The Clintessential Eastwood
by Judson Hammond
[From Instauration, April 1998]
Back in 1976 when reviewing movies was part of my regular -- albeit poorly
journalistic duties, I was invited to a press conference where John Wayne
was to plug
his latest (and, as it turned out, his last) movie, The Shootist.
The local media
folks gathered at a posh downtown hotel, where we were seated at round
one of the dining rooms (and fed a free lunch -- which I always appreciated
lean days). The great man table-hopped, granting a few precious minutes to
reporters clustered at each table. Obviously, one could come up with droves
questions for someone who had been in the motion picture business for
years and had been an icon of popular culture for at least 35, but the
were not amenable to an in-depth interview.
After the luncheon broke up, I paid a visit to the men's room. As I parked
myself at the
urinal, I heard heavy footsteps behind me. I turned and discovered that my
next-door neighbor was the Duke himself. Well, here was a chance for a
but which one? "I'm curious -- what do you think about Clint Eastwood?" I
Eastwood was then the box office champ, a leading actor/director in the
genre and the heir apparent to the Duke's throne.
Wayne zipped up and pondered the question for a couple of seconds. "That
damn invulnerable," he said, shaking his head. then he turned and went
In terms of movie roles, Wayne was certainly right. At that point, the only
Eastwood star vehicle that had bombed was The Beguiled, a 1971
Gothic stew in which he played a wounded Union soldier who was done in by a
coven of finishing school girls. (The film was waggishly nicknamed A
Dollies during shooting.) In 1982, Eastwood starred in Honky Tonk
movie about a Depression-era country and western singer who died of
the end of the film. Not a bad movie, but a box office dud. Clearly, this
is not what the
public wanted. They wanted that flinty Mount Rushmore physiognomy (a
Mailer apotheosis of Eastwood referred to his "Presidential face") with
Every role he's played -- cowboy, pilot, detective -- heightens his image
as a loner. He
is the supreme example of the man who has made his own rules and made them
work for him. He represents our most prized fantasy -- to be totally
The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer. It has
The on-screen Eastwood was invincible: a lean, mean killing machine. John
of course, could shoot straight, but if the script called for it, he could
die at the end of a
film without also killing off the box office receipts. "I do all the stuff
Wayne would never
do," remarked Eastwood. "I play bigger-than-life characters, but I'd shoot
the guy in
In his private life, Eastwood was also invulnerable -- until recently. His
life has now become public in two books: (1) Clint Eastwood: a
film critic Richard Schickel; (2)The Good, the Bad and the Very Ugly: a
Journey, by Eastwood's former longtime paramour, actress Sondra Locke.
Schickel's opus is admirably Teutonic in its thoroughness but a bit too
Locke's work, on the other hand, is more of a kiss-and-tell/woman-scorned
Elements in both books should be disturbing to Instaurationists who are
fans of the
The basic Eastwood bio has been delineated in countless magazine articles.
1930, he had an itinerant childhood, as his father moved up and down the
looking for work. Clint knocked around at odd jobs in his youth before he
an interest in acting. He signed a contract at Universal, appearing in bit
parts in an
assortment of forgettable movies. He got his big break when a chance
a network executive resulted in an audition for the TV show,
Eastwood snared the part and the show ran from 1959 to 1966. During his
1964, he filmed an Italian western, A Fistful of Dollars, which
from TV star to movie star -- as tricky a metamorphosis then as it is
today. Two more
Italian westerns followed, then American westerns, the Dirty Harry
various and sundry other features, some good, some bad, some indifferent --
number of which were directed by Eastwood himself. A few (Breezy,
i> and the recent Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) feature
as director, not actor. Away from the screen, his foray into politics as
mayor of the
boutiquey, artsy-craftsy town of Carmel has been well chronicled.
For someone who built a career as an anti-hero, Eastwood has become an
entrenched part of the establishment cultural scene. The Clint Eastwood
Collection was established at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and at
Wesleyan University Cinema Archives. He has received lifetime achievement
from the American Film Institute, the Film Society of Lincoln Center and
Cinema Editors (the abbreviation A.C.E. often appears in movie credits
after the name
of member editors). He received the Irving Thalberg Award from the Motion
Academy of Arts & Sciences and the California Governor's Award for the
Arts. He has
lectured twice at the British Film Institute (where he is a fellow) and was
the National Council on the arts by Richard Nixon. Retrospectives of his
been mounted by the Paris Cinematheque and the Walker Art Center in
The French awarded him the Chevalier of Arts and Letters Medal.
When not receiving awards, Clint could be found at awards ceremonies or
fundraisers in Washington with movers and shakers like the Reagans and
Weinberger. He even tripped the light fantastic with the late Princess
Diana at an
official state function, hobnobbing with her again in London. He also
time raising money for the Armand Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Written up
countless times in the mass media mush magazines, he has also been the
articles in serious film journals, as well as in the New York Review of
Biographer Schickel estimates that Eastwood's films have raked in more than
billion, so his establishment status is warranted. But how did he manage to
staying power? Is he that good an actor? Is he that good a director? Is he
sufficient as his screen persona? Or has he been overly promoted by the
While the surface Eastwood is Nordic (Scotch, English, Dutch and Irish) and
conservative (he supported both Nixon and Reagan), there are troubling
the underground man. During his adolescence he had the good fortune to live
Piedmont (Calif.), a town with "no blacks...no Asians, only one or two
families," yet he chose to attend high school in Oakland, which "at that
time had the
largest black population of any city west of Detroit." During those
developed his lifelong fascination with jazz and the musicians of color who
it. He once revealed that during his adolescenct years, he thought of
himself as "really
a black guy in a white body." Of his popularity with blacks, he muses,
they see me as an outcast." Of film critic Pauline Kael, who never
acquired a taste
for his films, he opined, "When somebody is that dogmatic, I feel like I do
somebody who's prejudiced against Jews or blacks or whatever."
Instaurationist moviegoers may recall with fondness Eastwood's famous
with the black bank robber in Dirty Harry ("Do you feel lucky? Well,
punk?") Or his "Make my day" tag-line before blasting away at a group of
miscreants in Sudden Impact. his behind-the-scenes affinitites
story. In more recent years, he received an award from the NAACP for
the employment of black actors via the film, Bird, the story of
Parker. For his efforts on behalf of jazz, Eastwood was inducted into the
Music Hall of Fame.
While the predictable assortment of Jewish agents, executives and business
managers are threaded throughout his life, one of his earliest Jewish
was Arthur Lubin, a hack homosexual director who is today best known for
i>Mr. Ed to the TV screens of America. This is not to say that Eastwood
"relationship" with Lubin, but he might have strung him along in order to
career. Certainly, Clint Eastwood in his youth is the stuff gay dreams are
A more important Jewish relationship, artistically speaking, was with
Siegel. Though not a household word, Siegel was a solid director,
action movies. His career in Hollywood ran the gamut from film librarian to
editor to director of montage (brief, often cleverly edited sequences put
show the rapid passage of time in a film) to short a subject director to a
highly regarded B movies and, finally, A movies. As for his ethnicity,
made the following curious comment: "The question of being Jewish has never
been much of a problem with me, possibly because most of my enemies are
Siegel directed Eastwood in Coogan's Bluff, Two Mules for Sister
The Beguiled, Dirty Harry and Escape from
Alcatraz. He co-
signed Eastwood's application to join the Directors Guild and made his one
appearance as an actor in Play Misty for Me, Eastwood's directorial
From a business point of view, Eastwood's most important Jewish connection
with the late Steve Ross, head of the Warner Communications, now Time
imperium. Eastwood's production company, Malpaso, has released all of its
through Warner Brothers since 1976. As Schickel notes:
No one gets the kind of acclaim that has accrued to Clint over the last
decade and a
half without institutional support. If nothing else, the logistics of
celebration have to be
attended to, and in this respect Warner Bros. has been wonderfully
After Ross's death in late 1992, Eastwood remembered him the following year
Oscar acceptance speech for Unforgiven.
One cannot help but wonder if Time Warner influence didn't play a part in
Eastwood's sexual escapades. More than likely they were protecting their
(or bull), just as studios of old did when their stars departed from the
narrow. In today's tabloid climate, it is almost inconceivable that a
public figure of
Eastwood's magnitude could indulge in such sexual athletics unnoticed. His
life was very private until Sondra Locke's palimony suit forced it into the
While feminist critics have long complained about Eastwood's on-screen
females, even more illuminating is his off-screen treatment of the opposite
skirts close to the status of cad. A cursory examination of photos taken
youth (at age 15, he had already reached his full height of 6'4") readily
he was as attractive to women as he was to Arthur Lubin. In 1953 Eastwood
to marry one Maggie Johnson, a tall, tan Berkeley grad who did swimsuit
As classic an Instaurationist coupling as one could ask for, this
relationship was not
good enough for Eastwood. He was understandably reluctant to have children
his lean years as a contract player, but even after he achieved some
success in Rawhide, he rebuffed his wife's desire to bear children.
however, did not stop him from fathering a child out of wedlock. In 1964
Tunis, who worked on the Rawhide set, gave birth to his daughter,
who has since made him a grandfather. After wife Maggie recovered from a
illness, Eastwood relented on parenthood within wedlock. His two children,
Allison, born in 1968 and 1970, respectively, are picture-perfect Nordics
have appeared in some of his movies.
In 1975, while filming The Outlaw Josey Wales, in which he
Sondra Locke, the two became an item. Locke, something of an odd duck, grew
a small town in Tennessee. Her childhood sounds like something out of a
Capote story. She married a high school chum, one Gordon Anderson, an
acknowledged homosexual, and remains married to him to this day. She became
pregnant by Eastwood twice, though there is some debate as to whether her
abortions and her tubal ligation were her idea or his. Her revelations that
has a temper, is a health and fitness buff, and had a hair transplant are
shocking. At any rate, Eastwood eventually tired of her (and may have used
influence with Warner Brothers to sabotage her career). It cost him almost
as much to
get rid of her ($20 million) as it did to divorce his wife ($28 million).
Despite the high
cost of such activities, he sired two illegitimate children by one Jacelyn
former stewardess who lives in his hometown of Carmel. He later moved on to
Frances Fisher, a small-time actress, who bore him a child in 1993.
Such behavior is hardly admirable, but it is pointless to get on a moral
How many men have had women throw themselves at them from youth to old age?
When a physically attractive man attains wealth, fame and power, he has
options that surpass the average man's fantasies. For the most part,
women Eastwood consorted with were all good-looking Nordics, with the
exception of Barbra Streisand.
Eastwood met TV reporter Dina Ruiz in 1993 when she was doing a series on
prominent people in the Carmel area. She was barely 30 when she married
Eastwood in March 1996. Now we are not talking about a daughter of the old
California dons but a mestiza, as a glance at her picture reveals.
who was once so reluctant to father children by white women, has already
child (born in January of 1997) by his dusky young esposa.
Ironically, in this
respect, he has followed in the footsteps of John Wayne, who favored
I think the Duke was right about Eastwood being "too damn invulnerable" in
screen appearances. In his professional life, however, Eastwood was hardly
independent, self-sufficient man he frequently portrayed. He obviously knew
play ball with the Chosen to get what he wanted. They enriched him; he
them. Perhaps it would be forgivable if his movies were better. But a
overview of the Eastwood canon shows a few winners, a few stinkers, and a
Is it really all about money and power? When a man with the power and
Eastwood does so little to help his race and so much to undermine it, one
wonder. Can we theorize that the greatest physical exponents of Nordicism
necessarily those who are most committed to it?
So often in these pages the question arises as to why Nordic women act
best interests of their race? In light of the behavior of Clint Eastwood,
question should be asked in relation to Nordic men.
1. Though the ending of Escape From Alcatraz (1979) is ambiguous, a
could be made that the Eastwood protagonist could not have survived the
treacherous currents and icy water surrounding the famed federal prison.
2. Stanley Platman, University of Maryland psychiatrist, quoted in Clint
Riding High by Douglas Thompson (Contemporary Books, Chicago, 1992), p.
3. D.H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature (The Viking
New York, 1970), p. 62.
4. Iain Johnstone, The Biography of Clint Eastwood: the Man With No
(Morrow Quill, New York, 1981), P. 51.
5. Richard Schickel, Clint Eastwood: a Biography (Knopf, New York,
6. Ibid, p. 39.
7. Ibid, p. 427.
8. Ibid, p. 323.
9. Ibid, p. 281.
10. As if to counterbalance these scenes, Eastwood also features a fair
interracial hanky-panky in his films (e.g., Magnum Force, The
Sanction, The Outlaw Josey Wales and Bird).
the Dirty Harry films pair him with minority or female partners, and
didn't hurt that he portrayed Russian Jews as heroic freedom fighters in
11. Siegel also directed The Shootist, the John Wayne swan song
at the beginning of this article.
12. Stuart M. Kaminsky, Don Siegel: Director (Curtis Books, New
13. Of Dirty Harry, Eastwood offered the following observation:
War II we went to Nuremberg and we tried members of the [Nazi] party in
that time. We tried them and convicted them for not adhering to a higher
Well, that's the way Dirty Harry is. He listens to a higher morality above
Quoted by Johnstone, p. 84.
14. Schickel, p. 372.
15. Maggie Eastwood's second husband was a "Dutchman" by the name of Henry
Wynberg, a former used car salesman who gained some notoriety by consorting
Elizabeth Taylor between her two marriages to Richard Burton. Wynberg's
with the law include a conviction for statutory rape and a fine for turning
odometers on his cars. Wynberg provided his underage sex partners with
drugs and took pictures of their escapades. His 1985 marriage to the former
Eastwood ended after four years due to his verbal abuse, boozing,
philandering. In 1992 he married a 19-year-old Costa Rican woman.
16. It was something of an embarrassment for Eastwood when it was revealed
Forrest Carter, author of the novel, The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales,
member in good standing of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan.
17. During the filming of Paint Your Wagon, Eastwood had an affair
Seberg, the white renegade actress profiled in Instauration (Dec. 1980, p.
18. Another irony is that Eastwood's least macho film, The Bridges of
County, was largely filmed in John Wayne's hometown, Winterset,