Seldom do actors go from stardom on TV to stardom in films. A few notable exceptions are Jackie Gleason, Steve McQueen, Burt Reynolds, James Garner and, most successfully, today’s star attraction, Clint Eastwood.
Not only has Eastwood been a huge big screen star but he’s also become one of the industry’s most successful and decorated producers and directors.
His direction of last year’s American Sniper propelled the film starring Bradley Cooper as Iraq-war shapshooter Chris Kyle into the ranks of the year’s top box office hits (with worldwide revenues of $547 million).
At 85 years old Eastwood remains something of a Hollywood renaissance man. He does just about everything. He has racked up nearly 70 credits as an actor, nearly 40 as a director, about 40 as a producer and eight as a composer. In all, he has four Academy Awards in various categories on the strength of 11 nominations. He’s won four Golden Globes on a dozen nominations. They love him in Cannes.
Some Eastwood tidbits:
— Eastwood make his movie debut, playing the (uncredited) part of a lab technician in 1955’s Revenge of the Creature, released in 3D and starring Shirley Temple’s former husband, John Agar. Triva bonus: Eastwood also appeared with Carol Channing, of all people, in 1956’s The First Traveling Saleslady.
— Eastwood was fired by the first big Hollywood studio he worked for because “he just didn’t have the right look.” Two other actors were also canned at the same time — David Janssen and Burt Reynolds. The former was let go by the studio because of his “receding hairline and distracting facial tics” while execs felt Reynolds “couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag.”
— As mentioned, Eastwood’s first big break came not in the movies but on TV in the CBS western series Rawhide that ran for seven years beginning in 1959. But he almost lost the role of Rowdy Yates to another actor, Neil “Bing” Russell, the father of actor Kurt Russell. The senior Russell later found a longtime perch on the Bonanza TV series.
— By now, Eastwood’s skills as a pianist/composer are well known, but in his earlier days he was known also as a singer. To cash in on his Rawhide popularity, Eastwood in 1961 was persuaded to record a single comprising “Unknown Girl” backed by a cover version of “For All We Know.” His singing wasn’t bad, leading to a subsequent album, Rawhide’s Clint Eastwood Sings Cowboy Favorites.
— Eastwood was definitely NOT the star of Rawhide. The star of the show was Eric Fleming, an actor hardly remembered today. But no one got more career mileage from the show than did Eastwood. He graduated from the tv series to the three spaghetti westerns pictures directed by Sergio Leone — 1964’s A Fistful of Dollars, 1965’s A Few Dollars More and 1966’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly — that made Eastwood an international star. He (as pictured above) played “the man with no name,” an iconic character.
— While he was making the movie version of Paint Your Wagon in the late Sixties, Eastwood had an affair with a costar who had carved out a career in Europe. It was an “on location” romance with Jean Seberg, which ended when the movie did. She is perhaps best remembered today for playing Patricia Franchini, the duplicitous love interest of Jean-Paul Belmondo in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 ground breaker, Breathless.
— Two actors, Paul Newman and Frank Sinatra, were offered the plum role of police inspector Harry Callahan in 1971’s Dirty Harry before Eastwood. Newman didn’t like what he felt to be the movie’s political slant. Sinatra begged off claiming a hand injury.
— Eastwood has had two wives. First was Maggie Johnson from 1953 to 1984, then former TV reporter Dina Ruiz, 1996 until last year. Let’s just say Eastwood’s personal life has been complicated, right up there with Elizabeth Taylor’s. In all, he has sired seven children by five women including actress Frances Fisher. His longtime childless romance with actress-director Sondra Locke was certainly the most legally contentious.