes be heard.


Years back, someone once asked Clint Eastwood:

"Did you once describe yourself as a bum and a drifter!"
 "No,"
he replied.  "What are you, then?" he asked.  Clint's reply,
"A bum and a drifter."

This is the image of himself that Clint has loved to portray to the press and his fans for decades. Indeed, he was a child of the Depression, forced to move about constantly as his father looked for work all through California (mostly the San Francisco Bay area). His beloved mother, Ruth, also was usually employed as well, so Clint and his sister, Jeanne, spent several summers at their maternal grandmother's chicken ranch in the mountains of Northern California. Despite the family's itinerancy, he grew up in a loving, supportive environment, and subsequently, developed his hard-working, independent spirit from both his parents, and especially from his single grandmother.

As a consequence, he left home relatively early and spent a few years as a young man drifting about in an attempt to find himself. He joined the Army, serving most of his stint at Fort Ord in the San Francisco area. An excellent swimmer, he served a good portion of his army career as a lifeguard, a job that he held outside of the service as well. He worked in his share of manual labor jobs as well, including lumberjacking,  steel mills, and aircraft factories. While in Los Angeles, he attended Los Angeles City College, digging swimming pools under the hot sun of the San Fernando Valley, and searching for work as an actor. His lifelong passion for jazz drew him to his share of shady clubs, just as he had done while in the Army. He was a student Disc Jockey while in college, a job that didn't pay any bills, but did provide him the opportunity to develop his artistic performance skills (think "Play Misty For Me" - his first experience as a director).
Humble beginnings are something alluded to by the famous when an interviewer is looking for a little background history for their story. Very few return to those beginnings in their work, and none have done so as consistently, or as well, as Clint Eastwood. His background gave him the sympathetic sense of the working-class life, neither patronizing nor indulgent, that marks some of his best, and no doubt, most enduring, work.

 CLINT'S FIRST DECADE OF FILMS
(all 3 Leones were released in US - 1967)

  • The Gauntlet (1977)
  • The Enforcer (1976)
  • The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
  • The Eiger Sanction (1975)
  • Thunderbolt And Lightfoot (1974)
  • Magnum Force (1973)
  • High Plains Drifter (1972)
  • Joe Kidd (1972)
  • Dirty Harry (1971)
  • Play Misty For Me (1971)
  • The Beguiled (1971)
  • Kelly's Heroes (1970)
  • Two Mules For Sister Sara (1969)
  • Paint Your Wagon (1969)
  • Where Eagles Dare (1968)
  • Coogan's Bluff (1968)
  • Hang 'Em High (1967)
  • "Le Streghe"  (1966) *
  • The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966)
  • For A Few Dollars More (1965)
  • A Fistful Of Dollars (1964)

 * "Le Streghe" ("The Witches") (1966) - *This Dino De Laurentiis production from 1965 is actually an anthology of five different directors' work, each telling their own stories about witches. His wife, Silvana Mangano appears in all five segments. Though Mangano never scaled the heights of her contemporary Italian beauties, Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida, she remained a favorite European star between the 1950s and 1970s. Like many multi-directed projects, this film is both plagued by its lack of continuity as well as the pretentiousness of the five individual directors.
Critics have always considered it one of De Laurentiis' more eclectic films.
The film was produced in Italy at the same time Clint Eastwood was filming the second of  his three Spaghetti Westerns with Sergio Leone. Eastwood starred as Mangano's husband in the last featured vignette, "Civic Sense".  Clint's performance is considered by most to be somewhat anonymous, but the last piece itself, does flow, featuring inventive, often bizarre, sequences of Silvana Mangano's lurid fantasies. "LeStreghe" was first released in Italy on February 22, 1967. Releases followed in West Germany and Sweden in September of the same year, and France and Finland in 1968. Its release in the US on March 12, 1968 received little notice. The little known film has, no doubt, appeared in many Clint Eastwood Trivia Quizzes.