Remembering the Star of Spaghetti Western Films of Yore: Clint Eastwood
Spaghetti is a thin long solid pasta and is a staple diet of Mexican- Italians and ipso facto of cowboys of the days of the wild west. Some western movies made by Italian production houses, that depicted the wild west came to be known as spaghetti western movies. Spaghetti was a staple diet of the cowboys who lived during this era. The wild west was a period of American history, that preceded the American civil War ( 1861-65) and continued till the turn of the 19th century. This period has fascinated millions of people all over the world. Hollywood has faithfully depicted this period in many films, many of who have become classics. Earlier the star John Wayne held the crown, but later a string of stars appeared who brought a new culture and depiction of that golden era.
One star who rose into the lime light was Clint Eastwood. Over the years this actor from Hollywood has become a legend, but his initial rise to stardom was on the back of western films made by an Italian Sergio Leone. I first saw Clint Eastwood in the movie " Fistfull of Dollars".This movie broke all records and ushered in Clint Eastwood on stage as a macho star. He created the image of a gunfighter who chewed cigars and handled guns with lightning streak. Eastwood as a actor was languishing till he bagged this role . After the success of this movie there was no looking back. He was cast in two subsequent films by Leone namely " For a Few Dollars More" and " The Good Bad and Ugly". These films created a revolution in the box office and Eastwood became a marquee star.
Along with Eastwood, one other actor named Lee Van Clef, also arose and created the image of the arch villain. Eastwood essayed the role of a hard and macho gun slinger, but with a heart of gold, while in many roles Lee Van played the role of the evil and pitiless killer.
No film can succeed without music and these films also depended a lot on the background musical scores. The man who composed music for these films was Ennio Morricone. His delightful integration of horses clops and neighs with the guitar, created a new class of music. The popularity of the scores by Morricone can be gauged from the fact that the theme scores of these movies still captivate millions and that includes India. Over the decades I have seen youngsters playing these tunes on the paid Jukeboxes that dotted the coffee shops about two decades back. In particular I remember " Koshys" a coffee shop on Brigade Road in Bangalore where hundreds dropped coin tso hear these tunes.
Clint Eastwood was born in 1930 and had a stint in the army from 1951-53. These years had a great effect on him and he owed life time allegiance to the US Army. Later he used his experience in the army to turn in some excellent war films. That was much later, but before that he became a legend as a cowboy star who enthralled young and old alike.
Eastwood lived his roles and one scene in the movie " Outlaw Josey Wales" is etched in my mind. Eastwood a renegade gunfighter opposes a mormon gang carting away some blacks. As he appears, one of the men who feels he will now be rescued mutters "looks like hell has come for these chaps" or words to that effect. Eastwood wins and with his cigar in his mouth and blazing guns carries the scene with aplomb. Similarly the scene of the last gunfight in the " Good bad and Ugly" when Eastwood faces Lee Van Clef in a graveyard makes your hair stand on end. The scene is accentuated with a haunting tune by Moricone that even now is a delight to hear.
There was no stopping Eastwood now and in a string of western movies he established himself as the greatest western star after John Wayne. Among his hits was ' Hang em High", Coogans Bluff", " Two Mules for Sister Sarah" and many more. One can get a list of his movies from the internet and most of them are easily downloadable. This was the time Eastwood turned Producer Director and broke away from typecast roles of a cowboy to other action oriented roles. His series as Dirty Harry are on a par with Charles Bronson's Death Wish series.
Eastwood has now gone into the twilight, but a few years back the world got up and took not of his performance in " Million Dollar Baby". I have always appreciated Eastwood as one of the great stars of Hollywood. His role along with Richard Burton in " Where Eagles Dare' was a stand out performance. All said and done his endearing image of the cigar chewing gunfighter with a loose poncho on his shoulders will live for ever. Clint set the tone and tens copied him including the star Franco Nero. Despite Eastwood's image as a cigar smoker, the fact is he never smoked in real life. He was always health conscious.
Clint Eastwood had a checkered life with women and I despite being his fan is unable to recollect all his affairs and children he fathered. In this he probably followed subconsciously Vatsyayana, who advocated relationships with younger women. There also he proved a macho man. There are very few stars as potent on the screen as Clint Eastwood. He remains a favorite and one of the greats of Hollywood. Eastwood also won multiple awards as an actor, but they are not worth recounting here. Suffice to say that we are glad that a macho star like Clint Eastwood appeared on the scene and gave us days and hours of entertainment as he transported us into a dream world of gunfighters and gunmen.
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