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Clint: The Life and Legend

     Patrick McGilligan, a former Boston Globe arts writer now living in Milwaukee, has written well-received film biographies, of Jack Nicholson, Robert Altman, George Cukor, and Fritz Lang, and he recently penned Clint: The Life and Legend, concerning actor-filmmaker Eastwood. In the last case, McGilligan's American editor balked at publication, because the book was judged unnecessarily negative about its celebrity subject. For now, Clint has been published only in England, by Harper Collins; and I've been made privy to the 1999 British version.

     Well, Clint is quite downbeat, lukewarm in the most part about Eastwood's artistry, and decidedly agnostic about Eastwood's Nixonian/Reaganite politics, his meanness to ex-employee friends, his obsessively womanizing character. McGilligan, who offers a jaded eye on "the Don Juanism that grew to dominate his (Eastwood's) private life," makes sure to contrast his suspicious view of Eastwood with the good-guy whitewash of Richard Schickel's recent authorized autobiography.

     Could there be two Eastwoods? In my just-completed job at the Harvard Film Archive, I was beneficiary to Eastwood's generosity, as he shipped three of his private 35mm prints to be shown as benefits. I know how decent he's been to my producer friend, Bruce Ricker, in offering financial aid for the completion of Ricker's jazz documentaries. But McGilligan's claims of Eastwood vindictiveness were surely backed up when, a few years ago, I interviewed Frank Stanley, cinematographer on Magnum Force, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, and The Eiger Sanction. Stanley told of being lowered on a rope with his camera shooting The Eiger Sanction, being accidentally dropped onto a rock. While he recovered in the hospital, Stanley alleged, "macho" Eastwood never visited him, and then dropped him without explanation as an employee. When Stanley told me this story, he cried and cried about the horrors of dirty Clint.

(March, 2000)


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