Today, we wish a happy 89th birthday to the one and only Clint Eastwood!
At this point of his career (from which he says he is now semi-retired), Clint Eastwood has become an American icon. In many ways, his persona epitomizes all of the contrasts and extremes of the American experience. A political conservative who specializes in playing taciturn and rather grouchy men, he is also one of our most humanistic directors, specializing in films that often question the traditional view of history and morality. He may have first become a star in Europe but Clint Eastwood is definitely an American original.
In honor of his birthday, I’m sharing a scene that I love from 1971’s Dirty Harry. In this scene, Detective Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) meets the Mayor of San Francisco (John Vernon). The mayor is concerned that there’s a psycho on the loose, gunning people down and demanding money. Callahan’s annoyed that he’s spent a lot of time sitting in a waiting room. Things pretty much go downhill from there.
There’s so much that I love about this scene. Both Eastwood and Vernon do a wonderful job playing off of each other. The Mayor may be in charge of the city but Callahan probably didn’t vote for him. One thing that I especially love about this scene is the look of annoyance that crosses Harry’s face whenever he’s interrupted.
And, of course, there’s that final line! Eastwood does a great job explaining Harry’s “policy” but ultimately, it’s Vernon’s “I think he’s got a point,” that provides the perfect closing note.
As this day comes to a close, I have some sad news to report. The actress Peggy Lipton passed away earlier today, at the age of 72. While one generation may know her best as a star of 1960s television and others know her for her marriage to legendary music producer Quincy Jones (and as the mother of Rashida Jones), I knew Peggy Lipton as Norma Jennings, one of the few characters to get a happy ending in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return.
Norma was the owner of the Double R Diner and, for the most part, one of the few stable residents of Twin Peaks. While the rest of the town was collapsing around her, Norma could usually be found in a back booth, going over expense reports and continually proving herself to often be the lone voice of sanity in her hometown.
The love affair between Norma and Ed Hurley (Everett McGill) was a story that ran through both the original Twin Peaks and the Showtime revival. One of the big moments in the revival came when Ed, having finally gotten Norma to agree to give him a divorce, finally asked Norma to marry him. It’s perhaps the most unabashedly romantic scene to be found in David Lynch’s filmography. (Lynch did the scene in one take and, according to Lipton, was in tears by the end of it.) It’s a scene that’s wonderfully acted by both McGill and Lipton, with both actors saying so much without saying a word.
I’m pretty sure that I’ve shared this scene before but, if I did, it was several years ago. Through the Shattered Lens has been around for nearly ten years now, after all. (TEN YEARS!)
Since today is Orson Welles’s birthday, I wanted to share at least one scene that I love from his films. Even though I didn’t want to go with the obvious choice of picking something from Citizen Kane, there was still a wealth of scenes to choose from. But, in the end, I really didn’t have any choice but to go with the tracking shot that opens 1958’s Touch of Evil.
This scene really does show why Welles was such an important director. It’s not just that the scene is a masterpiece of suspense, starting out with a close-up of a ticking time bomb and then leaving us to wonder just when exactly it’s going to explode. It’s also that the scene perfectly sets up the odd and sordid atmosphere of Touch of Evil. It’s a scene that begins in America, takes the viewer into Mexico, and then literally ends with a bang. And it does it all in just one shot!
Because of a throw-away joke in Ed Wood, there’s a widely-held but incorrect assumption that Welles was forced to cast Charlton Heston in the lead role in Touch of Evil or that Welles and Heston didn’t get along. Actually, Heston was the one who fought for Welles to be given a chance to direct Touch of Evil and, when the studios attempted to fire Welles from the project, Heston stopped them by announcing that he would quite if Welles wasn’t allowed to complete the picture. It may be tempting to make jokes about Heston playing a Mexican cop but, if not for him, this film probably wouldn’t exist right now. And that would be a tragedy.
With all that said and done, here’s a scene that I love:
Since the Oscars are going to be awarded on Sunday night, now seems like a good time to remember the 1966 film, The Oscar. My friends and I have a running joke. Whenever I invite anyone to watch a bad movie with me, I never actually say, “Let’s watch this terrible movie.” Instead, I always say, “This is a cult classic.” Let’s just say that The Oscar is a classic among cult classics.
Directed by Russell Rouse, The Oscar tells the story of Frankie Fane (Stephen Boyd) and his friend, Hymie Kelly (Tony Bennett ….. yes, the singer). Frankie uses everyone in the world to become a film star and abandons them all once he becomes famous. Frankie is determined to cement his stardom by winning an Oscar and he’s totally willing to go to all sorts of unethical lengths to win that golden statuette. He even hires a private investigator (Ernest Borgnine, naturally) to leak private information about Frankie and his friends, in the mistaken belief that it will cause the Academy to sympathize with him.
However, Hollywood is not a place for heels! Or, at least, that’s the case in this film. In the scenes below, Frankie first gets told off by his old friend Hymie and then he gets the ultimate comeuppance at the Oscar ceremony itself. Apparently, Frankie failed to consider that he wasn’t the only Frank nominated that year!
Evening approaches. The sun is setting. It’s time to start counting treats and perhaps playing a few tricks. In other words, it’s time to put on your Silver Shamrock masks and gather around the television….
(Actually, its seem like Silver Shamrock would have more success if they had a bigger online presence but I guess they like to do things the old-fashioned way….)
In the 1968 film, Targets, Boris Karloff gave one of his final performances. It was also one of his best.
Karloff played an aging horror actor named Byron Orlok, a role that was based on Karloff himself. Though once a huge star, Orlok’s style of horror has gone out of fashion. As he explains it, the real world has gotten so scary that his horror films are now tame by comparison. In this scene, Orlok proves that he can still give a compelling performance when he recites a short story about death and fate.
Reportedly, Karloff did this scene in one take and received a standing ovation after director Peter Bogdanovich called cut.