Monday, May 31, 2010

Jim observing Memorial Day (in Massachusetts). In recent weeks he's been watching a lot of Clint Eastwood movies, thanks to Clint: 35 Films, 35 Years at Warner Brothers, a handsome boxed set that spans from Where Eagles Dare (1968) to Gran Torino (2008, which is actually 40 years, go figure). These 35 films are only part of a massive body of work that doesn't include classic Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966) and his directorial debut, Play Misty for Me (1971). In a half-century of work as an actor and director that began with his work on the TV series Rawhide, Eastwood has appeared in Westerns, World War II movies, and a string of "Dirty Harry" movies about a San Francisco cop in the seventies and eighties. As someone who only started paying attention to Eastwood with his revisionist Western Unforgiven in 1993, I believe I'm one of a number of people who have assumed he made an ideological migration from right to left over the course of his career. On the basis of the little that I've seen -- my hope is that this is the beginning of a long-term project on the way historiographic visions are embedded in the careers of popular artists -- the picture seems to be a bit more complicated. I hope to have more to say about this in the coming days.

One thing's for sure: Clint Eastwood is the quintessential movie star. Riveting at any age, his persona leaps off the screen, even in supporting roles. He will no doubt go down as one of the major figures in American cinema.