The life and career of the ultimate Hollywood survivor.
Celebrity-bio vet Eliot (Reagan: The Hollywood Years, 2008, etc.) unpacks the legendary career of Clint Eastwood. The author provides scant details of Eastwood’s early life, noting his indifferent academic career and uneventful, middle-class upbringing. After a series of dead-end jobs, including a storied stint as a gas-station attendant, Eastwood, by dint of his angular good looks and strapping frame, slowly broke into the acting business, becoming a national celebrity playing cowboy Rowdy Yates on the long-running Rawhide TV series. His performance as Yates landed him the role of “The Man with No Name” in a series of seminal, operatic westerns directed by Sergio Leone. Eastwood attained worldwide iconic status as a deadly, laconic, grimly ironic prodigy of violence, further cemented by his series of ultraviolent turns as maverick cop Dirty Harry. Eliot declines to make detailed analyses of the films or the actor’s performances, focusing instead on the nuts and bolts of Eastwood’s preternaturally savvy careerist maneuvering and womanizing tendencies. Eastwood comes off as a rather cold, unpleasant character in these respects, using friendships and sexual dalliances to his advantage only to ruthlessly cut them off when they became inconvenient or tiresome. The autocratic star also made a habit of working with “weak” directors and co-stars to insure his dominance in his films. Eastwood’s directing career, including the Oscar-winning films Unforgiven (1992) and Million Dollar Baby (2004), is recounted respectfully, but again Eliot focuses on the negotiations and profits rather than elucidating his style. On the other hand, the author clearly and succinctly summarizes Eastwood’s political and cinematic careers, including the history of his production company, Malpaso. His take on Eastwood’s shabby treatment of longtime girlfriend and frequent co-star Sondra Locke betrays a measure of sympathy for her position absent in his description of the star’s (many) other indiscretions.
An adequate reference work, but short on the mystique that makes Eastwood such a compelling subject.