He may look older than a few but Hollywood veteran Clint Eastwood doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. As an Academy Award-winning producer and director, and multiple Oscar-nominated actors, he works with the energy of a younger man and keeps surprising his fans with successful films. The best way to pay tribute to the legendary actor, director, and producer on his 92nd birthday is to go through his films that have helped Hollywood evolve, instead of the other way round.
In Aim for the Heart – The Films of Clint Eastwood, the writer Howard Hughes takes the readers back to the 1950s when Hollywood was trying to diversify itself by going for never-attempted genres and never-seen faces. It was there that an unknown Clint Eastwood made his way into the movies, and has not left despite the passage of seven decades. The writer – at times writing as a fan, which is good – also discusses why Clint had to struggle early in his career, when he was labeled either too tall or too thin to be the leading man, features that helped him become the number one film star in the world!
Before you read about Clint Eastwood’s films, you should read about his struggles and that’s what the author does in this book. In the pages preceding the first chapter, he explains why Clint Eastwood was considered an outcast and why he was preferred as the ‘Man with No Name’ in Sergio Leone’s films, which went on to create a new genre now known as ‘Spaghetti Westerns’. It is in these pages you learn about the Hollywood of the 50s and the 60s, and how it was dealing with the changes, but not even the best astrologists would have predicted that Clint Eastwood would be a part of reviving Westerns in general, and Hollywood in particular.
As for the book, it is exactly what its cover says – it aims at the heart and covers nearly all movies where Clint Eastwood was present in any way. The narrative is written as if the author is sitting beside you and telling you what he knows about the film, which is exactly how it should be. He must be commended for intelligently dividing the still-relevant Eastwood flicks into genres instead of talking about them chronologically, which is what every other book on the actor does.
The fans of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Unforgiven could read about these films in the first chapter titled ‘The Westerns’, whereas Dirty Harry flicks and In the Line of Fire could be found in the second chapter titled ‘The Cops’. In the same way, ‘The Lovers’ talks about his romantic flicks (oh yes, there are a number of them!), while ‘The Comedies’ handles the films where he makes the audience laugh. ‘The Dramas’ tackle the serious flicks in which he may or may not have starred whereas, ‘The Thrillers’, and ‘The War Movies’ discuss the many action flicks where Clint Eastwood ‘made your day’, sometimes as a ‘nobody’ and sometimes as a soldier.
Don’t be surprised to find out that in order to become successful, Clint Eastwood had to skip continent, and it was in Europe that he tasted his first success in films. Yes, he was a major star by the time Rawhide became a household name, but Clint Eastwood wanted to go bigger, and there was just one way to do it – make a name in films. Since filmmakers in Hollywood weren’t ready to bank on his talents, he accepted director Sergio Leone’s offer and became a ‘Man with No Name’ through A Fistful of Dollars.
What makes this book a perfect Eastwood vehicle is the way it talks about all of his films; yes, there are spoilers on some of the pages but if you haven’t seen a successful Clint Eastwood film, then you deserve to be spoilt. For an actor who took to direction within the first ten years of his first film, Clint Eastwood has come a long way and this book explains that journey without sounding preachy. You will get to know about his scandals, his relationship with his children, and his association with his frequent collaborators, all while talking about his films. Great, isn’t it?
How Clint Eastwood has managed to stay relevant since the 1960s is a mystery only he can unravel. He gave Hollywood the template of a tough cop when he was in his 40s, partnered with an Orangutan at the age of 50, saved the US President in his 60s, and even went into space after his 70th birthday. That’s not all, he won his second Academy Award as Best Director at the age of 75 and has been nominated twice since, which is not an easy feat, considering most actors his age are either retired or dead.
There might not be any colored photographs of Clint Eastwood’s films in this book but the way the writer discusses these films, you are bound to think about the movies. His acting prowess in the latter half of his career has improved considerably and the writer acknowledges that rightly. He didn’t win an Oscar for Best Actor but he has helped many win the trophy, such has been his greatness as a director. Even those films like The Rookie and Pink Cadillac where he wasn’t on top of his game both as an actor and director, get discussed here and Clint’s shortcomings are mentioned.
And if you didn’t know, long before Sylvester Stallone and Tom Cruise climbed mountains, Eastwood did so in The Eiger Sanction; and that it was his tough-cop persona that later inspired films like Cobra, Beverly Hills Cop among others, then you need to get your hands on this book. He is one of the few actors in the world who have the highest number of catchphrases to their credits too. One of his ‘lines’ became so popular that even American President Ronald Regan (who himself used to be an actor) went on record quoting Go Ahead, Make My Day, from Sudden Impact.
If you are a Clint Eastwood fan, you might already have this book in your collection but if you aren’t, this book will make you one for sure. Reading about his work not only helps the readers understand the way things were done in Hollywood back in the day but how it has changed over the years. If in The Enforcer he doesn’t appreciate being partnered with a female cop or doesn’t like ‘Asians’ on his lawns in Gran Torino, then that’s because things were like that in Hollywood at that time. As an entertainer with over sixty years’ experience, Clint Eastwood has shaped the lives of many, and the best way to pay honor his legacy is to know him, on the day he came into this world. Happy Birthday, Clint!