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Go Ahead, Make My Day

Well, it turns out that there is another Hollywood tough guy hanging out in the branches of my Potter line.

Clinton Eastwood, Jr. was born 31 May 1930 in San Francisco, CA, the son of Clinton Eastwood Sr., a bond salesman and later manufacturing executive for the Georgia-Pacific Corporation, and Ruth (nee Runner) Eastwood, a housewife turned IBM operator. He was nicknamed "Samson" by the hospital nurses because he weighed 11 pounds 6 ounces at birth. His sister Jeanne was born in 1934.

He had a comfortable, middle-class upbringing in nearby Piedmont. The family had a swimming pool, a car, and belonged to a country club. Clint took an interest in music and mechanics, but was an otherwise bored student, resulting in his being held back a grade. He swam competitively in high school and also played on the basketball team. He was later asked to leave for a variety of school infractions.

When Clint was 19, his parents relocated to Washington state and he spent a couple years working menial jobs in the Pacific Northwest, including lifeguard, paper carrier, grocery clerk, forest firefighter, and golf caddy. In 1951 he tried enrolling at Seattle University, but was drafted into the Army during the Korean War. "He always dropped the Korean War reference, hoping everyone would conclude that he was in combat and might be some sort of hero. Actually, he'd been a lifeguard at Ford Ord in northern California for his entire stint in the military," according to Sondra Locke, his former longtime companion.

While stationed at Fort Ord, he made his Hollywood connections. He auditioned for director Arthur Lubin who was very impressed with Clint's appearance and 6'4" stature, but disapproved of his acting, remarking, "He was quite amateurish. He didn't know which way to turn or which way to go or do anything". Lubin suggested that he attend drama classes and arranged for Clint's initial contract in April 1954, at $100 per week. He continued to be criticized for his stiff manner and delivering his lines through his teeth, a lifelong trademark.

He appeared in several movies and, although he continued to develop as an actor, Universal terminated his contract on 23 October 1955. He would get bit parts, but, without a contract, he was struggling. It was not until 1958 when he was cast in the Rawhide television series that he achieved his breakthrough. In the show's first season he earned $750 an episode. At the time of Rawhide's cancellation, he was receiving $119,000 an episode.

His big-screen success came in the role of "The Man with No Name" in Sergio Leone's spaghetti western trilogy: A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For A Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). The movies were shown exclusively in Italy during their respective copyright years and were not shown in the United States until 1967 and 1968. After the last film was released, Clint, then 37 years old, went from a television afterthought to a box office draw.

Perhaps his most famous role was in the movie Dirty Harry, released 23 December 1971. However, it was Frank Sinatra who was initially considered for the role but reportedly had to leave the film because a hand injury he had suffered a decade earlier on the set of The Manchurian Candidate made Harry's all-important .44 Magnum too heavy for the singer-actor to hold comfortably. ("That sounded like a pretty lame excuse," Clint recalled in 2008.)

Also in the "What If" category, here are some other things to consider if they had actually occurred:

  • He was going to play the villain Two-Face on the Batman (1966) TV series, but the show was canceled before the episode began shooting.

  • He was offered the role of James Bond in Live and Let Die (1973). Although he was flattered, he declined, saying that Bond should be played by an English actor.

  • He turned down the role of Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now (1979) because he found the storyline "too dark." The role went to Martin Sheen.

  • He was considered for the role of Rambo in First Blood (1982) long before Sylvester Stallone was hired.

  • He had had planned to star in Die Hard (1988) and originally owned the rights to the novel "Nothing Lasts Forever" on which the film was based, but opted to make The Dead Pool (1988), another Dirty Harry installment instead.

To date, Clint has contributed to over 50 films as actor, director, producer, and composer. He started directing in 1971, and made his debut as a producer in 1982 with Firefox, although he had been functioning as an uncredited producer on all of his Malpaso Company films since Hang 'Em High in 1968. He also has contributed music to his films, either through performing, writing, or composing. He even found time to serve as Mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea for one term from 1986 to 1988, for which had the nominal salary of $300. He has won four Academy Awards, 2 for Best Picture and 2 for Best Director (Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby).

At age 91, he is still going strong. His next film, Cry Macho, will be released on 17 September 2021.

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