Carmel is well known as an under-the-radar place where movie stars can come to relax. It’s a place where the civilians are inured to their luminous presence and are more likely to respect their privacy. Some established Hollywood celebrities even take the step of turning their backs on Southern Califor-nia and choosing this as their primary place of residence.
Enter “Clint Eastwood” on the Bing search engine and the first description that pops up in his bio is “Former mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea”. That’s true, but he was elected to that position 34 years ago. He’s achieved quite a bit since then, and he accomplished plenty more before he was elected to head up this little, one-square-mile coastal California town. Carmel’s most famous resident is turning 90 this year yet still works—and lives—like a man a third his age.
Clinton Eastwood, Jr. was born on May 31, 1930, in San Francisco to Clinton and Ruth, both originally from Piedmont, east of Oakland. His father, Clinton Sr., struggled to maintain a steady living through the Great Depression, leading his young family through a somewhat nomadic lifestyle up and down the California coast.
Prophetically, the Eastwood clan settled for a short time in Hollywood. They eventually ended up in Clint’s parents’ hometown, where he attended Piedmont schools. Even then, he was exceptionally good-looking and gravitated toward sports—the fact that he was a tall youth helped to make him a basketball standout. Otherwise, by all accounts he was an indifferent student at best. While in middle school, his English teacher, Gertrude Falk, cast him in a one-act play. He was reluctant but went along.
He recalled to a biographer, “It was the part of a backward youth, and I think she though it was perfect casting. She made up her mind that I was going to play the lead and it was disastrous. I wanted to go out for athletics; doing plays was not considered the thing to do at that stage of life—especially not presenting them for the entire senior high school, which is what she made us do. We muffed a lot of lines. I swore at the time that that was the end of my acting career.” Little did the future superstar know.
In 1951, 21-year-old Eastwood had the dubious honor of being classified A1 for the military draft, at that time beefing up the armed services for the hostilities cropping up in Korea. Failing to achieve a college deferment, he got his first real taste of life on the Monterey Peninsula, reporting to basic training at Fort Ord. It was the beginning of a love affair that endures to this day.
While at Fort Ord, one of his assignments was as a projectionist for training films for his fellow soldiers. One movie he watched over and over from behind the projector was John Huston’s 1945 war epic, “The Battle of San Pietro.”
“It was one of my favorites,” Eastwood said. “I kept showing it and must have seen it 50 times over two years.”
He was subconsciously breaking down the mechanics of the film, storing away that knowledge for a future use he had no inkling of at the time. Eastwood never had to ship out overseas in his Army career, and after mustering out, made his way to Los Angeles.
This was 1954, and young, rebellious actors like Marlon Brando were changing the tenor of Hollywood. A fresh face like Eastwood’s soon attracted attention, and he was signed to his first acting contract to Universal Pictures. The first time his name appeared on screen was in the credits for “Francis in the Navy,” the final opus of a forgettable movie series that featured a talking mule voiced by veteran cowboy actor Chill Wills and starring Donald O’Connor. Eastwood scored up parts in increasingly high-profile productions before landing the role that would truly launch his career, that of Rowdy Yates in “Rawhide,” a TV series that ran from 1959 to 1965. That, in turn would lead to his big break into film in 1964: the role of the wandering, cigar chomping, poncho wearing, steely-eyed gunslinger Joe in Sergio Leone’s masterful Italian film, “A Fistful of Dollars.”
Eastwood was now a household name, and he starred in many movies, all the while learning the craft of filmmaking by observing the movie-making process firsthand. He got his first shot at directing with “Play Misty for Me,” a suspense film shot entirely in and around Carmel. It’s a surprisingly mature production for a first-time director, and just the first of the 28 he has helmed to date. Along the way he created some memorable characters, including Dirty Harry and the Man with No Name. Harry’s catchphrase, “make my day” has become part of the American lexicon.
By this time, the actor had chosen to live here on the Monterey Peninsula, becoming an active member of the social and business communities. Eastwood had always enjoyed music—especially jazz—and had briefly considered seriously studying it. He was—and is—a regular at the Monterey Jazz Festival and has served on that nonprofit organization’s board of directors since 1992.
Around Carmel, Eastwood casts a long shadow, and not just because he’s six feet plus without his cowboy boots. He has owned and operated several businesses, including the Hog’s Breath Inn and the Mission Ranch hotel, restaurant and resort in Carmel. He was a partner in the development of Tehama, a 2,000-acre luxury home development sited between Monterey and Carmel Valley that includes an 18-hole golf course designed by Jay Morrish. As if Tehama isn’t enough of a notch in the Eastwood gun belt, at the tail end of the 20th century, the actor teamed up with Arnold Palmer and Peter Ueberroth to purchase the Pebble Beach Company.
His list of accomplishments in the film world is equally stellar. The recent release of “Richard Jewell,” a film about the bombing of the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, brings his directorial list to 41.
There is seemingly no aspect of film production he has not had a hand in. As an actor, he’s appeared in more than 70 television and film productions and has 48 credits as a producer. Eastwood has 41 music composer and soundtrack credits, and even one camera and electrical credit as a still photographer on the 1997 documentary “Eastwood on Eastwood.”
And even though in the 1970s he is famous for saying that he would never be awarded an Oscar (for reasons that can’t be printed here), he’s been nominated for 11 Academy Awards and has won four. In addition, he had 10 Golden Globes nominations and won four. Nominated for a Grammy. Five People’s Choice awards. The list goes on.
Don’t look for Clint Eastwood to let entering his ninth decade of life slow down his creative output. From all appearances, he’s just getting started.