Dec 9, 2012

Clint Eastwood: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

During the 1970s, Clint Eastwood killed gay villains.
In 1997, he directed the queer-friendly Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. 
He campaigned for John McCain in 2004 and Mitt Romney in 2008.
And he supports gay marriage.

Eastwood starred in the conventional Western series Rawhide (1959-65) before revitalizing the genre with his Italian-American "man with no name" trilogy: A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.  He's a gruff, taciturn outsider who sweeps into a corrupt town, restores order --with lots of casualties -- and then moves on.  He is no man-mountain -- he has the taunt, lean muscles of an outdoorsman, displayed in frequent shirtless, towel, and bathtub shots.  He has more common with kung fu legends like Bruce Lee, except instead of martial arts expertise, he uses a gun.

More unconventional Westerns followed, including a musical, Paint Your Wagon (1969).  And "Dirty Harry" series -- Dirty Harry (1971), Magnum Force (1973), and so on, about a gruff, taciturn cop who restores order by shooting the perp (I haven't seen them, but apparently gay stereotypes abound).

But there was buddy-bonding, too.  In Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), Eastwood's gruff, taciturn bank robber Thunderfoot hooks up with the irreverent young hunk Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges), who courts him openly and aggressively.  "I don't want your watch!" he exclaims.  "I want your friendship!"

The relationship ends in tragedy, like many other homoerotic buddy movies, such as  Thelma and Louise or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Apparently you can fall in love -- covertly -- but you must be punished.

In Every Which Way But Loose (1978), an entry into the mid-1970s trucker craze, fist-fighting trucker Philo (Eastwood) pursues a dame, along with his two friends, one human (Geoffrey Lewis), one orangutan, channeling BJ and the Bear. 

And so on through dozens of movies, plust production, direction, composition, and politics, becoming an American legend several times over.  Most recently Eastwood directed J. Edgar (2011), a biopic of FBI director  J. Edgar Hoover (played by Leonardo DiCaprio).  Commentators feared that the conservative Eastwood would closet Hoover and Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), but in fact their romance was central; Eastwood didn't even censor the crossdressing.

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