No one expected much of Appellate Judge James A. Stewart when he was a cowpoke, either.
Our review of The Eastwood Factor, published February 16th, 2010, is also available.
"I keep working because there's always new stories, there's a new book coming along or there's a new script comes along that is interesting and worth telling. And as long as people want me to tell 'em, I'll be there doing it."—Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood has never directed a time-travel movie along the lines of Back to the Future. However, if he ever does, he has a great inside joke ready made: our time traveler, back in the '60s, stumbles across a family watching Rawhide and blurts out that this feller playing Rowdy Yates will someday be an Oscar-winning director for a boxing film called Million Dollar Baby. Everyone laughs.
The start of Eastwood's path toward that gold statue came in 1971, according to The Eastwood Factor: Extended Version (a short version of the documentary appeared with a retrospective collection earlier this year). "Dirty Harry was the movie that made him a permanent superstar," narrator Morgan Freeman tells us. Maybe not, since Eastwood had also made an impressive lack of a name for himself in spaghetti Westerns, but the movie about the obsessed cop made Warner Bros.' day, not to mention a franchise, so it's a good starting place to concentrate on in a documentary devoted to Eastwood's career at Warner.
From there, Eastwood fans get a retrospective look at his career, both as a director and as an actor. The clips are all well-chosen, encapsulating the movies well enough that you might feel that you've seen the whole things, even if you haven't. With each, you get background from Freeman and brief insights from Eastwood, about how he saw Million Dollar Baby as "a father-daughter picture" rather than a fight film, for example.
Along the way, he tours the Warner backlot, visiting a huge storage room full of his wardrobe from Warner Bros. pictures, a New York street used for Bird, and the site of the final scene in Million Dollar Baby. These scenes remind us that few actors today are linked to one studio as Eastwood has been with Warner.
The picture of Eastwood that you'll take away from Factor is one of an actor who made the most of some lucky breaks by taking control of his career and exhibiting shrewd judgment. Freeman's comments are mostly favorable—and justified, since Freeman not only won an Oscar under Eastwood's direction in Million Dollar Baby, but brought Eastwood into Invictus. The craftsmanship shown in the clips backs up the praise.
Both the movie clips and the documentary scenes look good here. There are no extras, but the documentary rarely leaves you feeling that there's a lot uncovered. True, Eastwood's early career goes by in about 6 minutes. However, Rawhide and his three spaghetti Westerns with Sergio Leone were done for studios other than Warner Bros., and the documentary only promises to cover his Warner Bros. career. Otherwise, The Eastwood Factor does a remarkable job of covering Eastwood's career in just 88 minutes, showing us that it was all good. Well, there was Every Which Way But Loose, but Freeman reminds us that it did make a bundle.
You might not want to buy The Eastwood Factor, but if you're an Eastwood fan, you should catch it on TCM, at least. It should leave you wanting to catch up on any Eastwood flicks you've missed.
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