The Clintessential Eastwood

by Judson Hammond

[From Instauration, April 1998]

Back in 1976 when reviewing movies was part of my regular -- albeit poorly paid -- 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 tables in one of the dining rooms (and fed a free lunch -- which I always appreciated in those lean days). The great man table-hopped, granting a few precious minutes to the reporters clustered at each table. Obviously, one could come up with droves of questions for someone who had been in the motion picture business for almost 50 years and had been an icon of popular culture for at least 35, but the circumstances 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 temporary next-door neighbor was the Duke himself. Well, here was a chance for a question -- but which one? "I'm curious -- what do you think about Clint Eastwood?" I asked. Eastwood was then the box office champ, a leading actor/director in the western genre and the heir apparent to the Duke's throne.

Wayne zipped up and pondered the question for a couple of seconds. "That guy's too damn invulnerable," he said, shaking his head. then he turned and went away.
< br> In terms of movie roles, Wayne was certainly right. At that point, the only Clint Eastwood star vehicle that had bombed was The Beguiled, a 1971 Southern 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 Fistful of Dollies during shooting.) In 1982, Eastwood starred in Honky Tonk Man, a movie about a Depression-era country and western singer who died of tuberculosis at the end of the film. Not a bad movie, but a box office dud. Clearly, this is not what the public wanted.[1] They wanted that flinty Mount Rushmore physiognomy (a Norman Mailer apotheosis of Eastwood referred to his "Presidential face") with that almost epicanthic squint:

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 independent and self-sufficient.[2]

The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer. It has never yet melted.[3]

The on-screen Eastwood was invincible: a lean, mean killing machine. John Wayne, 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 the back."[4]

In his private life, Eastwood was also invulnerable -- until recently. His priapic private life has now become public in two books: (1) Clint Eastwood: a Biography, by film critic Richard Schickel; (2)The Good, the Bad and the Very Ugly: a Hollywood Journey, by Eastwood's former longtime paramour, actress Sondra Locke. Schickel's opus is admirably Teutonic in its thoroughness but a bit too worshipful. Locke's work, on the other hand, is more of a kiss-and-tell/woman-scorned tale. Elements in both books should be disturbing to Instaurationists who are fans of the "conservative" Eastwood.

The basic Eastwood bio has been delineated in countless magazine articles. Born in 1930, he had an itinerant childhood, as his father moved up and down the west coast looking for work. Clint knocked around at odd jobs in his youth before he developed 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 encounter with a network executive resulted in an audition for the TV show, Rawhide. Eastwood snared the part and the show ran from 1959 to 1966. During his hiatus in 1964, he filmed an Italian western, A Fistful of Dollars, which transformed him 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 series, and various and sundry other features, some good, some bad, some indifferent -- a number of which were directed by Eastwood himself. A few (Breezy, Bird and the recent Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) feature Eastwood 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 Cinema Collection was established at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and at the Wesleyan University Cinema Archives. He has received lifetime achievement awards from the American Film Institute, the Film Society of Lincoln Center and American 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 Picture 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 appointed to the National Council on the arts by Richard Nixon. Retrospectives of his work have been mounted by the Paris Cinematheque and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. 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 Caspar 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 dutifully logged 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 subject of articles in serious film journals, as well as in the New York Review of Books.< br>
Biographer Schickel estimates that Eastwood's films have raked in more than $3 billion, so his establishment status is warranted. But how did he manage to have such staying power? Is he that good an actor? Is he that good a director? Is he as self- sufficient as his screen persona? Or has he been overly promoted by the powers that be?

While the surface Eastwood is Nordic (Scotch, English, Dutch and Irish) and politically conservative (he supported both Nixon and Reagan), there are troubling currents in the underground man. During his adolescence he had the good fortune to live in Piedmont (Calif.), a town with "no Asians, only one or two Jewish families,"[5] yet he chose to attend high school in Oakland, which "at that time had the largest black population of any city west of Detroit."[6] During those years, Eastwood developed his lifelong fascination with jazz and the musicians of color who produced it. He once revealed that during his adolescenct years, he thought of himself as "really a black guy in a white body."[7] Of his popularity with blacks, he muses, "I suppose they see me as an outcast."[8] 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 about somebody who's prejudiced against Jews or blacks or whatever."[9]

Instaurationist moviegoers may recall with fondness Eastwood's famous confrontation with the black bank robber in Dirty Harry ("Do you feel lucky? Well, do you, punk?") Or his "Make my day" tag-line before blasting away at a group of melanoid miscreants in Sudden Impact.[10] his behind-the-scenes affinitites are another story. In more recent years, he received an award from the NAACP for contributing to the employment of black actors via the film, Bird, the story of jazzman Charlie Parker. For his efforts on behalf of jazz, Eastwood was inducted into the American 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 connections was Arthur Lubin, a hack homosexual director who is today best known for bringing < i>Mr. Ed
to the TV screens of America. This is not to say that Eastwood had a "relationship" with Lubin, but he might have strung him along in order to advance his career. Certainly, Clint Eastwood in his youth is the stuff gay dreams are made of.

A more important Jewish relationship, artistically speaking, was with director Don Siegel. Though not a household word, Siegel was a solid director, particularly of action movies. His career in Hollywood ran the gamut from film librarian to assistant editor to director of montage (brief, often cleverly edited sequences put together to show the rapid passage of time in a film) to short a subject director to a director of highly regarded B movies and, finally, A movies.[11] As for his ethnicity, Siegel once made the following curious comment: "The question of being Jewish has never really been much of a problem with me, possibly because most of my enemies are Jewish."[12]

Siegel directed Eastwood in Coogan's Bluff, Two Mules for Sister Sara, The Beguiled, Dirty Harry[13] and Escape from Alcatraz. He co- signed Eastwood's application to join the Directors Guild and made his one and only appearance as an actor in Play Misty for Me, Eastwood's directorial debut.

From a business point of view, Eastwood's most important Jewish connection was with the late Steve Ross, head of the Warner Communications, now Time Warner, imperium. Eastwood's production company, Malpaso, has released all of its films 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 attentive.[14]

After Ross's death in late 1992, Eastwood remembered him the following year in his Oscar acceptance speech for Unforgiven.

One cannot help but wonder if Time Warner influence didn't play a part in covering up Eastwood's sexual escapades. More than likely they were protecting their cash cow (or bull), just as studios of old did when their stars departed from the straight and 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 private life was very private until Sondra Locke's palimony suit forced it into the public record.

While feminist critics have long complained about Eastwood's on-screen treatment of females, even more illuminating is his off-screen treatment of the opposite sex. He skirts close to the status of cad. A cursory examination of photos taken during his youth (at age 15, he had already reached his full height of 6'4") readily explain why he was as attractive to women as he was to Arthur Lubin. In 1953 Eastwood decided to marry one Maggie Johnson, a tall, tan Berkeley grad who did swimsuit modeling. 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 during his lean years as a contract player, but even after he achieved some measure of success in Rawhide, he rebuffed his wife's desire to bear children. This, however, did not stop him from fathering a child out of wedlock. In 1964 one Roxane Tunis, who worked on the Rawhide set, gave birth to his daughter, Kimber, who has since made him a grandfather. After wife Maggie recovered from a serious illness, Eastwood relented on parenthood within wedlock. His two children, Kyle and Allison, born in 1968 and 1970, respectively, are picture-perfect Nordics and both have appeared in some of his movies.[15]

In 1975, while filming The Outlaw Josey Wales,[16] in which he co-starred with Sondra Locke, the two became an item. Locke, something of an odd duck, grew up in a small town in Tennessee. Her childhood sounds like something out of a Truman 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 two abortions and her tubal ligation were her idea or his. Her revelations that Eastwood has a temper, is a health and fitness buff, and had a hair transplant are hardly shocking. At any rate, Eastwood eventually tired of her (and may have used his 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 Reeves, a former stewardess who lives in his hometown of Carmel. He later moved on to one 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 high horse. 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 sexual options that surpass the average man's fantasies. For the most part, however, the women Eastwood consorted with were all good-looking Nordics,[17] with the notable 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. Eastwood, who was once so reluctant to father children by white women, has already fathered a 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 Latinas as wives.[18]

I think the Duke was right about Eastwood being "too damn invulnerable" in his early screen appearances. In his professional life, however, Eastwood was hardly the independent, self-sufficient man he frequently portrayed. He obviously knew how to play ball with the Chosen to get what he wanted. They enriched him; he enriched them. Perhaps it would be forgivable if his movies were better. But a complete overview of the Eastwood canon shows a few winners, a few stinkers, and a lot of mediocrities.

Is it really all about money and power? When a man with the power and influence of Eastwood does so little to help his race and so much to undermine it, one can only wonder. Can we theorize that the greatest physical exponents of Nordicism are not necessarily those who are most committed to it?

So often in these pages the question arises as to why Nordic women act against the best interests of their race? In light of the behavior of Clint Eastwood, perhaps the question should be asked in relation to Nordic men.




1. Though the ending of Escape From Alcatraz (1979) is ambiguous, a case 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 Eastwood: Riding High by Douglas Thompson (Contemporary Books, Chicago, 1992), p. 121.
3. D.H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature (The Viking Press, New York, 1970), p. 62.
4. Iain Johnstone, The Biography of Clint Eastwood: the Man With No Name (Morrow Quill, New York, 1981), P. 51.
5. Richard Schickel, Clint Eastwood: a Biography (Knopf, New York, 1996), p. 37.
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 amount of interracial hanky-panky in his films (e.g., Magnum Force, The Eiger Sanction, The Outlaw Josey Wales and Bird). Unforgiven and the Dirty Harry films pair him with minority or female partners, and it probably didn't hurt that he portrayed Russian Jews as heroic freedom fighters in Firefox .
11. Siegel also directed The Shootist, the John Wayne swan song mentioned at the beginning of this article.
12. Stuart M. Kaminsky, Don Siegel: Director (Curtis Books, New York, 1974), p. 20.
13. Of Dirty Harry, Eastwood offered the following observation: "After World War II we went to Nuremberg and we tried members of the [Nazi] party in Germany at that time. We tried them and convicted them for not adhering to a higher morality. Well, that's the way Dirty Harry is. He listens to a higher morality above the law." 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 with Elizabeth Taylor between her two marriages to Richard Burton. Wynberg's brushes with the law include a conviction for statutory rape and a fine for turning back the odometers on his cars. Wynberg provided his underage sex partners with alcohol and drugs and took pictures of their escapades. His 1985 marriage to the former Mrs. Eastwood ended after four years due to his verbal abuse, boozing, free-spending and 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 that Forrest Carter, author of the novel, The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales, was a member in good standing of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan.
17. During the filming of Paint Your Wagon, Eastwood had an affair with Jean Seberg, the white renegade actress profiled in Instauration (Dec. 1980, p. 27).
18. Another irony is that Eastwood's least macho film, The Bridges of Madison County, was largely filmed in John Wayne's hometown, Winterset, Iowa.

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