To be profoundly honest, only a true believer can deny that Clint Eastwood made a total fool of himself at the Republican National Convention. He was doddering, profane and wildly off target. After all, do you really want to get mileage from blaming President Obama for starting the war in Afghanistan?
However, what is really troubling about Mr. Eastwood has nothing to do with the fact that he is supporting Romney for president. A lot of other wealthy white males are in that category, so at least he’ll be surrounded by adoring sycophants whenever he has dinner at his country club.
Additionally, let’s not forget that Mr. Eastwood was firmly attacked by the Republican right wing for his participation in the Chrysler commercial during the last Super Bowl. Remember how the Republican pundits tried to spin that commercial as supporting President Obama? While those critics were factually wrong, most of them probably think they ran a marathon in under 3 hours anyway.
Nonetheless, as a diehard movie fan, Mr. Eastwood’s pathetic performance came close to breaking my miserable heart. This is an actor whose career has continually supported the lonely and dispossessed, and it is simply impossible to understand why he allowed himself to be used in this fashion by the Romney/Ryan crowd.
Think of his performance as the man with no name in the three spaghetti westerns directed by Sergio Leone. He defended the little guy while fighting corrupt town marshals, and his treatment by Eli Wallach at the end of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966), remains legendary.
Yes, he made movie history in Dirty Harry (1971), playing Police Inspector Harry Callahan, an officer who brought the despicable, malicious villain played by Andy Robinson to justice. He treated punks as punks when that word still had meaning.
However, his career subsequently stumbled through a period of time where his love of actress Sandra Locke prevented him from realizing that she couldn’t act. All you need to do is to briefly visit The Gauntlet (1977), Every Which Way But Loose (1978) and Any Which Way You Can (1980) to grasp my meaning.
Regardless, The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) remains one of my favorite westerns of all time. He gives a remarkable performance as a former Confederate Soldier being hunted by a deranged posse of Union thugs, defending Chief Dan George and various other wounded stragglers along the way. The movie has a great ending, and you should see it.
And though Mr. Eastwood has had various hits and misses since that time, one only needs to see his remarkable performance as the foreboding killer in Unforgiven (1992), as well as his memorable role as Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino (2008), the movie where Mr. Kowalski’s racism was finally trumped by his better nature. But it is Mr. Eastwood’s enormous contributions as a director that sets him apart from the maddening crowd. Not only did he direct the above-referred to The Outlaw Josie Wales, but he did the same for the memorable Unforgiven. However, think recently where he allowed Sean Penn to shine in Mystic River (2003); did the same with Hillary Swank in Million Dollar Baby (2004); combine the stunning World War II dramas Flags of Our Fathers and the Letters from Iwo Jima in 2006; and directed Morgan Freeman’s stunning performance as Nelson Mandela in Invictus (2009). Good grief, I even liked the Hereafter (2010) and last year’s wonderful J.Edgar Hoover impersonation by Leonardo DiCaprio in J. Edgar.
In the end, Mr. Eastwood’s profound embarrassment on behalf of Mr. Romney reminded me of the performance of another legendary western star, John Wayne, near the end of his career. Despite his many great performances in films ranging from Red River (1948); They Were Expendable (1945); The Quiet Man (1952) to The Searchers (1956), he tossed it all away with his ostentatious support of the Vietnam War at a time young boys like me were subject to the draft. Over 50,000 names of dead young Americans are inscribed on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., forcing their mothers to go to bed each night in agony with their inconsolable loss. Had I not been declared 4F in 1969, there is no doubt in my mind that I probably would be one of them.
Nonetheless, despite that realization and the recognition by most young people that the war was both a tragedy and a fiasco, Mr. Wayne decided to use his name as the patriotic equivalent of supporting that war.
Mr. Wayne is now dead, and Vietnam, a war that we clearly lost, is a vacation spot for Americans. I fully expect that should Mr. Romney lose, he will continue to live off his multimillions while his political reputation fades away. I wish Mr. Eastwood would have been smart enough to recognize that fact. That was a mistake, and he lost his standing as an eccentric American icon.