Clint Eastwood: Happy 80th Birthday!

Clint- Eastwood WesternThe weathered features, steel-eyed squint and take-no-prisoners demeanor are immediately recognizable to the global cinema audience that has raised this onetime Army swimming instructor to a remarkable 40+years at the forefront of box-office draws.

Born in San Francisco to a steelworker father, Clinton Eastwood, Jr. spent his first post-high school years doing assorted odd jobs before his Korean War-era enlistment. Encouraged by service buddies David Janssen and Martin Milner to give movies a shot once back to civilian life, he obtained a contract with Universal in 1955, and received bits in Bs like Revenge of the Creature (more about his debut here), Francis in the Navy and Tarantula.

Cut by Universal after a year, he kept plugging until 1959, when he landed the name-making role of trail boss Rowdy Yates in the CBS TV series Rawhide. In 1964, he spent the show’s hiatus travelling to Spain to make Sergio Leone’s Yojimbo Westernization A Fistful of Dollars, and the clamorous response from European audiences spurred his return as “the Man with No Name” in For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

In 1967, the Leone trilogy came to American theaters, and granted Clint immediate big-screen cred with audiences at home. Hollywood immediately placed him in sagebrush sagas like Hang ‘Em High, Two Mules for Sister Sara and Coogan’s Bluff (which kicked off his association with favorite director Don Siegel).

One of Clint’s most unusual years was 1969. He starred in Where Eagles Dare, a classic WWII thriller in a role with which audiences became very familiar – as an American officer infiltrating a German fortress in the Alps. And in a role very unfamiliar to his growing fans, Clint appeared and sang in his first and only musical undertaking in Lerner and Loewe’s Paint Your Wagon.

Clint Eastwood as Dirty HarryThe ’70s began with his first directorial opportunity, as he also starred in the gripping suspenser Play Misty For Me, and the first of five forays as the Magnum-wielding San Francisco detective “Dirty Harry” Callahan, which established him as a leading draw in the police action genre.

For the balance of the decade and into the early ’80s, his touch would remain golden, be it in oaters, cop thrillers, or action-comedies (Every Which Way But Loose, Any Which Way You Can).

By the mid-’80s, his attentions were focused beyond Hollywood; notably, he served an elected stint as mayor of Carmel, California.

As the decade progressed, the box-office success of his familiar shoot-’em-ups became less of a given, even as he continued to garner critical praise for the personal projects he’d mount in the interim like Bird and White Hunter, Black Heart.

The ’90s saw a commercial renaissance via Unforgiven, which landed him the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars, In the Line of Fire, and The Bridges of Madison County. As the millennium approached, Clint continued with action vehicles, even as they seemed more improbable with every passing year; he’s since concentrated on his work behind the camera, picking his acting spots in age-appropriate roles, and the results largely have met critical and commercial success, as evidenced by Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby (his second Best Picture-Best Director Academy triumph), Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, Gran Torino and Invictus.

Here is a full list of  Clint Eastwood movies currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

And now enjoy the master craftsman at work in the theatrical trailer for Gran Torino:

Check out Our picks of Clint Eastwood’s Underrated Films

Cast you vote in this weeks Movie Poll: Who’s Your Favorite Clint Eastwood Cowboy?