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.
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,
you an actor?"
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
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:
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
Years back, someone once asked Clint Eastwood:
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).
CLINT'S FIRST DECADE OF FILMS
* "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.