Eastwood teamed up with Jeff Bridges and George Kennedy in the buddy action caper Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), a road movie about a veteran bank robber Thunderbolt (Eastwood) and a young con man drifter, Lightfoot (Bridges). On its release, in spring 1974, the film was praised for its offbeat comedy mixed with high suspense and tragedy but was only a modest success at the box office, earning $32.4 million. Eastwood's acting was noted by critics, but was overshadowed by Bridges who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Eastwood reportedly fumed at the lack of Academy Award recognition for him and swore that he would never work for United Artists again.
The Dollars trilogy was not released in the United States until 1967, when A Fistful of Dollars opened on January 18, followed by For a Few Dollars More on May 10, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on December 29. All three were commercially successful, particularly The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which eventually earned $8 million in rental earnings and turned Eastwood into a major film star being ranked for the first time on Quigley's Top Ten Money Making Stars Poll in 1968 in fifth place. All three received poor reviews, and marked the beginning of a battle for Eastwood to win American film critics' respect. Judith Crist described A Fistful of Dollars as "cheapjack," while Newsweek called For a Few Dollars More "excruciatingly dopey." Renata Adler of The New York Times said The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was "the most expensive, pious and repellent movie in the history of its peculiar genre." Time magazine drew attention to the film's wooden acting, especially Eastwood's, though a few critics such as Vincent Canby and Bosley Crowther of The New York Times praised his coolness. Leone's cinematography was widely acclaimed, even by critics who disparaged the acting.More Info
In May 1954, Eastwood made his first real audition for Six Bridges to Cross but was rejected by Joseph Pevney. After many unsuccessful auditions, he was eventually given a minor role by director Jack Arnold in Revenge of the Creature (1955), a sequel to the recently released Creature from the Black Lagoon. In September 1954, Eastwood worked for three weeks on Arthur Lubin's Lady Godiva of Coventry, won a role in February 1955, playing "Jonesy", a sailor in Francis in the Navy and appeared uncredited in another Jack Arnold film, Tarantula, where he played a squadron pilot. In May 1955, Eastwood put four hours' work into the film Never Say Goodbye and had a minor uncredited role as a ranch hand (his first western film) in August 1955 with Law Man, also known as Star in the Dust. Universal presented him with his first television role on July 2, 1955, on NBC's Allen in Movieland, which starred comedian Steve Allen, actor Tony Curtis and swing musician Benny Goodman. Although he continued to develop as an actor, Universal terminated his contract on October 23, 1955.More Info
In late 1963, Eastwood's Rawhide co-star Eric Fleming rejected an offer to star in an Italian-made western called A Fistful of Dollars (1964), filmed in a remote region of Spain by a relatively unknown director, Sergio Leone. Richard Harrison suggested Eastwood to Leone because Harrison knew Eastwood could play a cowboy convincingly. Eastwood thought the film would be an opportunity to escape from his Rawhide image. He signed a contract for $15,000 in wages for eleven weeks' work, with a bonus of a Mercedes-Benz automobile upon completion. Eastwood later said of the transition from a TV western to A Fistful of Dollars: "In Rawhide I did get awfully tired of playing the conventional white hat. The hero who kisses old ladies and dogs and was kind to everybody. I decided it was time to be an antihero." Eastwood was instrumental in creating the Man with No Name character's distinctive visual style and, although a non-smoker, Leone insisted Eastwood smoke cigars as an essential ingredient of the "mask" he was attempting to create for the character.More Info
Eastwood's first western as director was High Plains Drifter (1973), in which he also starred. The film had a moral and supernatural theme, later emulated in Pale Rider. The plot follows a mysterious stranger (Eastwood) who arrives in a brooding Western town where the people hire him to protect them against three soon-to-be-released felons. There remains confusion during the film as to whether the stranger is the brother of the deputy, whom the felons lynched and murdered, or his ghost. Holes in the plot were filled with black humor and allegory, influenced by Leone. The revisionist film received a mixed reception, but was a major box-office success. A number of critics thought Eastwood's directing was "as derivative as it was expressive," with Arthur Knight of the Saturday Review remarking that Eastwood had "absorbed the approaches of Siegel and Leone and fused them with his own paranoid vision of society." John Wayne, who had declined a role in the film, sent a letter to Eastwood soon after the film's release in which he complained that, "The townspeople did not represent the true spirit of the American pioneer, the spirit that made America great."More Info
According to a CBS press release for Rawhide, the Universal-International film company was shooting in Fort Ord when an enterprising assistant spotted Eastwood and invited him to meet the director, although this is disputed by Eastwood's unauthorized biographer, Patrick McGilligan. According to Eastwood's official biography, the key figure was a man named Chuck Hill, who was stationed in Fort Ord and had contacts in Hollywood. While in Los Angeles, Hill became reacquainted with Eastwood and managed to sneak him into a Universal studio, where he introduced him to cameraman Irving Glassberg. Glassberg arranged for an audition under Arthur Lubin, who, although very impressed with Eastwood's appearance and stature, then 6'4" (193 cm), disapproved of his acting, remarking, "He was quite amateurish. He didn't know which way to turn or which way to go or do anything". Lubin suggested that he attend drama classes and arranged for Eastwood's initial contract in April 1954, at $100 per week. After signing, Eastwood was initially criticized for his stiff manner and delivering his lines through his teeth, a lifelong trademark.More Info
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