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Doug Gamble- Contributor

Doug Gamble is a former writer for President Ronald Reagan and resides in Carmel. [go to Gamble index]

Eastwood at 75
A quiet American hero...
[Doug Gamble] 5/25/05

At a time when our culture rewards abrasive, in-your-face celebrity, a man whose movie personas embody the quiet American hero and who lives his life with similar humility is reaching a milestone. Clint Eastwood turns 75 next Tuesday.

Perhaps not since John Wayne have so many of the qualities that made this country great resided in a single star’s screen portrayals. From action hero roles including soldier, cowboy and police detective to more sensitive, vulnerable characters like a magazine photographer and grizzled boxing manager, Eastwood epitomizes individualism, courage, honor, integrity, patriotism and justice. And he occasionally throws in a few unsavory traits just for spice.

Eastwood is a living link to the golden days of Hollywood and such similar stars as Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Gary Cooper and James Stewart. While he would never say this himself, many of today’s breed of actors -- Leonardo DiCaprio comes to mind -- are punks compared to those like Eastwood who were produced by the Hollywood of old.

Ironically, his screen career almost ended before it began. A youthful Eastwood was fired as a contract player at Universal Studios in the mid-1950’s, in part because his Adam’s apple was too big and he talked too slowly. He was told he had no future in acting.

Not only did he have a future as an actor, creating such iconic movie heroes as Dirty Harry Callahan and making “Go ahead, make my day” one of the most quoted catch phrases of all time, including use by President Ronald Reagan, he has emerged as one of the film industry’s most talented and respected directors. Starting with “Play Misty for Me” in 1971 -- where affectionate scenes of Carmel, where he would later become mayor, and his love of jazz were mixed in among the mayhem -- his directing, like his acting, has become better with age.

Although a conservative, Eastwood does not believe in mixing politics with pictures. In “Mystic River” he directed two of Hollywood’s most prominent liberals, Sean Penn and Tim Robbins. And the assisted suicide twist of “Million Dollar Baby” provoked the ire of some religious conservatives, although Eastwood insists it was not meant as a statement.

A long time fixture on the Monterey Peninsula, the San Francisco native is a co-owner of the world famous Pebble Beach golf resort among other holdings. His commitment to the community is legend, including his rescue of an historic Carmel hotel facing destruction and his low key philanthropy benefiting local youth activities and other causes.

Whether boosting civic endeavors or doing Oscar-winning work as director of “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby,” Eastwood shies from the spotlight as much as possible, a far cry from so many of today’s “ain’t I great” brand of celebrities. His discomfort with attention is apparent in the infrequent interviews he grants, where his reluctance to talk about his achievements gives renewed meaning to the phrase, “strong, silent type.”

With his only apparent concession to age the fact he no longer plays in the annual AT&T Pro-Am golf tournament at Pebble Beach each February, Eastwood has plunged into a massive new project. He is directing “Flags of Our Fathers,” a movie based on the book of the same name conceived around the famous WWII photo of U.S. Marines raising the Stars and Stripes atop Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima.

Eastwood visited the desolate island in March to figure how best to tell the story of the epic first U.S. invasion of Japanese soil, the 6,800 Americans who died there in just 25 days and the six men who raised the flag and whose lives were forever changed. It is fitting that this compelling story of our military’s heroism will be brought to the screen next year by someone whose career so typifies the American spirit, and whose range of characters has held up a mirror for us to see ourselves in all that we are, the good, the bad and the ugly. tRO

California-based Doug Gamble contributed speech material to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and writes a twice-monthly column for the Orange County Register and

Copyright 2004 Doug Gamble




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