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Clint Eastwood

Classic Review: High Plains Drifter (1973)

At this point Clint Eastwood is as well recognized for his achievements as a director as he is for his work as an actor. He has been fully accepted by film critics as an auteur who brings his own distinctive stylistic touches to every film that he makes and no-one would think to question his bona fides as a scholar of the Western genre. Audiences have grown accustomed to digesting Eastwood pictures on a meta level, as he appears to be preoccupied with interrogating his own macho persona. His current reputation ensures that modern audiences struggle to understand how significant his early directorial works were in advancing his career prospects. Moviegoers weren’t prepared to see The Man with No Name struggle with girl problems and obsessive stalkers but Play Misty for Me exposed them to a rarely explored facet of Eastwood’s persona. His early directorial efforts feel like works produced by an artist who is desperate to gain artistic freedom and that provides them with an urgency that cannot be found in The 15:17 to Paris.
High Plains Drifter was the first Western he ever helmed and he wears the influence of his former collaborators rather heavily. He draws on Sergio Leone’s taste for picaresque storytelling and Don Siegel’s unfussy camera movements, whilst incorporating reverent homages to both filmmakers into the climactic gunfight. The resulting mélange of filmmaking styles that would seem to stand in opposition to one another is not entirely cohesive. As a director, Eastwood still seems resistant to the idea of taking big swings and chooses to hedge his bets at times when the screenplay calls out for stylistic excess.
The highly allegorical narrative of High Plains Drifter centers around Lago, an isolated mining town in the American Old West. The inhabitants of the settlement are presented as cowards who rely on hired gunmen to protect them from bandits. They are shocked and horrified when the enigmatic Stranger (Eastwood) rides into town and takes out all of the members of their security crew. In an effort to appease the Stranger, the townsfolk offer him the opportunity to become a dictator of sorts. He quickly takes control of the town and begins to humiliate individuals who dare to question his authority. Under his direction, the men of Lago become skillful fighters who are capable of murdering their enemies, but leaders within the community continue to stand in opposition to his plans.
Many of the film’s thematic preoccupations will be familiar to those who have seen Akira Kurosawa’s highly influential samurai epics but High Plains Drifter is primarily distinguished by its vivid, exuberant use of color. The plains referenced in the film’s title are represented as one big hallucinatory mirage and Eastwood makes the most of the extreme contrast between the wide blue skies and the sparkling waters that surround the town. The visuals become even more operatic when the Stranger instructs the townsfolk to paint the town red and starts to refer to Lago as hell on earth. By the time the climax rolls around, fire and brimstone imagery take center stage and the film fully commits to literalizing the visual metaphor at its center.
Ernest Tidyman’s pedestrian screenplay rarely displays the lightness of touch or sleight of hand that elevates Leone’s spaghetti Westerns. This means that the eye-popping cinematography is relied upon to spice up scenes that proceed along fairly predictable lines. However, Tidyman did make the crucial decision to stretch out the film’s opening act for an unusually long period of time. The opening showdown is staged in a conventional manner, which only makes it all the more disorienting when the next forty minutes are devoted to an anthropological study of the political tug of war that occurs after the usual status quo is thrown into disarray.
High Plains Drifter commercially successful hit paved the way for future Eastwood epics and stands out among his filmography for its surprisingly bold deployment of bright colors and rough textures. In many ways, the film feels like one in a long line of self-reflexive Westerns that meditate on the history of the genre. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it does gain a certain emotional resonance when considered within the context of Eastwood’s career.

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Clint Eastwood

On This Day: Clint Eastwood Film ‘Honkytonk Man’ Loosely Based on Jimmie Rodgers Hits Theaters in 1982

Clint Eastwood is a honkey tonk man. It’s been years since the legendary actor starred in the country music pilgrimage “Honkeytonk Man.”

The film released on Dec. 15, 1982, and starred both Eastwood and his son Kyle. Eastwood plays Red Stovall, a famous if reckless musician determined to secure his legacy. His character is based upon famed musician Jimmie Rodgers. Red teams up with his nephew, played by Eastwood’s son, for a road trip odyssey to the Grand Ole Opry.

Clint Eastwood Stars as a Famous Country Musician

The film is a poignant look at the legacy of the musician as much as it is a coming of age story. For all of Red’s gruffness and swagger, there’s a vulnerability to him and a fear. The country singer has tuberculosis, a death sentence back during the Great Depression. So, he must confront his mortality head-on through his music and the relationships he leaves behind. But, Red’s relationship with his nephew is the heart of the film.

The character is helped by Clint Eastwood’s own legacy. The actor’s name is forever ingrained with the Western films he made as a young man. Eastwood helped create the stereotype of the hardened gunslinger and later the hardened detective with the “Dirty Harry” franchise. But later in his career, he dismantled these archetypes, giving performances filled with emotion and vulnerability. And in “Honkeytonk Man,” Eastwood examines the life of a performer.

The film featured the last appearance by legend Marty Robbins, who appears as the guitarist Smokey. Robbins died that December before the film’s release.

Jimmie Rodgers Also Faced His Mortality

Rodgers inspired Clint Eastwood’s film the narrative of the film. Many consider Rodgers to be the father of country music. The musician came to prominence in the 1920s and during the Great Depression. He won over audiences with his recordings, which continued after his death. Like Red, doctors diagnosed Rodgers with tuberculosis. The singer was only 27 and would fight the disease for another eight years.

Rodgers kept recording until his death in 1933, aided by a nurse in the recording studio. To bookend his career, he recorded “Years Ago,” which was one of his first songs.

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Clint Eastwood

Marty Robbins Died Today in 1982: Relive His Time on Screen with Clint Eastwood in ‘Honkytonk Man’

Marty Robbins did a lot during his time on earth. From singing, songwriting, stock car racing, playing instruments, and even acting, Robbins’ resume was impressive. It also includes stepping in for legendary actor Clint Eastwood.

Perhaps Robbins’ most memorable role was in “Honkytonk Man” alongside Eastwood. Clint Eastwood produced, directed, and starred as Red Stovall in the classic. Robbins was cast as one of Stovall’s band members named Smoky. Eastwood’s son, Kyle, also stars in the film as Stovall’s nephew, Whit.

The storyline features Stovall’s dream of making it to the Grand Ole Opry in the Great Depression era. Stovall finally arrives in Nashville after a cross-country journey with his nephew and gets his chance to perform in front of Grand Ole Opry scouts.

However, Stovall can’t escape a coughing fit that’s brought on by his tuberculosis illness. This is where Robbins, the side guitarist, steps in for Eastwood.

His true talent shines while Smoky unintentionally steals the spotlight. Watch the scene below.

“Honkytonk Man” was released on December 15, 1982. Robbins passed away seven days earlier, making this his final appearance on the silver screen. He was 57 when he died on December 8, after suffering his third serious heart attack.

More About Marty Robbins

Robbins was one of the most popular and successful country-western singers for most of his nearly four-decade career that spanned from the late 1940s to the early 1980s. 

Over the course of his career, Robbins’ resume continued to grow. Classic Country Music cites that he recorded more than 500 songs and 60 albums and won two Grammy Awards. Furthermore, he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and was named the 1960s Artist of the Decade by the Academy of Country Music.

Robbins was obsessed with El Paso, both the name and the town grown-up. So naturally, he sang a song titled “El Paso.” The lyrics paint a vivid picture of a love s story. Robbins went on to win a Grammy Award in 1959 for his signature song.

Not only did Robbins love the sound of music but he loved the roar of a stock car machine. His success in country music allowed him to fund his NASCAR team. Robbins had 6 top-ten finishes in his career, with a personal best top 5 finish at the 1974 Motor State 360 in Michigan.

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Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood: Here’s How the Cowboy Icon Landed His First Role in a Western

Arguably one of the best actors to ever grace Western cinema, Clint Eastwood is an icon. His work in Westerns over his career has been outstanding. But, how did he get his start in that particular part of the industry?

It is fascinating how Clint Eastwood landed his first role in a Western. However, the first Western that the legendary actor was in was an uncredited role in a little-known movie. He played a ranch hand in the 1955 movie called Law Man, which is also known as Star in the Dust.

While the role was small, it got Clint Eastwood excited about the prospects of acting in Westerns. As everyone knows today, it seems that he was destined to play a cowboy in his career. As a tough-looking, tall, handsome man, he fits the role exceedingly well.

Clint Eastwood Got His First Role in a Western Almost By Accident

According to IMDb, Eastwood got into Western movies because he looks the part. Reportedly, he was visiting a friend at the CBS studio when an executive spotted him. During the exchange, Eastwood was told that he “looked like a cowboy.”

Even though this is absolutely true and fits the role to a tee, it is impressive that’s how he landed a role. The first credited movie that he was in because of this exchange was a 1959 Western television show called Rawhide.

Clint Eastwood was cast as Rowdy Yates in the show. Rawhide ran from 1959 to 1965, and Clint Eastwood was in the show for its entirety. In fact, he had the most episodes of anyone in the show. This is somewhat surprising, considering his extensive cinema work outside the show.

Rawhide essentially launched his Western movie career. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly was filmed in 1966, certainly a direct result of his work on the television show.

So, it is safe to say that the CBS executive who pegged him as a man fit for Western’s was definitely correct. You can thank that man for the wonderful work that Clint Eastwood has done ever since.

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