06/15/2010 11:09 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Make Your Father's Day


There are two Clint Eastwood stories I love. The first recalls an appointment between two young actors -- Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood -- and a major Hollywood producer. The actors submitted their resumes, chatted for a while. The producer smiled politely, and gave them his honest opinion about their show biz futures. "You, Mr. Reynolds, cannot act. I'm sorry to say that you will never make it in this town. And you, Mr. Eastwood, you will never make it in Hollywood because your Adam's apple is too damn big." The two actors were dismissed on the street, Reynolds turned to Eastwood and grinned. "I can learn to act, but you're shit outta luck." Clint: A Retrospective (Sterling Publishing) offers a leafy coffee table testament of Eastwood's seemingly endless reservoir of continuing and erstwhile good fortune. The lush pictography is narrated by film scholar Richard Schickel (intro by Dirty Harry himself). It ties in with the release of the Warner Bros. box set of 35 Clint Eastwood movies and Schickel's TCM documentary. The book includes interviews with Eastwood, over 300 photos (including stills from every Eastwood film), plus a 20-minute DVD.

It's a way better Father's Day gift than a tie or peanut brittle.

Yet, despite Eastwood's shelf of Oscars, widespread critical acclaim and even his being embraced by the French, the former Mayor of Carmel is still narrowly misunderstood by some as an offensive purveyor of simplistic violence and coarse masculinity. To the unenlightened let me point you to The Beguiled (1971); a proto-Andrea Dworkin feminist homily, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974); a pioneering use of a cross-dressing Jeff Bridges-main character; Sudden Impact (1976); jarring and prescient commentary on Lorena Bobbit-style justice; The Bridges of Madison County (1995); Eastwood plays a supporting role to a strong but conflicted Meryl Streep protagonist, Million Dollar Baby (2004); modern portrait of young female empowerment. Not to mention that Eastwood intentionally raised multicultural issues in his Dirty Harry movies, having his partners in each film represent a typically disadvantaged social group: black (twice), latino, female.

If nothing else, you and your Father's Day recipient have got to appreciate my other-favorite Clint story/factoid: In one of those out-of-the-blue-I-can't-believe-I'm-watching-this-live (I was watching) TV moments when Eastwood flirted so mercilessly with Barbara Walters during a 1982 prime-time interview the flummoxed queen of one-on-one's begged to stop the cameras -- the one and only time she's ever done that.

Does any one man deserve to have so much fun and success for so long? As William Munny stated so perfectly in Unforgiven (1992), the line later to be channeled by Snoop in The Wire (Season 5, Eposideo 9): "Deserve's got nuthin' to do with it".