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Author Topic: Writing a book on the Clint Eastwood westerns  (Read 2626 times)
JLNeibaur
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« on: May 13, 2014, 10:15:46 AM »


For my 16th book, I am covering the Clint Eastwood westerns.  It is a film-by-film look at his movies in this genre, each one getting its own chapter.  I will also have bracketing chapters entitled Between The Westerns interspersed throughout the book to discuss the non-westerns films he was making at the time (e.g. Between The Westerns 1968-1971 follows the Two Mules for Sister Sarah chapter, which is followed by a chapter on Joe Kidd, etc). 

I am extending my reach regarding what I consider a western.  Films that only have a tangential connection to the genre like Coogan's Bluff, The Beguiled, and Bronco Billy are also included.

I like reading the opinions of fans in forums like this because I find them to be learned and with really strong frames of reference.  So I have been looking at the forums discussing favorite westerns between Joe Kidd/Sister Sara/Hang Em High, or between Pale Rider and High Plains Drifter.  I learn a lot from this type of discussion and always use it as a part of my research.

I welcome your comments, criticisms, suggestions, and opinions.   I will be glad to answer any questions.

Re:  my other books, I have one on the Elvis movies that just came out in April, one on the James Cagney films coming out before the end of the year.  The Eastwood will probably be out next year around this time.  I also have books on Jerry Lewis, Buster Keaton, RKO studios, etc.

Thanks!
Jim
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Lin Sunderland
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« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2014, 02:47:06 PM »

Welcome to the board Jim.   I am sure if you keep posting with comments on the lines of the Dirty Harry movies you will attract some good discussions.

I wish you well with the research and hope this board gives some food for thought.
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KC
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« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2014, 07:10:43 PM »

Welcome to the Board, Jim, and good luck on the new book.  8)

You might want to take a look at some of our older threads, from back in the day when this Board was more active. For instance, the subforum called "Previous Film Discussions" has a series of structured discussions on quite a few of Clint's most popular films, including most of his Westerns. Also, the "Movie Night" subforum has lots of interesting "off the cuff" remarks on many films, as Eastwood fans from all over the globe (well, usually about a half-dozen of us, but from three or four continents) would gather to chat about a film as we watched it. Here's a link to the Movie Night thread for Unforgiven from 2007: http://www.clinteastwood.org/forums/index.php?topic=6767.0

And for those of you who are curious about J.L. Neibaur's previous books ...

http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=Neibaur%2C+James+L.%2C+1958-++
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JLNeibaur
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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2014, 05:53:21 AM »

I will definitely be checking out the other forums from years past -- I learn a great deal from reading the discussions of experts, scholars, students, passionate fans, etc, all of whom seem to be represented here.

I think Clint Eastwood is the greatest living American filmmaker and his westerns are as important to cinema as anything by Ford or Hawks.

Thanks for the welcome. 
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AKA23
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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2014, 04:16:02 PM »

I think all of us would be happy to contribute our thoughts but your query is a little too general for me to know how to respond. Is there anything in particular you'd like to know? What type of questions are you trying to answer? What kind of thoughts would be most helpful for you as you seek to write this book?
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JLNeibaur
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« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2014, 09:56:26 AM »

That is an excellent point.  I should bring up random westerns and start some discussions.

THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, for instance,  shows Eastwood's growth as a director with a real understanding of the genre. It also displays his having been inspired by the likes of Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, but he fuses what he learned from these directors and forms his own style. It is evident in his use of close-ups, quick edits, choices for camera placement, and how he frames the action (they call that mise-en-scène, a French term I am particularly fond of, mostly because it bugs some people). It is a long movie, but doesn't drag. It sustains its narrative successfully and is certainly among the best films Eastwood directed himself. Of course the book will go into more detail.

If we are looking at this film from the perspective of Eastwood's direction, what do some of the people in here find especially impressive?   

Thanks!!
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KC
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« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2014, 08:47:18 PM »

You might be interested in this thread from ten years ago, in our "Previous Film Discussions" forum:

http://www.clinteastwood.org/forums/index.php?topic=2988.0
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The Man With No Aim
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« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2014, 04:04:09 AM »

That is an excellent point.  I should bring up random westerns and start some discussions.

THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, for instance,  shows Eastwood's growth as a director with a real understanding of the genre. It also displays his having been inspired by the likes of Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, but he fuses what he learned from these directors and forms his own style. It is evident in his use of close-ups, quick edits, choices for camera placement, and how he frames the action (they call that mise-en-scène, a French term I am particularly fond of, mostly because it bugs some people). It is a long movie, but doesn't drag. It sustains its narrative successfully and is certainly among the best films Eastwood directed himself. Of course the book will go into more detail.

If we are looking at this film from the perspective of Eastwood's direction, what do some of the people in here find especially impressive?   

Thanks!!



One thing that impressed me was that Josey was scripted to be known as a criminal , but never shown as deliberately abusing anyone unjustly .

And a very impressive sequence was the episode in which Josey explained to Indian Chief that Chief needed his own horse, whereupon Josey ambled into the cantina to see if he could find one. The entry of Josey into the cantina combines features of Unforgiven and Sudden Impact. It is a very good bit of film. Highly dramatic. If you carefully notice, Josey DID NOT act as a marauder going about horse stealing. He went in innocently and simply reacted properly defensively to the assault of the soon-to-be ex horse owner. It was really a coincidence that the horse owner, as a righteous consequence of his own iniquity, wound up to no longer need his horse. 
« Last Edit: May 17, 2014, 04:10:42 AM by The Man With No Aim » Logged

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JLNeibaur
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« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2014, 08:31:44 AM »


Excellent points all, and thanks for the link to the earlier discussion about THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES.

I think HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER is a consistently brilliant film, one of the best westerns ever made, as well as one of the finest movies Eastwood directed.

There is one jarring scene, and that is when he rapes the prostitute (Marianna Hill) who purposely bumps into him early in the movie.  He forms a similar connection to Belding's wife, although this as consensual despite initial protests.  Even though its purpose is to show how far the stranger’s power reaches, and how he is the complete opposite of the traditional western hero, the scene remains unnecessary and off-putting.  The stranger’s traits are apparent without this scene, which just makes him a little less compelling to watch.   

What do others think about this?   Thanks.
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The Man With No Aim
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« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2014, 11:28:44 PM »

Excellent points all, and thanks for the link to the earlier discussion about THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES.

I think HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER is a consistently brilliant film, one of the best westerns ever made, as well as one of the finest movies Eastwood directed.

There is one jarring scene, and that is when he rapes the prostitute (Marianna Hill) who purposely bumps into him early in the movie.  He forms a similar connection to Belding's wife, although this as consensual despite initial protests.  Even though its purpose is to show how far the stranger’s power reaches, and how he is the complete opposite of the traditional western hero, the scene remains unnecessary and off-putting.  The stranger’s traits are apparent without this scene, which just makes him a little less compelling to watch.   

What do others think about this?   Thanks.


NO!

In my humble (who do I think I'm kidding?) opinion, the rape or something like that, scene(s) are essential to display the essential identity of the Drifter and the consensus nature of the townspeople.

Drifter is a GHOST, a revener, a wraith, an avenging spirit, who has been sent (returned?) to the town to effect proper vengeance upon a population who has already been judged and found guilty.

Drifter wraith is pretty much playing with the judged townfolk, like a cat plays with a rat that it is killing or has killed, until it is is the right moment for the final stroke. I have seen my lovely cat do this. Until the rat is rendered dead. And then the cat has continued to throw and toss the rat corpse about, like a dust devil wind plays with a tiny light leaf.

For the Drifter to drift into town and act and react with the populace is an act of mercy....any town folk who act with human decency toward Drifter may be left out of the final stroke. From the early moments of his entry, such as the tuff guy in the saloon who is caught completely flat footed when Drifter fast-draws his whisky bottle, many of the townfolk fail to act decently. The slut taunts him, not offering affection and love, but using sexual allure as a weapon in a psychological game, and Drifter reacts by providing slut with violence, not affection and love. 

EDIT ALERT

I wrote my post originally making a judgement about good JBNeibaur which was totally unwarranted. I sincerely apologize and have removed a sentence of mine which I now consider to have been rude. And unfounded. And probably completely wrong.

The point which I feel strongly about, but then expressed myself even more poorly than usual was this: I believe that wraith Drifter had a preconceived contempt for the townfolk in general, and had seriously harmful intentions toward them from the start. As a result, it was a basic literary ploy to use several instances of drifter acts toward town citizens which would be easily understood as acts of great dislike and disregard for the well being of any specific citizen involved.

The rape of the slut certainly met the requirements for such a literary device. However, in later days of the present day, it has become sensitive to display acts of males which disrespect and harm females, in a move to restrain the victimization which has been unfortunately too characteristic of some misguided males and has caused the victimization of females. It is a very good move to try to stop even a literary presentation of harm perpetrated by male upon female in an effort to attain a society in which every person is properly respected by every other person regardless of gender or race or whatever. So it is completely understandable that a more mature Clint Eastwood has relatively recently said that today, he would probably omit such a rape scene.

But....the scene made a valuable and vital bridge connecting the mindset of the visitor with the town's relationship with him. So, my point, very poorly expressed, but very strongly felt, is, that the film needed a certain saturation point of such scenes establishing the pre-judged animosity of the visitor toward the general townfolk.

I was not meaning to uphold the use of a male-harming-female scene, but rather I was upholding the use of a visitor-harming-guilty-town citizen scene.

And I was simply not thinking clearly enough or quickly enough when I made a unwarranted critical comment about and to JBNeibaur.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2014, 11:05:59 PM by The Man With No Aim » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: May 21, 2014, 06:06:42 AM »

MWNA, don't judge people too harshly because they have a different opinion about Clint's films from yours. If I recall right, even Clint said at one time or another that he might have omitted the scene if he were doing the film nowadays.

Here's a link to a very old thread we had about this scene (it started on an earlier version of this board):

http://www.clinteastwood.org/forums/?topic=150.0
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The Man With No Aim
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« Reply #11 on: May 21, 2014, 10:23:08 PM »

You are perfectly right. I was too harsh and I regret it.

I apologize to JLNeibaur for my having been rude.

I have edited that post and invite any interested person to go up a couple of posts and read my edit.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2014, 11:02:22 PM by The Man With No Aim » Logged

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JLNeibaur
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« Reply #12 on: May 22, 2014, 11:02:50 AM »

I did not see whatever offending sentence was written about me or my work, so forget about it.

When I make a statement about any of the Eastwood westerns, I genuinely want reactions from the good people in here.  I value your opinions even (especially?) if they differ from mine.  A writer learns from fellow film buffs who have the same respect and passion for the work. 

I joined this group to hear your opinions, and so far they have always been helpful.  Even if you have a completely different take on something than I do, I will always respect your opinion as an informed one.  Please feel free to discuss, argue, etc, on any subject I start in this thread.  I welcome it as important to the project. 

I am here because I have great respect for the people in this group and I want to hear what you have to say about these important films that we all respect and admire.  I plan to address the valid points MWNA offered in his post for my HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER chapter.

thanks,
Jim
« Last Edit: May 22, 2014, 11:17:51 AM by JLNeibaur » Logged
The Man With No Aim
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« Reply #13 on: May 24, 2014, 01:15:40 AM »

I think that this goes to show that the Eastwood films really have a strong importance because of the amount of emotion and thought that they can provoke. They are certainly grand entertainment. But they are also much more than entertainment, they provoke us to contemplate our human condition.

 
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Jed Cooper
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« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2014, 01:52:33 PM »

Hello JLNeibaur,

How's the book coming along?  I wish you much luck and success with it and am interested in reading the finished version when available.  The first 3 westerns Clint made with Sergio Leone have always been my favorites.  It's those and the first 3 Dirty Harry movies that made me a fan years (decades!) ago.  Upon seeking out his other westerns made up to that point, pre-Pale Rider and Unforgiven, I was pleasantly surprised with some and sorely disappointed with others.  The ones I enjoyed most were (are!) High Plains Drifter and The Outlaw Josey Wales.  Drifter was similar enough to the Leone trilogy to enjoy and Wales stood on it's own merits.  I watched each on cable whenever the opportunity presented itself, with family and friends.  I can't say the same for Joe Kidd and Two Mules For Sister Sara.  They're among my least favorite of Eastwood's westerns but I don't discard them completely.  At first, I disliked Hang 'Em High very much but one night plans changed and I found myself home alone and what comes on tv but this '68 western.  I sat back and decided to give it another chance.  I came away very entertained and it's now among my favorites.  I wish I could say the same for Pale Rider.  It's the first Eastwood western I saw on the big screen and I was very disheartened upon leaving the theater.  I've commented elsewhere on this board that I'm due to give it another viewing.  I'm not sure my opinion will change much but I know it'll be good to see Clint acting again because it's something he does less and less these days.  Even if it's an older film and one of his I don't like much, something tells me I may come away with a new appreciation for not only Pale Rider, but maybe his other westerns I don't care much for.  Last, but certainly not least, is Unforgiven.  Probably in my top 5.  I was so pleased with this western that I returned to see it on the big screen repeatedly, probably about 5-6 times with various friends and family.  "Hey, have you seen Unforgiven?  No?  I have, but let's go!" 
What's interesting is Clint Eastwood only made 10 western movies over the course of 50 years and yet he's celebrated as one of the most iconic westerns stars of all time.  That speaks volumes and a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with.  There's The Duke ...and then there's Clint!   
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