The Crack of Dawn
The Crack of Dawn
I just watched an interview with Burt Reynolds on The Johnny Carson Show. He told the story of how he and Clint Eastwood were two of the last actors to be under contract to a studio before they did away with the whole system of studios putting actors under contract. Burt Reynolds, in his wonderfully amused way, said that coincidentally they were both fired from Universal Studios on the same day (I think it was 1961, but he didn’t say). As they were being fired, the head of the casting department told Reynolds, “You can’t act.” He told Eastwood, “Your Adam’s Apple is too big.” When they got out on the street, Reynolds said to Eastwood, “I can learn to act, but what are you going to do about your Adam’s Apple?”
Both of those guys kicked around Hollywood for a long time before they became stars. Clint Eastwood didn’t become a star, meaning in its basic sense, being cast in the starring role of Hollywood movies (as opposed to spaghetti westerns) until 1967 with Coogan’s Bluff, directed by Don Siegel. I think it’s safe to say that Siegel was the first one to see Clint Eastwood’s true potential, as both an actor and a director.
Don Siegel wrote quite a good autobiography called A Siegel Film. If you like movie director autobiographies, as I do, it’s a better one.
Dirty Harry (1971) was the fourth film that Clint Eastwood made with Don Siegel. During all four pictures Clint kept offhandedly mentioning that he was interested in directing and would ask Siegel questions all the time. Finally, Don Siegel said, “Why don’t you direct a movie?” Clint hemmed and hawed and said, “I don’t know, it looks hard.” Siegel said, “Clint, you can handle it.” A couple of days later they were about to shoot the scene of Harry talking a suicidal guy off of a ledge. It was the first thing in the morning and Clint was in the makeup trailer. The assistant director arrived and told Clint, “Don can’t make it today, he’s sick. He says that you should direct the scene.” [Note: directors are never sick, it’s against the rules.] So, Clint directed his first scene, and it’s a good scene. Clint got everything out of it that was there to get. He also covered it with a lot of angles — way more than he usually gets — but Siegel was right, he knew how to direct.
That same year, Clint made his directorial debut with Play Misty for Me (1971). Don Siegel in his one and only role in a movie plays the bartender. It was a hit and Clint was now a director. OK, great. Pure minutia.
But beyond any of that, Clint Eastwood, has particularly good taste in music, and he plays jazz piano. He chose an overlooked song that he liked and featured it in the movie. It was Roberta Flack singing, The First Time Ever I Saw His Face, which subsequently became the biggest hit song of the year for 1972, spending six consecutive weeks at No. 1 and earning Flack a million-selling gold disc. It finished the year as Billboard's top song of 1972.
In my memory, The First Time Ever I Saw His Face, is the soundtrack of that year. They wouldn’t stop playing that song, and it’s a weird song. It’s a good song, but it’s weird.
Like that crazy jazz music that Clint and I both love, that begins in one place, then who knows where it’s going, I had no idea I would be writing about Roberta Flack and The First Time Ever I Saw His Face when I sat down to write this newsletter. But it’s a wonderfully moody, jazzy song, and it came from a Clint Eastwood movie. And it’s worth remembering.
That’s all the news that’s fit to swing, here at Bebop Minutia Central.