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Author Topic: THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT: The Story 7: Red and Lightfoot's Death  (Read 13414 times)
KC
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« on: June 27, 2004, 10:31:14 AM »

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Leary's relationship to women is perhaps the least direct in the film, but is of obvious importance. The intensity of his response is expressed not in direct contact with women, which is significantly almost absent from his role, but in his fascination with the idea of sexuality, its image -- a kind of voyeurism. This first appears in a sequence in which Lightfoot tells the story of the nude woman in the window. Leary's fascination with the implications of such a moment makes him vulnerable -- Lightfoot responds to the last of Leary's questions by putting his hand over Leary's mouth and "kissing" him. Leary's response is outrage; he tells Lightfoot, 'I'll kill you for that,' and the younger man laughs. As the scene concludes, Thunderbolt smiles.

In the light of the remaining action -- in the aftermath of the robbery, Leary gives Lightfoot a beating which proves fatal -- this scene implies an ignorance of Leary's character that links Thunderbolt with Lightfoot and relates back to their attitudes to women expressed in the sequence with Melody and Gloria. Their variously thin responses to women give the two men no access to the scale of Leary's rage, no sense of his fascination with women and the violence it unlocks. . . .When the plan goes wrong, he [Leary] savagely beats up on the 'girl' of the pair. It is his response to Lightfoot's ignorance of the depth of his sexual feeling, and a punishment for the impersonation of the object of his fascination.
(Clint Eastwood, Filmmaker and Star, by Edward Gallafent, p. 165-166, 168)

Gallafent also found Thunderbolt's inability to save Lightfoot from Red's attack significant:

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There is no confrontation, just Leary dispatching Thunderbolt with a single blow before delivering a merciless beating to Lightfoot, and no recovery of the action hero to enact revenge -- it is not Thunderbolt who finally kills Leary.

Why does Lightfoot die? His death can be seen as part of a pattern in films of this time, when the vulnerability of the younger of two men, his death or effective destruction, expresses the utter inability of a older generation to act in a way that might help the younger.
(Clint Eastwood, Filmmaker and Star, by Edward Gallafent, p. 169-170)

What do you think of Gallafent's interpretation of this theme? Why do you think the relationship between Lightfoot and Red was so volatile? What was it about Lightfoot that Red disliked so much? Do you agree with Gallafent that Lightfoot dies as a symbol of the older generation's inability to save the younger?
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mgk
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« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2004, 11:54:35 AM »

I find Gallafent's interpretation very interesting.  I think older generations often throw their hands up and think that these rebellious young people can't be saved....they're too far gone.....they would never understand how things used to be.  However, the fact that Thunderbolt is taken out of the picture so easily when Red begins to beat up on Lightfoot could symbolize that lack of ability to save the younger generation or it could represent the antithesis of the hero who is always successful in saving his victim.

To Red, Lightfoot represents all of the standards of older days having been thrust aside.  Lightfoot is disrespectful of his older nemesis as the youth are often seen even in today's society.  However, with Red, there is more than just the disappearance of old traditions here.  Red is hungry for the sexual aspects of life but never quite seems to be able to attain any success with women (at least it's never shown to us in this film) and, lacking his own sexual experiences, he must live them through the younger Lightfoot's escapades which infuriates him to no end. It pains Red to have to live voyeuristically through Lightfoot as evidenced by his eager questions to Lightfoot about the naked woman who seemingly was throwing herself at Lightfoot.  There's a jealousy from Red that, because the younger generation isn't hampered by old values, they freely reap the benefits of sin more easily.  Red also sees the younger generation as more capable of attracting women than he himself or any other older man could possibly do.

From the very beginning of this movie, Red sees the young Lightfoot as a threat to his own masculinity and, in my opinion, in two different ways.  At times, Lightfoot is seen by Red as the handsome, young man without a care in the world having women throwing themselves at him....something Red wishes women would do to him.  At other times, Red sees Lightfoot as a mockery to the male's masculinity.  First we see Lightfoot answering Red's ardent questions about the naked woman while laughing at Red's enthusiasm.  To further irritate Red, Lightfoot clamps his hand over Red's mouth and then "kisses" him to which Red vows to kill him.  Later in the film, to make matters worse, Lightfoot's role in the robbery heist is to dress like a woman and distract a man from sounding the alarm from the armory.    It exasperates Red to see him so easily play the part of the cross-dresser and just adds to Red's fury when he starts to beat Lightfoot.  He's in a complete rage before he finishes hitting and kicking Lightfoot even when the latter is down on the ground.  At times you think Red just hates Lightfoot....period....and, then, at other times you get the feeling that Red is trying to kill the new generation's attitudes that threaten to destroy the culture Red thinks should prevail.
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« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2004, 09:18:37 AM »

I think Gallafent’s interpretation is a complicated, psycological over-analyzation of a simple story. Simple answers to simple questions:

Very similar to what mgk stated - Leary didn’t like Lightfoot because the latter was everything he wasn’t – young, good looking, sharp, not shy with the opposite sex, and not afraid to speak his mind and make fun of certain people (like Leary). He also enjoyed and appreciated his carefree, independent life – something that evaded Leary, and reminded him of everything he wasn’t. Kennedy’s portrayal of Red is very similar to his Oscar-winning portrayal of Dragline in Cool Hand Luke, a half-witted lug drooling over pics & descriptions of women, making the art of voyeurism much more enjoyable than the real act of being with a woman. I think a lot of us have worked with or known people like that. Alot of them have spent an extensive amount of time in jail, naturally becoming that way.

Lightfoot died because Red killed him. Why did he kill him? Because he hated him. Why did he hate him? Because of the reasons explained above. He didn’t die as “a symbol of the older generation’s ability to save the younger,” but because Leary was a killer who had a habit of hurting and wasting people he didn’t like.
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allycat
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« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2004, 04:12:48 PM »

I don’t think Red killing Lightfoot necessarily represents 'the inability of a older generation to act in a way that might help the younger'. Red is an extremely volatile character, he has been violent in the past, as Thunderbolt tells Lightfoot earlier in the film that Red went to jail for stabbing a woman. If Red is capable of seriously hurting a woman, it’s no surprise that he has no qualms about hurting Lightfoot. He has violent tendencies and it's an inherent part of him. He appears liable to explode at any moment, but Lightfoot is the catalyst for that.

However, there may be something to suggest misogyny or the undermining of masculinity. Just as Red has violently attacked women before, he is completely at odds with them. The only time he cares about what Lightfoot is saying is when Lightfoot describes the naked woman coming to the window at the place where he works, and Red listens avidly. But when Lightfoot mock-kisses Red, he crosses a line. Lightfoot acts in the only way he knows how, which is totally alien to Red. Lightfoot may on a certain level embody this female sexuality to Red, in that he is the weaker of the pair, and this theory is reinforced when Lightfoot dresses up as a woman during the heist. At least, Lightfoot at this point suggests what Red can't have, and the idea of frustrated male sexuality. It's also frustrated male sexuality that allows Lightfoot to turn off the alarm as the fat man is distracted by the apparently attractive female figure before him. Or perhaps, if we were following that tack, Lightfoot could have homosexual tendencies, and Red despises this in him too. (I'll explore this on the 'Themes' thread). At any rate, Lightfoot is someone who is completely at ease with his sexuality. He seems to enjoy dressing up as a woman. Red clearly isn’t, from the way he watches the young couple in the bedroom for several seconds as they make love. It’s rather disturbing.

I want to mention Goody’s death and just how callous Red is towards him at this point. After Goody gets shot, for a moment Red appears concerned, but then his face hardens and he says nastily, “You’re gonna be dead soon anyway” and throws him out of the car. It is just before this moment that Red loses it and decides to betray them all. This makes me feel that Red could have gone this way at any point, and so him killing Lightfoot is therefore unsurprising because he’s only putting into practice what he’s threatened all along. He is capable of extreme violence and we already know this. Throughout the film he warns Lightfoot or informs Thunderbolt of his intentions, although no one appears to take them seriously at the time.

Red alludes to Lightfoot’s death at his hands during their first encounter. After he’s winded the kid, Red remarks, “It’s a good thing I didn’t hit him in the face, he’d be dead now.” Of course, that’s just what he does at the end of the film, with fatal consequences. Other remarks: after Lightfoot has ‘kissed’ him, he mutters, “You’ll get yours when this is over. One way or another. You can believe in that.” In the armoury, to Thunderbolt: “When this is over I’m gonna get that kid.”

I think the end scene where Red dies horrifically at the jaws of the guard dog was poetic justice. To be honest, after beating Lightfoot like that, I pretty much wanted him to die  :o I knew what was coming…when Red takes the job as the cleaner and he appears scared when the other guy mentions the dogs – it seems to be the only thing that he’s actually scared of.
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« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2005, 05:55:52 PM »

Thanks to everyone for participating in this discussion. This topic is now closed, please post any additional thoughts in the General Discussion forum.
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The Schofield Kid
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« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2011, 05:49:42 AM »

This topic has been temporarily unlocked.  Feel free to post any additional thoughts or discussion here.
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« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2013, 06:52:45 PM »

Thanks, everyone! This thread is now locked.  Please post any additional thoughts you have on this topic in the General Discussion forum.
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