Clint Eastwood: A Biography

( 3 )


"Authoritative . . . highly nuanced . . . gives the reader a palpable sense of Mr. Eastwood's career."
—The New York Times

From the moment The Man With No Name first fixed the screen with his murderous squint, from the first time audiences heard Dirty Harry Callahan growl "Make my day," Clint Eastwood has been an icon of American manhood in all its coolness and ferocity. But that icon is also an actor of surprising subtlety, a filmmaker of vast intelligence and originality—and an intensely private man who eludes ...

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Clint Eastwood: A Biography

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"Authoritative . . . highly nuanced . . . gives the reader a palpable sense of Mr. Eastwood's career."
—The New York Times

From the moment The Man With No Name first fixed the screen with his murderous squint, from the first time audiences heard Dirty Harry Callahan growl "Make my day," Clint Eastwood has been an icon of American manhood in all its coolness and ferocity. But that icon is also an actor of surprising subtlety, a filmmaker of vast intelligence and originality—and an intensely private man who eludes the stereotypes with which his fans and critics try to label him.

In this in-depth biography, the distinguished film critic Richard Schickel talks with Eastwood's family, friends, and colleagues—and, above all, with his notoriously reticent subject—to produce a portrait more astute and revealing than any we have ever had.

Following Eastwood from his unstable childhood through his turbulent love affairs, assessing films from A Fistful of Dollars to the Oscar-winning The Unforgiven, and locating the subversive streak of rage and solitude that runs through all his work, Clint Eastwood is candid and endlessly fascinating, an unerring closeup of one of our brightest stars.

"Exhilarating . . . substantial, insightful, and right."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The career of actor and filmmaker Clint Eastwood has been one of the most unusual in cinema history. Starting out as a bit player in such 1950s films as The Return of the Creature and Tarantula, and then as a young hunk in the TV series Rawhide, Eastwood hurtled to international fame in 1964 by starring in an Italian western made in Spain, Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars. It took Eastwood another 20 years, however, to begin to win over critics. His ascent from critical contempt to adulation, even as he has remained enormously popular with fans, forms the heart of this superb biography. Schickel (Brando), a film critic for Time magazine, is a friend of Eastwood's, but this privilege doesn't blinker his critical eye. The actor's personal life is evoked in telling detail, and Eastwood's relentless womanizing isn't whitewashed. The core of the book, though, is Schickel's passionate defense of Eastwood as actor and director; in fact, he makes a convincing case for Eastwood as one of the most important and influential filmmakers of his generation. The production and critical reception of Eastwood's most important films are recounted in detail; especially outstanding is Schickel's analysis of the still-controversial Dirty Harry. Schickel zeros in on Eastwood's appeal, showing through his acute interpretive readings of the films how the actor combines the masculine authority and repressed rage of Gary Cooper and John Wayne with an almost postmodern ironic self-consciousness. Some of Eastwood's most compelling films (The Beguiled; Tightrope; Unforgiven), Schickel contends, have deliberately played with, and even subverted, the usual clichs of masculine film performance. No mere celebrity bio, this is a beautifully written, comprehensive and astonishingly insightful study of a man who, seemingly against all odds, has achieved world renown as both a pop culture icon and an accomplished film artist. Photos, not seen by PW. 100,000 first printing. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Clint Eastwood was an early television star who made a successful transition to features, later found fame in "spaghetti Westerns," switched his image in the Dirty Harry cop films, took chances on a risky film like Bird, and gradually attained auteur status for directing and starring in films like the OscarR-winning Unforgiven. At the same time he served as mayor of Carmel, California, proved to be an astute businessman, and made tabloid appearances for his turbulent relationships with wives and girlfriends. Noted film critic and scholar Schickel (Brando, St. Martin's, 1993) reviews Eastwood's career and finds a major theme to be "a rage for order, and also a rage against order." Drawing insights from an "agreeable but scarcely intimate relationship," Schickel sketches Eastwood's creation of screen characters who represent "an isolation more radically withdrawn than anyone has ever offered in movies intended for, and embraced by, a popular audience." Knapp considers Eastwood a "starteur," a movie star who has stayed independent while putting his major concerns, themes, and obsessions on the screen. He discusses Eastwood's take on American violence, his independence, and his surprisingly complex view of male-female relations. Knapp divides Eastwood's film career a bit too neatly into phases but offers a mostly rewarding look at the filmmaker. Both books contain filmographies. Schickel gives a fuller look at Eastwood the man, his early life and career, while Knapp is a bit more detailed in covering some of the lesser films on Eastwood's rsum. Schickel's book is recommended for public libraries; large public libraries and film collections should also consider Knapp's study.Stephen Rees, Levittown Regional Lib., Pa.
Kirkus Reviews
A veritable hagiography of actor, auteur, and man's man Eastwood.

Time film critic Schickel (Brando: A Life in Our Times, 1991, etc.) interviewed Eastwood at length for this volume, and although the word "authorized" is not stamped on the cover, this is by no means an objective appraisal of Eastwood's life and films. Eastwood grew up in and around Oakland, Calif., hung out at jazz clubs, endured a stint in the army, and struggled as a little-utilized contract player at Universal Pictures before the TV series Rawhide put him on the map in 1959. Schickel is doggedly completist about reviewing all of the actor's credits; a single guest appearance on Mr. Ed requires two pages of background, synopsis, and hyperbolic pontification ("It could be said, indeed, that this was a historic occasion"). Schickel smugly stresses the extent to which Eastwood's critical standing has improved over the years, halting frequently to pummel Pauline Kael for her Eastwood animus. Eastwood is notoriously taciturn; in the comments he offers here he avoids messy self-revelation with the same efficiency and economy that govern his aesthetic in films like High Plains Drifter and Unforgiven. Schickel glosses over Eastwood's unfaithfulness to his wife and subsequent women in his life as "one of the ways he defines freedom." An early '80s flirtation with the right-wing wacko Bo Gritz—Eastwood financially supported Gritz's mercenary incursion into Laos to find Vietnam-era POWs—is similarly treated as an understandable, well-meaning mistake (at least Eastwood is appropriately embarrassed about the adventure).

While Schickel's not on Clint's payroll, his book reads like the longest publicity release in history.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679749912
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/1997
  • Series: Vintage Series
  • Pages: 568
  • Sales rank: 636,054
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 1.37 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Schickel has been reviewing movies—first for Life, then for Time—for exactly as long as Clint Eastwood has been starring in them. He is the author of many books about film and filmmakers, among them The Disney Version, the definitive study of Walt Disney and his works; D. W. Griffith: An American Life, which won the British Film Institute Book Prize; and The Men Who Made the Movies, on the directors of the classic Hollywood age. For more than two decades he has been making television documentaries, mainly about the history of movies. He has held a Guggenheim Fellowship and has taught film history and criticism at Yale and USC. He lives in Los Angeles.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2012

    Stand out guy

    Ive not read the book but hes equally a great actor as well as director loved every thing hes directed and starred in ill consider putting this on my to read list now thative been spoiled w/the nook dont have tobuy a paper back copy buy it for the nook and i can take it with out an audience cause when reading in public others are nosy iknow because i tend to look and see what others are reading natual couriosity i guess

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2002

    Schickel Sells Out

    Schickel has a body of intelligent writing behind him. As the years have passed, film criticism and biographies from Walt Disney, James Cagney, Marlon Brando, have shown a slide in quality until we get this: an authorized biography that is poorly researched, shallow, and a long-winded celebration of questionable talent. Unlike great critics whose ability sharpen with age, Schickel¿s capacities are falling across the board with choices that have less impact in film art and then ¿analyzing¿ with dearth of reason. Eastwood¿s directorial credibility becomes questionable in light of the failure to appropriately critique even the celebrated ¿Unforgiven,¿ a flaccid and dark pseudo-Western. The tone becomes very smug as Eastwood¿s auteur rating soars in the 1980s through foreign film societies of questionable value. As far as artistic credibility goes, Schickel doesn¿t dare compare Eastwood to great directors such as Bergmann, Lang or Coppolla. The closest he can come is to mention better American directors like Ford and Huston. As an actor, Eastwood has never come close to an Academy Award and there is a reason for that, but that is something that never crosses Schickel¿s mind. Sleep walk through Eastwood¿s life as he teaches swimming in the Army, hob-knobs with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and becomes mayor of a small California town for two years. If this sounds interesting, there are a lot of other similar details scattered around all of the praise for the Swiss Army Knife of cinema. This is an embarrassingly fawning biography, uncontroversial and boring. It strongly tarnishes Schickel already eroded track record as an objective, incisive writer. Although there are some nice black and white pictures.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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