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Sunday, October 25, 2020

Dirty Harry turns 90

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Legendary actor, filmmaker, musician, composer and local politician Clint Eastwood was born on May 31st, 1930 in San Francisco. He was nicknamed “Samson” by the hospital nurses because he weighed 5.2 kg at birth. Eastwood is a direct descendent of William Bradford, an English Puritan who arrived in the New World on the Mayflower ship in 1620 and founded the second colony in North America. As a 12th generation born American, he also has Irish, Scottish and Dutch blood in his veins.

His father worked mostly as a manufacturing executive for a big pulp and paper company and moved to an affluent area of Piedmont, a smaller city in California in the 1940s. Eastwood was held back in middle school due to poor academic scores and even asked to leave high school for various infractions. During the Korean War, he served in the army from 1951-53 as a life guard at California’s Fort Ord. Afterwards Eastwood earned his daily bread digging swimming pools, but also as lumberjack, aircraft factory worker, steel-furnace stoker, hay baler, logger, truck driver and gas station attendant.

Eastwood’s impressive appearance and stature of 193 cm got him a short initial contract in April 1954, though he was criticized for his stiff manner and delivering his lines through his teeth. Interestingly enough, both became a lifelong trademark. After many unsuccessful auditions, he was eventually given a minor role in Revenge of the Creature the following year. Eastwood finally got his big break with a starring role on Rawhide, an American Western television series which ran from 1958 to 1966.

He then gained international popularity with Spaghetti Westerns like A Fistful of Dollars, For a few dollars more and The Good the Bad and the Ugly from 1964 to 1966. The Dirty Harry franchise started in 1971, the same year he gave his directing debut with Play Misty for Me. In between, he declined to be James Bond, because he felt that 007 must be British. Portraying tough characters made Eastwood an enduring cultural icon of masculinity, long before misandrists added the word “toxic” to it.

Eastwood has earned widespread praise for his work. He won an Oscar for best picture and best director twice: for the Revisionist Western Unforgiven in 1993 and the sports drama Million Dollar Baby in 2005. He also made two films about one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific Ocean Theater during World War II, Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. He attempted to show for the first time the suffering of both sides during 36 days of fierce fighting in early 1945.

Other memorable films with unconventional topics include Heartbreak Ridge (1986), about a veteran from the Korean War during the American invasion of the Caribbean island state of Grenada in 1983; Gran Torino (2008), about Hmong refugees from Laos resettled in the US following the communist takeover of their country in 1975; Invictus (2009), about South Africa winning the Rugby World Cup one year after the end of apartheid, as well as The Mule (2018), about a World War II veteran who became a drug courier for a Mexican drug cartel and got arrested at the age of 87.

Eastwood is firmly aware of which side in the two-party system in the US better aligns with his views, and unapologetic about it. He voted for numerous Republican presidential candidates and spoke at the convention in 2012 which nominated Mitt Romney. He supported Donald Trump, only to ditch him for Michael Bloomberg in 2019.

Still, he has been intentionally reluctant to call himself a conservative. Instead, he stated: “From a libertarian point of view, you would say people should be able to be what they want to be and do what they want – as long as they’re not harming others” and “I guess I was a social liberal and a fiscal conservative before it became fashionable”.

While general permissiveness doesn’t seem to match with a convinced Libertarian like him as, Eastwood isn’t opposed to same-sex marriage and abortion. Without remaining in the background himself, he strongly believes that the government should stay out of one’s private life.

In an industry full of those with shallow and narcissistic inclinations, a Hollywood icon who never compromised his ideals and principles while playing piano and guitar can be considered an endangered species.

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