Clint Eastwood as Blondie, aka “the Man with No Name”, taciturn bounty hunter
New Mexico Territory, Spring 1862
Film: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
(Italian title: Il Buono, il brutto, il cattivo)
Release Date: December 23, 1966
Director: Sergio Leone
Costume Designer: Carlo Simi
Today marks the 90th birthday of screen legend Clint Eastwood, born May 31, 1930, in San Francisco. (Between John Wayne on May 26, James Stewart on May 20, and Gary Cooper on May 7, there must be something about being in born in May that positions an actor for stardom in the Western genre!)
After Eastwood’s initial success on the TV series Rawhide, he traveled to Italy to star in a trio of Westerns directed by Sergio Leone, firmly establishing the significance of the “spaghetti Western”. In A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966), Eastwood ostensibly played a variation of the same mysterious, laconic gunfighter alternately known as Joe, Manco, or Blondie, respectively, but immortalized in cinema as “the Man with No Name.”
Gary Cooper as Will Kane, newlywed city marshal
Hadleyville, New Mexico Territory, Summer 1873
Film: High Noon
Release Date: July 24, 1952
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Men’s Wardrobe Credit: Joe King
Born 119 years ago today on May 7, 1901, Gary Cooper received his second Academy Award for Best Actor in recognition of his now-iconic performance in High Noon as a laconic lawman whose sense of duty compels him to make a lone stand against a band of dangerous outlaws.
Dean Martin as Matt Helm, smooth secret agent and photographer
New Mexico to Phoenix, August 1965
Film: The Silencers
Release Date: February 18, 1966
Director: Phil Karlson
Costume Designer: Moss Mabry
Tailor: Sy Devore
Dean Martin infused his lounge lizard persona into a James Bond-like spy for his four-film portrayal of Matt Helm, a playboy whose love for turtlenecks, womanizing, and drinking above actual spying may make him more of an antecedent for the character of Sterling Archer than of 007 himself.
With a bossa nova score by Elmer Bernstein and a hip mid-sixties sartorialism styled by costume designer Moss Mabry and the Rat Pack’s go-to tailor Sy Devore, the Matt Helm series serves as a swingin’ time capsule to the waning heyday of hi-fis and hedonism. Though it may be dated, the series—particularly this first film, The Silencers—seems perfectly content with that and, in fact, it may be an intentional way for the 1966 zeitgeist to remain intact for modern audiences. Never taking itself too seriously, packed with decent talent, and sticking to a tight, quick-paced plot, The Silencers differentiates itself from its contemporary spy spoofs like Casino Royale in that it can still entertain 50 years later.
Clint Eastwood as Joe Kidd, former bounty hunter
Territory of New Mexico, Spring 1902
Film: Joe Kidd
Release Date: July 14, 1972
Director: John Sturges
After more than a decade as a rising star, particularly in the genre of Westerns, Clint Eastwood took on the title role in Joe Kidd (1972), an idiosyncratic revisionist Western written by Elmore Leonard that would be one of the last films directed by the legendary John Sturges.
We meet Joe Kidd when he is locked up for poaching on Native American land in the small town of Sinola, New Mexico, on a spring day in 1902, ten years before New Mexico would become the 47th state admitted to the U.S. A former bounty hunter, Joe remains neutral when he is invited to join a landowner’s posse tracking down the Mexican bandito Luis Chama (John Saxon), but he is eventually convinced to join after one of Chama’s attacks hits closer to home. Continue reading