Tag Archives: Clint Eastwood

Cowboy Tommy

Willie Nelson said it well with the words by Sharon Vaughn;

 

“I grew up dreamin’ of bein’ a cowboy

And lovin’ the cowboy ways.

Pursuin’ the life of my high ridin’ heroes

I burned up my childhood days.”

–“My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”

 

Before I discovered astronauts, it was cowboys for me. I wanted to grow up to wear a mask and have an Indian sidekick.

No, wait.

I want to ride a palomino and have girlfriend named Dale, and a sidekick who drove a jeep named Nellie Bell.

No, wait.

I wanted to wear a black, beaded outfit with a floppy hat and be called; “The Robin Hood of the West”.

No…no…wait!

I wanted to be Gene Autry, play a guitar and sing while ridin’, and live by the Cowboy Code;

  1. The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.
  2. He must never go back on his word or a trust confided in him.
  3. He must always tell the truth.
  4. He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.
  5. He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
  6. He must help people in distress.
  7. He must be a good worker.
  8. He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.
  9. He must respect women, parents, and his nation’s laws.
  10. The Cowboy is a patriot.

Yeah, THAT was the ticket.

It still is.

I understand that “cowboy” has come to mean a few different things than it did when I was a cow “boy” and my bike was my palomino. I have great affection for the cowboys of Clint Eastwood;

  • Rowdy Yates in “Rawhide”
  • The “Man With No Name” in various spaghetti westerns
  • The revenge-driven shooter in UNFORGIVEN.

Ditto for the cowboys described in the songs of Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Ian Tyson.

Ben Johnson and Clu Gulager in THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, Robert Duvall in HONEYSUCKLE ROSE, James Garner in “Maverick”, Richard Boone in “Have Gun, Will Travel”, and John Wayne in just about whatever film you’d care to name (he was pretty much always a cowboy)…all of these mean much to me.

But the cowboys that reach me most immediately have always been in the pictures of children in their cowboy outfits, with or without the itinerant photographic pony. Those pictures always trigger (pun most definitely intended) my remembered cowboy aspirations.

This week, I attended the memorial service of a friend and fellow actor.

Why should I praise him? What were my path-crossings with him that were so inspiring that I should shout hosannas?

  • He enlisted my help to fleece an innocent man in a real estate deal.
  • When I was in charge of a city, he flaunted and mocked my every effort.
  • He spit in my face every night for a month.

……on stage……pretending.

Off stage…there were nights when I wanted to strangle him over political differences…

…but he never wanted to strangle me.

I believe he forever “had my back”.

I believe he was deeply wrong about many things, and so he believed about me.

I believe he made the world better for having been in it, and suspect he believed that about me.

That’s called “civility”.

It’s also, in my mind, the cowboy way.

At the memorial service there was an array of pictures from Tom’s life. One of them was a picture of him as a child in his full cowboy regalia. Yes, it triggered my own atavistic career urges. I was un-surprised, but profoundly moved.

 

“Them that don’t know him won’t like him

And them that do sometimes won’t know how to take him.

He ain’t wrong. He’s just different,

But his pride won’t let him do things to make you think he’s right.”

–“Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” – Ed & Patsy Bruce.

 

I still have my yellowed copy of the Cowboy Code and still harbor hopes…hopes that may flicker a little brighter…

Rowdy and Petulant

Movie night!

One of the commentators on last night’s broadcast from this week’s political convention described a speech as “Clint Eastwood without the chair”. That prompted me to pull out PLAY MISTY FOR ME for the 384th time.

My experience with Clint Eastwood begins with his rowdy and petulant portrayal of Rowdy Yates in the TV cowboy series; “Rawhide”. He had a great squint even then.

Later, I loved his spaghetti westerns; A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and the monumental and rambling THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY. Mr. Eastwood’s character in these films had no name so I just assumed it was an older Rowdy Yates in need of a shower. I wore a poncho myself for several years. I’m not proud of that but I did shower regularly.

Then he created Harry Callahan in the “Dirty Harry” films; talk about rowdy and petulant! But this time, he packed a lot more firepower. For you conspiracy fans, notice that Dirty Harry and Rowdy Yates have the same number of letters in their names. Hm-m. A clue?

The 1992 flick; UNFORGIVEN is a great western. In it, Mr. Eastwood’s character is once more rowdy and petulant, but now also older and slower. He’ll either break yer face or break yer heart – you choose.

These films make me feel as if I’ve watched Rowdy Yates’ entire adult life in movies and enjoyed the hell out of it.

PLAY MISTY FOR ME is not part of that experience. This character (Dave) is not rowdy and petulant, he’s selfish and bewildered.

Random synapses firings from MISTY;

  • It strikes me how similar Clint Eastwood’s radio show in the film is to “Chris in the Morning” on the TV show; “Northern Exposure”. Of course there’s a degree of difference – about 70 degrees of difference.
  • I also wonder if Adrienne Barbeau’s radio show in John Carpenter’s THE FOG might be inspired by Mr. Eastwood. In my travels by car around Kentucky, I’ve caught myself scanning radio channels searching for Clint, Chris, and Adrienne. A little poetry on I-65 would relieve the pounding of the semi convoys.
  • Donna Mills is luscious in her cuter’n-pup-turds pixie haircut. But I cannot get her “Knot’s Landing” character out of my head and I keep weighing who’s truly more dangerous; her or Jessica Walters?
  • I have the similar issues with the amazing picture postcard shots of the Monterey Peninsula director Clint Eastwood employs in this film. Yes, the images beautiful. Yes, I’ve visited the area AND read Kerouac’s tone poem in BIG SUR and know for certain the beauty of Monterey is not a trick of movie-making, it’s there. But the cumulative effect of these shots keeps summoning the croonings of Rod McKuen recordings…not so good in a film of terror.

Unlike Rowdy Yates, this film doesn’t age well, but I love it.

The Invisible Dog and “The Book”

It’s Movie Night and we’re headin’ south.

Janie and I used to go Hilton Head on vacation. We didn’t have any money. Janie’s great friends had a condo there and were kind enough to share it with us occasionally.

Hilton Head was great but we don’t play golf or tennis and we’re not Republicans so our days would be filled with day trips to surrounding areas. Thus, our first visit to Savannah was sort of a vacation from our vacation. We slipped over there one day and wandered around the squares and shops. We even took a horse-drawn carriage tour. We’re suckers for ‘em and pretty tolerant of tourism mendacity. We understand the tour guide’s not lyin’, he’s just tellin’ us a story; though I do recall a memorable afternoon in Charleston on a horse-drawn carriage ghost tour when Janie corrected the newly-hired guide at every stop. He was mortified. What can I say? I’m married to a paranormal fact-checker. In Savannah that first visit, everyone all day kept referring to “the book”. We didn’t know what they were talking about. Finally, as is inevitable when traveling with me, a bookstore found us and there it was in the window, recently but firmly established on the New York Times Best-Seller’s List; MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL. We bought it. I read it the next day; Janie the day after. We were completely charmed.

Then the movie came out and I was charmed all over again.

I’m not qualified to comment in depth on Clint Eastwood’s directorial abilities but I love this film.

I love the music. I love the accents and cadences. I love the lushness. AND I love Kevin Spacey’s performance. His stroll through the park with John Cusack at the beginning of the film and his pressing through the crowd at his party, simultaneously communicating with his voice, his eyes, and his hands with three different people… It was masterful.

How can you not love a film that features;

  • No hint of winter.
  • An invisible dog.
  • A line like; “Savin’ face in the most difficult circumstances, it’s the Southern way.”
  • Houseflies on strings.
  • A line like “Billy was known to be a good time, but he was not yet a good time had by all.”
  • The Lady Chablis, aka Frank.
  • The songs of Johnny Mercer, especially “Fools Rush In”. “Oh, I see the danger there. If there’s a chance for me then I don’t care.” Can I get an Amen?

I love this film and I love Savannah.

Remind me one day to relate how Janie and I were in Savannah for the end of the world.

It’s true!

Oh, the world survived its demise (in case you hadn’t noticed in this presidential race), but if it hadn’t, we were goin’ out with sweet sherry on our bedstead and chocolate on our pillows.