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Monday, April 17, 2017

Eastwood Revamps For The US Market

Hang 'Em High and Coogan's Bluff Ask Us To Buy American 

These were a pair that Clint Eastwood made in the US after he had been The Man With No Name three times. Those out of Europe would change our concept of frontier men. One-time Rowdy Yates became the anti-anti-hero for a worn out genre. Trouble was accepting him back on American soil, where the wearing out was accomplished fact. Hang ‘Em High especially was like Rowdy back in stirrups. Feature westerns long since stank of television, background littered by faces too familiar from the tube. Italo imports had an edge because anything might happen in them. Life was obviously cheaper there, Eastwood gunning down five for every one dispatched back home. The former MWNN, called “Jed Cooper” in Hang ‘Em High (and a marshal, yet) rescues a calf from rapids, then is hanged by last week’s guest cast from Gunsmoke. I noted discrepancy then (Fall 1968) and wondered if Eastwood erred in coming home. Hang ‘Em High was less bad and more reversal of new direction the Leones had promised. Should Eastwood have stayed abroad to play out a fashion he started, or return to uncertainty of homegrown stardom to be earned from ground up? Hang ‘Em High and Coogan’s Bluff, coming but months apart, were neither a sure thing toward the goal.

Tingling Excitement As Clint Subdues Beloved "Skipper" Of TV Fame

Hang ‘Em High was essentially a get-even yarn, but Yanks were skittish still with revenge served cold, so our man dons a badge, making him an Establishment figure at a time we were all fed up with Establishment figures. A music score by Dominic Frontiere wobbles between overwrought and faux-Morricone. There are reminders of great westerns and even noirs past: Ben Johnson, Charles McGraw, a barely-there Dennis Hopper just before Easy Rider breakout. Hang ‘Em High could be labeled slapdash, historian William K. Everson calling it so in later excoriation where it stood for Decline and Fall of the western genre. I watched Hang ‘Em High on the MGM/HD channel and saw credit for Eastwood’s Malpaso company as co-producer. Same with Coogan’s Bluff. That’s quite a grip Eastwood had on direction of his starring career, and from early on. Fact he was older and well-seasoned by the late 60’s had much to do with smarts acquired. You wonder if he was plotting all this from beginnings at U-I and piloting jet that downed Tarantula.

Int'l One-Sheet and Ad Copy Pushes Eastwood Italo Western Roots  
Coogan’s Bluff was an improvement, being among other things a slam on the counterculture, and feature emphasis on what Jack Webb preached at his weekly Dragnet re-do. Fact Universal was host to both Coogan and Webb points up fundamental conservatism in force, but soon to slide as termites dug deeper. Did Wasserman sign off on politics as Coogan-expressed? Director Don Siegel wrote in his memoir of front office overlook every step of ways through Coogan’s Bluff and earlier The Killers. Seems also that Eastwood had considerable creative hand. He and Siegel customized a useable script from multiple drafts spread out on a floor, taking best of scenes and dialogue from each. The concept of a cowboy loose in Gotham was familiar since silents, Hoot Gibson and Harry Carey having rode herd on city slickers, then Buck Jones, George O’ Brien for talkies. Coogan’s Bluff put edge on its knife by letting flower children be purveyors of crime and moral rot. This was catnip for frustrated majority who saw youth as way out of control and Eastwood a force for return to normalcy. He and Siegel would apply message of Coogan’s Bluff to signature endorsement of law-order that was Dirty Harry. The wake of that massive hit put Coogan’s Bluff deep in shade. None of college audience I served in the 2000’s had even heard of Coogan, occasion being a combo with Eastwood/Siegel Escape From Alcatraz, and these were Eastwood fans, if not completests. Pity it’s become obscure, for Coogan’s Bluff is one of leanest and best of Eastwood pics before he took altogether control of output.


Blogger Mike Cline said...

Dennis Weaver certainly benefited from COOGAN.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I noticed at a Target or Best Buy not long ago that there's an Eastwood 4-pack of the three Leone Man With No Names plus Hang Em High. I guess if you need a fourth to fill out an Eastwood set, it makes sense, but there's going to be a sense of "one of these things is not like the others..."

3:50 PM  
Blogger Stinky Fitzwizzle said...

Eastwood once said the best career advice he ever got was from pal James Garner: Never sign a contract you can't get out of.

4:13 PM  
Blogger Bill O said...

Eastwood was no doubt behind the camera at least some of the time on Hang 'Em High. He'd employ directors like Ted Post from his Rawhide says, whom he could control. One of the reasons he stopped working with Don Siegel, whom he replaced in the Dirty Harry sequel with...Ted Post.

8:03 AM  
Blogger kenneth Von Gunden said...

For a minute I thought the four guys in the publicity pic above were carrying a coffin!

1:23 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I saw HANG EM HIGH on a triple bill with two of his Italian films.They were dirty, dusty and gritty. They looked great. HANG EM HIGH was too clean, way too clean. It reeked of Max Factor. To me at least it came off bad.

COOGAN'S BLUFF had ads that read, "Coogan gives New York 24 hours to get out of town. When I ran it at Rochdale College, Toronto's hippie college, I made up ads that read, "COOGAN GIVES ROCHDALE 24 HOURS TO GET OUT OF TOWN." No mention of the movie. That led to a Hell of a panic.

8:42 PM  
Blogger Bill DeLapp said...

Before UA sold the three Leones and HANG EM HIGH to ABC around 1973, all four would turn up as dusk-to-dawn programs at the drive-ins. That's more than eight hours of Eastwood and lord knows how many dead bad guys.

8:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It makes my heart feel good to see some love for Coogan's Bluff.

Saw it at a way-too-early age and have loved it ever sense. This was probably my introduction to the mighty Don Siegel, though I was too young to realize what that meant.

Lalo Schifrin's score is terrific, and thankfully now out on CD.

1:44 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

I have that CD, Toby. It's a real winner. Anything of Lalo Schifrin's is great.

1:49 PM  

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