In which the enigmatic Man With No Name gets a backstory.
Clint Eastwood burned himself onto the world’s consciousness by playing stone-faced, haunted drifters who were slow to anger but quick to dispense justice with a six-shooter. He came to Hollywood in the early 1950s bearing quite a different affect, a kid with a wide, goofy grin who was eager to please, and who could never quite get his lines down. He also had burning, ruthless ambition. Hollywood biographer and film historian McGilligan (Tender Comrades, 1997, etc.), in this emphatically unauthorized treatment, recognizes Eastwood’s accomplishments as an actor, director, and sometime jazz musician while, at the same time, showing that his attainment of those fine credentials came at a great cost to those around him: Eastwood is apparently not a nice man, is not shy of trampling others to get what he’s after, does not give credit where it is due, and is a tyrant on the set. He is also, McGilligan writes, extraordinarily shrewd, and—a frustration to any biographer—extremely careful in crafting a positive image and in controlling the publicized details of his life. Much of his background, it seems, is an invention, though movies like Play Misty for Me have an element of autobiography to them (“I had a similar experience when I was nineteen, with a gal who was maybe twenty-three, where there was just a little misinterpretation about how serious the whole thing was,” Eastwood laconically remarked); many of his political and financial dealings have been just short of illegal, if not thoroughly unethical, and though Eastwood is worth perhaps half a billion dollars, he apparently hungers for more. What bothers McGilligan most, though, is that Eastwood has fathered at least seven children by five women, most out of wedlock—which, after all the evidence McGilligan amasses, seems the least of Eastwood’s sins.
Not a flattering portrait then, but neither is it especially vengeful, as are so many trash-infused celebrity bios. Though certain to displease its subject, Hollywood hopefuls and film buffs will find it most revealing.