Fistful of Lessons – Things I’ve Learned from Clint Eastwood
Gang, I feel like I have failed as a parent. During Coranatine, I have watched a whole bunch of movies, and as I often do, I will get stuck on an actor, and watch a bunch of movies by them.
I had to look for something at Walmart, say a 4pack of Clint Eastwood movies, and since I had just finished a few Dirty Harry Movies, why not a few westerns. I like Westerns. I like what they termed “Spaghetti Westerns”. So over the next few days, I watched them.
My oldest lives with me, and after getting baked outside, asked me what I was watching. I said “A Fistful of dollars”. He looked, and asked “Is that the guy from Gran Torino?”
Since the Coranatine, I have watched nine Clint Eastwood movies. Everything from the afore mentioned “Fistful of Dollars” to “Every Which Way You Can”. Growing up, I had an aunt obsessed with his movies, so between her, and when I was young, he went through a comedy phase, I have seen a good portion of his work over time.
When you watch enough of his movies, you see a lot of the same themes, because people gravitate towards themes more than genres. Honestly, I half feel that he has made the same movie 30 times over the last 50+ years. But within his movies, Clint teaches us life lessons. Here they are.
1. Look out for those weaker than you
Clint may have played a drifter, always looking for a way to make gold/silver/cash any way he can, but in most of his movies, he also gets sidetracked by helping out those in need. That is a theme, and also he has his own sense of justice. I’m not sure if I learned this from Clint, but I realize that I too have certain things that I stand for, and in the long run, have often soiled a relationship because of a person’s failure to respect my personal laws.
2. Hold your friends close, your enemies closer
His characters often are forced to “make a deal with the devil”, and pair with someone that he clearly doesn’t care for, or he clearly doesn’t trust. Gang, this is some of the best advice ever. It is always a good idea to remember that everyone is looking out for themselves, and if you don’t pay attention, or forget that, you end up getting cheated in the end.
3. Never doubt your positives
Be it shooting a hanging man down, or fighting the bare knuckles champion of the world, if you go in doubting yourself, you have doomed yourself to failure, or at least you have doomed yourself to more work than you should have to put in. In “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly”, part of the way he makes money is to turn Tuco (Eli Wallach stole the movie in this role) in for the bounty, and then he shoots the hanging rope with his rifle. They were very successful at this. Sure, sometimes it took a few shots, but in the end, he always got Tuco free. Sometimes we forget what we have to offer, or doubt that, and people take advantage of you, or they forget that as well. In the end, you both end up losing out.
4. Be the star of your own narrative
After the success of “Fistful of Dollars” and “A Few Dollars More”, Eastwood was done with the character of Joe (Man with no name)/Monco (Leone had switched producers, so had to change his name). Leone wanted him to finish the trilogy with “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly”. Eastwood hated the cigar he had to smoke, he hated the “spaghetti western” style of everyone saying their lines in their native language, and it getting dubbed later, and I think he was tiring of working with Sergio Leone. He also didn’t want to share star duties with Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach. He knew his worth, he had control of his character and got the best treatment, and in the end, got a really good deal, and also the movie catapulted him into the stratosphere. I am guilty of forgetting this, and I often will play a role in other people’s narratives. This has lead to heartbreak and depression for me, because people are greedy, and they are starring in their own show. I am a sap, and am overly trusting.
5. No matter what, don’t take yourself too serious
No matter what the movie, Clint always has a bit of dry humor about him. Almost every one has a cut to him, where he makes a sly remark, and they cut to him giving a half grin. I like how they use his humor in all his movies. I don’t look at him and think of big laughs, but in every movie, he always has a line, within his character, that makes me laugh ever movie. A lot of his movies are filled with violence and bloodshed, yet there’s always at least one laugh. I am guilty of never taking myself too serious. I used to fret, and worry, and bring my work home, and it affected me horribly. Too late for me, I eventually left it at the door, and though my mental health improved, my life did not.
6. No role is too small
Clint’s first appearance on film was in “Revenge of the Creature”. That’s right, he played a scientist in the “Creature From the Black Lagoon” sequel. I know, when you think of Eastwood, you think of science. It was a start, and after that, he’s lead a pretty good career. 4 Oscars, 71 movies acted in, producer, director, crazed Republican supporter (okay, that role is not my favorite of his). This teaches you to be willing to take a chance. I have taken chances, and have had some wonderful memories from doing so. Sometimes it lead to decades of happiness, sometimes months, sometimes heartbreak. Always be ready for an opportunity, you never know where it leads.
7. Don’t be afraid
The first time I watched “Gran Torino”, my jaw dropped when I listened to the litany of racial slurs his character came up with. I watched it a second time, thinking my brain was playing tricks on me. It was not. Yet, there was a good message in the long run, he got to defend people who had nobody defending them, and overall was a great movie. More importantly, Clint Eastwood is also a singer. He has a compilation album, a #1 country hit in 1980, and nobody remembers this. He has sung songs in his movies throughout his career. Look, I’m not singing karaoke in front of anyone (I have twice, both in a group, I hate it), and this guy is putting out albums of country songs. Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real. I am a fearful person, but eventually I get to the point that I Johnny Utah it, and so far it hasn’t killed me (I have not jumped out of a plane without a parachute, nor will I, with a parachute either) I’ve lived through it all with scrapes and scars, but still going.
8. Follow your own rules
Actor, director, producer, singer, mayor, political pundit…no matter what he does, at what age, Clint has always followed his own rules. He’s always had some semblance of control on a film set, even early in his career. Coming from “Rawhide”, he had zero bankability when it came from movies, and he took his first role for $15k. He was so good, by the second movie, his salary had tripled, and he took what power he had, and influenced the film. By the third film, he had a lot more say, and it hasn’t stopped for 50 years. I have a set of rules. Whenever I veer away from these rules, I find that everything seems to go awry. It has resulted in some career strife. It has resulted in relationships that have stretched on way longer than they should have. It has resulted in a lot of upheaval in my life over the years. When I stick to my rules, and quickly sweep away the negative debris, my life seems to be much better. The hard part is sweeping away the negative debris.
So there you go kids. Live your life like Clint. Watch his movies. They aren’t all gems, but I can’t think of one Clint Eastwood movie that is absolutely horrible.
Personally, my favorite is “The Outlaw Josey Wales”. “Magnum Force” is a close second. He’s not a great actor. His characters are very similar. He went from a crotchety younger man, to a crotchety old man. You do NOT get a lot of emotional range with him. You get an in the pocket actor. He doesn’t take any roles that you can’t imagine him playing, and stays within the character, which are generally crotchety. We smell our own.
As usual, you can find me @jaycanchu on IG and Twitter. I post art, cats, pies, tattoos, and comics. Twitter you get nudity at times, luckily not my own. If you want real good reads, ignore my stuff and go read “The K Files”. Colton keeps us all updated in the #spoilerverse. Eli informs us on memes. Robert covers Star Wars and Snyder news. Read this while listening to podcasts. There’s a bunch of them not, look them up.
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