Although he shot to fame and stardom for playing the legendary ‘Man with No Name’ in the blockbuster Dollar Trilogy, American actor Clint Eastwood made a huge name for himself, not just in the Western genre but throughout the movie industry, during his glittering career that has spanned decades. Since breaking into Hollywood way back in the 1950s, he’s succeeded not only as an actor but also as a director, with a plethora of awards and accomplishments under his belt, including wins at the esteemed Oscar Academy Awards.
It’s not just his career that sparks interests among fans worldwide; however – he’s also had a string of relationships, both casual and serious, some of which have drawn attention for various reasons. One thing is clear; however, at 89 years old, Clint Eastwood is a household name throughout most of the world and has left a lasting impression on Hollywood as well as his fans. Here, we take you through the life of Clint Eastwood – it’s certainly a story not to be missed.
Hollywood superstar and worldwide heartthrob Clint Eastwood was born to parents Clinton and Ruth Eastwood on May 31st, 1930, in San Francisco, California, United States. At birth, Eastwood weighed a whopping 11 pounds 6 ounces and was nicknamed “Samson” by the hospital nurses as a result. Although he was his parents’ first-born, he does have a younger sister named Jeanne Bernhardt.
Eastwood’s ancestry is a mixture of English, Scottish, Irish, and Dutch, with his ancestors originally coming across the Atlantic to America on the Mayflower passenger ship 12 generations before he was born. One of these ancestors of particular relevance was William Bradford, the eventual Plymouth Colony Governor.
During the first ten years of Eastwood’s life, during the Great Depression, his family relocated three times due to his father changing jobs, eventually settling down in Piedmont, California, in 1940, where they would remain for almost a decade. They lived in an affluent part of the town, owning two cars and a house with a swimming pool, as well as enjoying country club membership.
Eastwood attended Piedmont Middle School but was held back due to poor academic performance – although by how many years is unclear. And, although he hasn’t publicly addressed the topic in interviews, records suggest that he was also required to attend summer school to improve his grades.
After graduating from middle school, Eastwood went on to attend Piedmont High School, but not for long. He was asked to leave after only around a year for committing several infractions, such as burning an effigy on the school lawn and writing an obscene message to a school official on the athletic field scoreboard.
He then transferred to Oakland Technical High School, although it’s not clear as to whether he graduated in January 1949 as he was scheduled to do. Classmate Don Kincade later joked, “Clint graduated from the airplane shop. I think that was his major,” while another classmate – Don Loomis – echoed this sentiment with: “I don’t think he was spending that much time at school because he was having a pretty good time elsewhere.”
Fritz Manes, a childhood friend of Eastwood who remained a close associate until the mid-1980s, offered an explanation for the lack of clarity around his graduation: “I think what happened is he just went off and started having a good time. I just don’t think he finished high school.” We may never know for sure, as high school graduation records are strictly confidential.
However he finished high school, Eastwood went on to hold several jobs over the following years, including forest firefighter, golf caddy, grocery clerk, paper carrier, steelworker, and lifeguard. They were totally unrelated to each other and provided little to nothing in the way of stability or career progression, and it was unclear at this time what direction his life would take.
In 1951, Eastwood tried to enroll at Seattle University but was drafted into the US Army during the Korean War instead. Although in later life he would enjoy bringing up this reference to the war in interviews, in reality, he was a lifeguard at Ford Ord, northern California, for his entire stint in the army. This is according to his former girlfriend, Sondra Locke.
According to friend Don Loomis, Eastwood was romantically involved with one of the Ford Ord officer’s daughters, and it may have been possible that she was able to have some influence over Eastwood’s postings. Although this has certainly never been confirmed by him, the officer, nor the daughter in question.
Although, as a lifeguard, Eastwood’s time in the US Army was relatively uneventful and he certainly never set foot in Korea. But there was one incident that could be described as a fairly close call. When on his way back from a prearranged tryst in Seattle, Washington, the Douglas AD bomber that he was a passenger on was involved in an accident.
Running out of fuel in mid-air, it came down and crashed into the ocean somewhere near to Point Reyes. Luckily for Eastwood, his lifeguarding skills came in handy – using a life raft that had been on board the plane, he and the pilot swam just over three kilometers back to shore. Thankfully, neither of them was badly injured – just shocked and tired.
Years later, Eastwood recalled this dramatic event in an interview about his early life: “Everything went wrong. Radios went out. Oxygen ran out. And finally, we ran out of fuel up around Point Reyes, California, and went in the ocean. So we went swimming. It was late October, November. Very cold water.”
“[I] found out many years later that it was a white shark breeding ground,” he continued, “But I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time or I’d have just died.” It’s a good job that both Eastwood and the pilot were strong swimmers, or it could have been a very different fate for both of them – and the world would never have known Clint Eastwood the movie star.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that Eastwood entered the world of movies and began trying to establish himself in Hollywood. The key figure in this pivotal life moment was a man by the name of Chuck Hill, who was also stationed at Ford Ord. He had some impressive contacts in Hollywood and saw potential in Eastwood.
He managed to sneak Eastwood into Universal Studios, where he was introduced to cameraman Irving Glassberg, who, in turn, arranged an audition with Arthur Lubin. Although Lubin was impressed with Eastwood’s 6’4″ frame and classic good looks, he was less than enthused about his acting ability and saw little to no potential there.
Lubin remarked: “He was quite amateurish. He didn’t know which way to turn or which way to go or do anything at all.” But Hollywood just can’t resist an appearance like that, so Lubin suggested that Eastwood attend a series of drama classes before starting an initial contract in April 1954. His salary was set at $100 per week.
Staying true to his word, Eastwood attended his drama classes, where they encouraged him to ‘loosen up’ and appear as less of a lumberjack and more of a gentleman. However, this was not particularly easy for him, and his acting style just didn’t go down well with his acting teachers.
Unfortunately for Eastwood, when he started work for Universal Studios, executives were pretty unhappy with him and couldn’t see him making it big in the movie scene. Specifically, they hated his style of acting, which they labeled as ‘stiff,’ as well as his habit of talking through his teeth – ironically, this would later become his trademark.
Nevertheless, Eastwood’s first real movie audition came in May 1954, just a month after he signed with Universal. It was for “Six Bridges to Cross,” but, unfortunately, he was rejected. This was something that would happen multiple times over the next few months. Still, he didn’t give up hope of acting in movies and kept persevering.
Eventually, Eastwood was given a minor role in ‘Revenge of the Creature’ – a sequel to ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon,’ which had only recently been released. In this movie, the scaly creature is brought from his Amazon swamp to a Florida tourist trap where he’s the main attraction. Needless to say, it’s not regarded as a classic, but it marked Eastwood’s first break.
Throughout the next few years, Eastwood enjoyed relative success in Hollywood, perhaps as a result of getting his foot in the door. He featured in ‘Lady Godiva of Coventry’ and ‘Francis in the Navy,’ as well as playing a part in ‘Tarantula’ – a film by Jack Arnold, who also was responsible for ‘Revenge of the Creature.’
In 1956, Eastwood featured in his first Western movie – ‘Law Man’ (also known as Star in the Dust)– albeit an extremely small role as a ranch hand. Little did he know at the time that it would be the first of many Western movies – but first, he would make an appearance on television in a role given to him by Universal.
It was on NBC’s ‘Allen in Movieland,’ starring comedian Steve Allen along with swing musician Benny Goodman and actor Tony Curtis. Although this enjoyed a fair amount of success – and people in the industry were beginning to view Eastwood as a serious actor with developing skills – Universal decided to terminate his contract on October 23rd, 1955.
Incredibly, Burt Reynolds was also fired from Universal Studios on the very same day. According to Reynolds, Eastwood “was fired because his Adam’s apple stuck out too far. He talked too slow. And he had a chipped tooth, and he wouldn’t get it fixed.” Reynolds was fired because the executives thought that he couldn’t act well at all.
Still, Reynolds took it in stride and, instead of losing faith and being disheartened, told Eastwood, “You know, you are really screwed because I can learn how to act. You can’t get rid of that Adam’s apple.” In an interview many years later, Reynolds joked, “And it’s held him back. It’s held him back.”
Although this seemed like a huge setback at the time, it didn’t stop Eastwood from trying to establish his name in Hollywood. After joining the Marsh Agency and attending multiple auditions, he was eventually cast as Tom in ‘Star in the Dust’ alongside Richard Boone. This, in turn, led to his biggest role to date, which was in ‘The First Traveling Saleslady’ in 1956.
In 1957, he was cast in ‘Escapade in Japan,’ but despite all the roles in movies that he was managing to get, there was still one big problem. He no longer had a formal contract, and he was struggling financially. Acting on advice from his financial advisor, he left Marsh Agency and joined Kumin-Olenick Agency, then left for Mitchell Gertz.
Over the next few years, Eastwood managed to land several roles in both movies and television series, but none could be described as his ‘big break.’ That was until 1958 when he was cast as the character Rowdy Yates for ‘Rawhide,’ a CBS Western series. It was the big break that he’d been waiting for.
Unfortunately, however, Eastwood was unhappy with his character, who he felt was too young and ‘good’ to be playing at almost 30 years of age. Either way, the role brought him huge success, as within just three weeks of being aired, ‘Rawhide’ reached the top 20 in TV ratings, where it remained for several years.
The six years Eastwood spent acting in ‘Rawhide’ (1959 to 1965) were, by his own admission, some of the most grueling of his entire career, with filming taking place 12 hours a day, six days a week on average. Even so, he still received a fair amount of criticism from some of the directors, who felt that he wasn’t working hard enough.
In the first season of the series, Eastwood earned $750 an episode, which was quite a substantial amount of money in those days. He even used the series for his first attempt at directing, filming multiple trailers over the years. He dreamed of directing an entire episode himself, but producers would not let him.
By late 1963, the viewings of ‘Rawhide’ were beginning to decline, with fans complaining that the script didn’t seem ‘fresh’ anymore. Unfortunately, it was canceled right in the middle of the 1965–66 television season without any warning, which was a shocking and abrupt ending to a relatively long run of success. Eastwood personally received $119,000 an episode as severance pay.
Although this seemed at first to be another huge setback in Eastwood’s career, it actually worked out well for him, as it freed him up for what would turn out to be one of his most famous roles: the mysterious Man with No Name in what is referred to as ‘the Dollars Trilogy.’ The third film in this trilogy, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ – is one of the most iconic Western films of all time.
Eastwood received the role by chance – specifically because his ‘Rawhide’ co-star Eric Fleming rejected an offer to star in ‘A Fistful of Dollars,’ a movie by Sergio Leone, who was still relatively unknown at the time. The film was set to be shot in a remote region of Spain. After Fleming turned down the role, Richard Harrison suggested Eastwood to Leone.
His reasoning was that he knew Eastwood could play a cowboy convincingly – and he certainly had the looks required for a film of this genre. That was all Leone really needed to hear, and he agreed Eastwood would be ideal for the role. Eastwood thought that this would be a fantastic opportunity to shake his ‘Rawhide’ image – something that he’d wanted to do for a while at that point.
As he later said, “In ‘Rawhide,’ I did get awfully tired of playing the conventional white hat. The hero who kissed old ladies and dogs and was kind to everybody. I decided it was time to be an anti-hero.” Therefore, he signed the contract happily, which was for $15,000 for 11 weeks of work, with a Mercedes car upon completion as a bonus.
During filming, Leone was impressed with the way Eastwood portrayed the distinctive character of the Man with No Name. There was, however, one small discrepancy between director and actor. Eastwood was a non-smoker – in fact, he particularly hated the smell and taste of cigarettes – but Leone insisted he smoke in the movie. He used to tell Leone, who liked shooting multiple takes, “You’d better get it this time because I’m going to throw up.”
‘A Fistful of Dollars’ is an unofficial remake of ‘Yojimbo,’ a samurai film by Akira Kurosawa – because of this, the ‘Yojimbo’ production company sued Leone’s production company and won the case in an out-of-court settlement. In response, Leone claimed that ‘Yojimbo’ is an adaptation of Red Harvest, a book by renowned mystery author Dashiell Hammet – a view that’s widely supported.
“Kurosawa’s ‘Yojimbo’ was inspired by an American novel of the série noire, so I was really taking the story back home again,” Leone later said in an interview, seemingly admitting taking the storyline but simultaneously condoning it. Kurosawa, on the other hand, once said: “A Fistful of Dollars is a very fine film, but it’s my film.”
Either way, the trilogy did extremely well when it was released in the US in 1967. ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ opened on January 18th, ‘For a Few Dollars More’ on May 10th, and ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ on December 29th. While all three were extremely successful, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ earned the most revenue, at approximately $8 million.
It’s worth noting, however, that all three films received poor reviews. In essence, Judith Crist referred to the first as “cheapjack,” while Renata Adler from The New York Times said the final film was “the most expensive, pious and repellent movie in the history of its peculiar genre.” Meanwhile, Newsweek described ‘For a Few Dollars More’ as “excruciatingly dopey.”
Therefore, while the Dollars Trilogy propelled Eastwood to stardom and made him a Hollywood movie star, it also sparked a long battle for him regarding winning the respect of American film critics. However, there were a few – such as Bosley Crowther and Vincent Canby of The New York Times – who praised Eastwood’s portrayal of the Man with No Name.
Of the character, Eastwood later said: “I wanted to play it with an economy of words and create this whole feeling through attitude and movement. It was just the kind of character I had envisioned for a long time, keep to the mystery, and allude to what happened in the past. It came about after the frustration of doing Rawhide for so long. I felt the less he said, the stronger he became, and the more he grew in the imagination of the audience.”
Keeping the mystery and allude to what happened in the past, Eastwood certainly did. Although ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ is the final film in the trilogy, it is, in fact, a prequel to the first two. In it, we see the Man with No Name come into possession of the poncho that was made famous by the film.
Eastwood revealed that he didn’t wash the poncho once during filming. As he explains, however, this was for a good reason: “If you washed it, it would fall apart,” he said years later. He clearly cherished the memories that the iconic piece of clothing wear evoked, as he reportedly still owns it all of these years later
Not much is actually known about the character of the Man with No Name – he truly is one of Hollywood’s mysteries that will probably never be explained. All that we really know is that he smokes a lot, hardly ever speaks a word, and always wears a poncho. However, that doesn’t stop people from speculating about him and his background.
Although he was never given an official name – hence, the title ‘Man with No Name’ – the character has been given multiple nicknames by fans throughout the years. Examples of these include ‘Joe’ (because it’s a common name), ‘Manco’ (which is Spanish for one-armed, and the character uses only his left hand, except when he’s shooting), and ‘Blondie’ (because of the color of his hair).
After the stardom that came as a result of the Dollar Trilogy, and using the new-found fortune that he’d managed to acquire because of it, Eastwood decided to branch out from acting into something he’d long dreamed about: producing and directing. He established a company called Malpaso Productions, which was named after Malpaso Creek on his property in Monterey County, California.
In 1968, the first movie he produced was ‘Hang ‘Em High,’ an American revisionist Western that he also starred in, which earned him a wage of $400,000 as well as 25% of the movie’s net box-office takings. He was beginning to receive serious money for the first time in his life, and his production company had gotten off to a good start.
Malpaso Productions continued to operate over the following years – in fact, ‘Richard Jewell’ was released only a year ago in 2019. Eastwood is known for very tight shooting schedules – he always finishes movies on schedule and on budget, if not earlier and under budget, typically in much less time than most other production companies. Famously, years later, when Matt Damon asked for another take, Eastwood sniped back, “Why? So you can waste everybody’s time?”
The second movie he released was ‘Coogan’s Bluff’ in 1968, before branching out to star in a musical – the only one of his whole career. ‘Paint Your Wagon’ was released in 1969 – and although it wasn’t a commercial success, it did receive a nomination for a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.
On July 21st, 1970, Eastwood’s father had a heart attack and died at 64 years old. This came as a monumental shock to Eastwood, who had predicted longevity for his father after seeing his grandfather live to the age of 92. His friend Fritz Manes described the death as “the only bad thing that ever happened to [Eastwood] in his life.”
It had a profound impact on Eastwood’s life, leading him to re-evaluate his way of living. As a result, he became more productive and motivated, working with speed and efficiency, as well as a renewed sense of urgency on set. He also became increasingly into fitness and started to eat healthier foods. However, he still loved a cold beer and ended up opening a pub in Carmel-by-the-Sea in 1971, called The Hog’s Breath.
By this point, Eastwood was starting to receive more positive reviews from critics. It wasn’t, however, until 1971 that his career really skyrocketed with his role in ‘Dirty Harry,’ something that would prove to be somewhat of a turning point for him. The storyline centers on a tough New York City police inspector who is determined to stop a psychotic killer – by any means necessary.
‘Dirty Harry’ has long been credited with inventing the whole genre of the ‘loose-cannon cop’ that has been popular now for decades – and it is also considered by many to be Eastwood’s most memorable role. Author Eric Lichtenfeld even goes so far to say that the “first true archetype” of the action film genre was established by Eastwood’s role as Dirty Harry.
Interestingly, this role was not initially intended for Eastwood, and the fact he ended up getting it is down somewhat to luck. Frank Sinatra was, in fact, the production company’s first choice for Dirty Harry, but there was one rather strange – and unfortunate – problem. Sinatra, despite the circulating rumors linking him to the Mob and the Underworld, couldn’t hold a gun.
According to Sinatra, this was because he had a ‘hand issue.’ If you’ve seen ‘Dirty Harry,’ you’ll know that holding a gun is a prerequisite for the leading role, so this proved to be a big problem for production. Therefore, they ended up turning to Eastwood, who was more than happy to accept. He did, however, say that it “sounded like a pretty lame excuse.”
However, it should be noted that Eastwood wasn’t actually second in line for the role. Multiple high-profile actors also passed on the opportunity to star in ‘Dirty Harry,’ including John Wayne, who felt that the lead character was too violent for him to play, and Steve McQueen, who didn’t want to do another police movie after filming ‘Bullitt.’
Interestingly, the other main character in ‘Dirty Harry’ – the infamous villain by the name of Scorpio – was based on the Zodiac Killer, an unidentified serial killer that murdered people in California (specifically, the Bay Area) between December 1968 and October 1969. Ironically, the film is set in the Bay Area, where he had recently been wreaking havoc.
One of the most famous lines in ‘Dirty Harry’ – said by Eastwood – is the following: “I know what you’re thinking – “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But, being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky? Well, do you, punk?”
Interestingly, prominent firearm historians such as Richard Venola and Garry James regard this specific line to have influenced the surge in ownership of .44 Magnum revolvers in the US shortly after the movie’s release – specifically, the Smith & Smith Wesson Model 29 that can be seen throughout the movie, carried by Harry.
‘Dirty Harry’ was wildly successful, earning a total of $22 million in the US and Canada alone. It also sparked a series of movies featuring the character of Harry Callahan, who it seemed people couldn’t get enough of. Several critics praised Eastwood’s performance; for example, Jay Cocks described him as “giving his best performance so far, tense, tough, full of implicit identification with his character.”
It also sparked something else: a copycat crime. In the movie, the villain Scorpio kidnaps a girl before burying her alive and demanding ransom from the police. Unfortunately, in 2009, it was discovered that the abduction of a young girl back in 1981 occurred after a couple got the idea after watching ‘Dirty Harry.’
By this point in his life, Eastwood had a long list of relationships under his belt – both casual and serious. He met his wife Maggie Johnson on a blind date in 1953; it was the spring, and they married on December 19th of the same year. However, monogamy was not one of Eastwood’s strong points, and shortly after, he had another relationship.
Although it’s unclear who it was with, it resulted in a daughter named Laurie, who was born in 1954 and then adopted by a couple called Clyde and Helen Warren. It’s rumored that her mother was part of a theatre group in Seattle that Eastwood was a member of. Laurie’s identity as Eastwood’s daughter was only revealed by the press in the 1980s.
Affairs were common in Eastwood’s marriage. One of the most prominent was a 14-year relationship with stuntwoman Roxanne Tunis that produced a daughter in 1964 – Kimber. Maggie, however, seemingly tolerated the infidelity, and eventually ended up having two children with Eastwood: Kyle (who was born in 1968) and Alison (born in 1972).
A few years later, however, in 1975, Sondra Locke – a married actress and long-time friend – moved in with Eastwood, claiming that he’d declared that he’d “never been in love before” and written her a poem titled “She Made Me Monogamous.” After they’d been living together for nine years, Eastwood divorced Maggie, but Locke remained married to her husband – a man named Gordon Anderson – until she died.
Unfortunately, the affairs didn’t stop there. Eastwood fathered two more children – Scott (who was born in 1986) and Kathryn (born in 1988) – with a flight attendant named Jacelyn Reeves. However, both children are legally fatherless. Next, in the 1990s, Eastwood had another relationship with an actress called Frances Fisher, and they had a daughter in 1993 called Francesca.
Three years later, in 1996, Eastwood married again – this time to Dina Ruiz, a news anchor. They had a daughter called Morgan later that year and stayed married until 2013. There were no publicized affairs during their marriage. Since then, he’s been pictured with women on several occasions, but there have been no serious relationships reported.
It’s not just a plethora of relationships that Eastwood has got under his belt – he’s also been awarded and received recognition from the industry on several occasions. Although in 2007, France awarded him a Legion of Honor medal (the highest French order of merit established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte), most of these have been for his acting work, including People’s Choice Awards, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, and Directors Guild of America Awards, among others.
Also, he is one of only two people to have been nominated for Best Actor and Best Director for the same film twice (for both ‘Unforgiven’ and ‘Million Dollar Baby’). Moreover, in 2004, when ‘Million Dollar Baby’ won an Oscar for Best Picture, Eastwood, who was 74 years old, became the oldest of the only 18 directors to have directed two or more Best Picture winters.
Interestingly, the scripts for ‘Unforgiven,’ 1992 Western that Eastwood both directed and starred in, existed in as early as 1976. However, Eastwood decided to wait for almost 20 years before producing and directing the movie because he wanted to be old enough to play the lead role and have the film be the last of his Westerns.
Proving that the Western genre was still very much alive all these years later, ‘Unforgiven’ received a total of nine Oscar nominations and went on to win four of them: Best Director, Best Picture, Best Editing, and Best Actor in a Supporting Role. It made close to $160 million on just a $14 million budget.
There are, however, several significant cinematic roles that Eastwood has turned down throughout this career. For example, he decided against playing James Bond after Sean Connery retired from the position, then went on to turn down the part of Superman, claiming that it just wasn’t the right role for him.
A few years later, he rejected the offer to play Martin Sheen’s character in the blockbuster movie ‘Apocalypse Now’ – however, this time, he gave a bit more of a concrete reason. He stated that he didn’t want to spend a total of 16 weeks in the jungle filming. To be honest, he can’t really be blamed for that! Looking back over all the roles he did take, he considers the 1958 Western ‘Ambush at Cimarron Pass’ to be the worst movie of his entire career.
Outside of the movie industry, Eastwood has put a lot of time and effort into politics and civic duty. The most impressive example of this is his tenure as the mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, which lasted from 1986 until 1988. However, it should be pointed out that he did not run for this position for philanthropic reasons.
Instead, it was as a result of planning proposals for a building being rejected, which infuriated him. Therefore, he decided to run for mayor – and, to many people’s surprise, he won, with 72.5% of votes. Of course, he approved his own building plans, then removed the ban on selling and eating ice cream on the streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Now, at the grand old age of 89 years, Clint Eastwood lives in the Carmel-by-the-Sea area in California –where he bought the pub back in the 1970s (although he has since sold it). As of 2020, his estimated net worth is approximately a staggering $375 million – so it’s safe to say that he’s living in comfortable retirement.
He can spend his remaining years in luxury, thanks to his huge success in acting, producing, and directing, taking comfort in the knowledge that, despite being told in the early days that he couldn’t act and would never amount to much, he became one of the biggest movie stars that the world has ever seen.