Dirty Harry (1971), written by Harry and Rita Fink, centers on a hard-edged New York City (later changed to San Francisco) police inspector named Harry Callahan who is determined to stop a psychotic killer by any means. Dirty Harry has been described as being arguably Eastwood's most memorable character, and the film has been credited with inventing the "loose-cannon cop" genre. Author Eric Lichtenfeld argues that Eastwood's role as Dirty Harry established the "first true archetype" of the action film genre. His lines (quoted above) are regarded by firearms historians, such as Garry James and Richard Venola, as the force that catapulted the ownership of .44 Magnum revolvers to new heights in the United States; specifically the Smith & Wesson Model 29 carried by Harry Callahan. Dirty Harry, released in December 1971, earned $22 million in the United States and Canada. It was Siegel's highest-grossing film and the start of a series of films featuring the character Harry Callahan. Although a number of critics praised Eastwood's performance as Dirty Harry, such as Jay Cocks who described him as "giving his best performance so far, tense, tough, full of implicit identification with his character," the film was also widely criticized as being fascistic. After having been second for the past two years, Eastwood was voted first in Quigley's Top Ten Money Making Stars Poll in 1972 and again in 1973.
In January 1966, Eastwood met producer Dino De Laurentiis in New York City and agreed to star in a non-Western five-part anthology production, The Witches (Le Streghe, 1967), opposite De Laurentiis's wife, Silvana Mangano. Eastwood's 19-minute installment took only a few days to shoot, but his performance did not please critics; one wrote, "no other performance of his is quite so 'un-Clintlike'." Two months later Eastwood began work on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, again playing the mysterious Man with No Name. Lee Van Cleef returned as a ruthless fortune seeker, with Eli Wallach portraying the Mexican bandit Tuco Ramirez. The storyline involved the search for a cache of Confederate gold buried in a cemetery. During the filming of a scene in which a bridge was blown up, Eastwood urged Wallach to retreat to a hilltop. "I know about these things," he said. "Stay as far away from special effects and explosives as you can." Minutes later confusion among the crew over the word "Vaya!" resulted in a premature explosion that could have killed Wallach.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
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 addition to directing many of his own star vehicles, Eastwood has also directed films in which he did not appear, such as the mystery drama Mystic River (2003) and the war film Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), for which he received Academy Award nominations, the drama Changeling (2008), and the biographical sports drama Invictus (2009). The war drama biopic American Sniper (2014) set box-office records for the largest January release ever and was also the largest opening ever for an Eastwood film.More Info
Before Hang 'Em High's release, Eastwood had already begun working on Coogan's Bluff (1968), about an Arizona deputy sheriff tracking a wanted psychopathic criminal (Don Stroud) through New York City. He was reunited with Universal Studios for it after receiving an offer of $1 million – more than double his previous salary. Jennings Lang arranged for Eastwood to meet Don Siegel, a Universal contract director who later became Eastwood's close friend, forming a partnership that would last more than ten years and produce five films. Shooting began in November 1967, before the script had been finalized. The film was controversial for its portrayal of violence. Coogan's Bluff also became the first collaboration with Argentine composer Lalo Schifrin, who scored several Eastwood films in the 1970s and 1980s, including the Dirty Harry films.More Info
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