Clint: The man with no shame
Clint Eastwood always nurtured the image of a family man far removed from the anti-heroes he plays on screen. But now, a new book exposes the real man a violent, mean-spirited, tight-fisted serial philanderer who beat his first wife, conducted a string of affairs throughout his career, fathered several children outside of wedlock, forced two of his lovers, including long-time partner Sondra Locke, to have abortions. Pat Stacey reports
He's the most enduring star in Hollywood. A man who, 35 years after his transformation from TV cowboy in Rawhide to international movie star in the influential spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars, still carries considerable box-office clout.
And, according to a new book dissecting the myth of Clint Eastwood, he's also a violent, mean-spirited, tight-fisted serial philanderer who beat his first wife, conducted a string of affairs throughout his career, fathered several children outside of wedlock, forced two of his lovers, including long-time partner Sondra Locke, to have abortions and, when it suited his needs (which was often), discarded women like used tissues.
In The Life and Legend of Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGilligan demolishes the popular portrait of the star-director as a shy homebody, light years away from the macho image of his earlier films like Dirty Harry, who prefers listening to jazz to attending Tinseltown parties.
In fact, McGilligan asserts, Eastwood's reputation as a formidable seducer and ruthless lover was already in place by the time he got his big break in Rawhide in 1959. He married Maggie Johnson, a former swimsuit model whose paycheques supported the young would-be actor during the first years of their marriage, in 1953, but Eastwood didn't let that stop him from bedding a string of women, on a daily basis, in his on-set trailer.
According to regular Rawhide actress Karen Sharpe: ``There was a girlfriend with a job that ensured she'd be there everyday. She didn't seem to have any work in particular, other than being with Clint at lunch.''
Among Eastwood's more high-profile conquests during this period was Jane Brolin, then married to Barbra Streisand's current husband James Brolin. According to some of Eastwood's old circle, while wife Maggie was longing to start a family, Eastwood compelled Jane to go to Mexico for an abortion, fearing that word of their affair would wreck both his marriage and his career. Eastwood and Maggie subsequently had two children, Kyle and Alison.
But Eastwood didn't just cheat on Maggie, he beat her, too. Fritz Manes, a high school buddy of Eastwood's who helped produce 17 of his movies (until he fell out of favour), recalls a row between the couple. ``Clint just turned round and knocked Maggie out cold. He really decked her knocked her clear from the living room into the tub in the bathroom.'' It wasn't an isolated incident.
In 1964, after playing Rowdy Yates in Rawhide for five years, Eastwood ignored his agent's advice and went to Spain to star in Italian director Sergio Leone's spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars. The film's mixture of stylish photography and violent shootouts changed the face of the movie western, and the career of Clint Eastwood. Within two sparkling years its sequels, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, had turned him into an international name.
By the early seventies, Eastwood was unquestionably the biggest movie star in the world, as well as Hollywood's biggest love cheat. In the intervening years, there had been affairs with practically all of his leading ladies, including Inger Stevens (Hang 'Em High), the tragic Jean Seberg (Paint Your Wagon), 17-year-old Jo Ann Harris (The Beguiled) and countless one-night, and even one-hour, stands. His relationship with Roxanne Tunis, his mistress from his days on Rawhide, had yielded a daughter called Kimber.
Loyal wife Maggie knew about most of them, but kept her counsel. Eastwood's ferocious sexual appetite was common knowledge in the movie industry, but his powerful star status not to mention regular photo-spreads depicting Eastwood as the home-loving family man kept the sleazy truth away from his fans.
He had several current and former mistresses dotted around his adopted town Carmel, including Roxanne Tunis.
It was in 1975, during the filming of The Outlaw Josey Wales ironically, a western epic that drives home the importance of family life that the cosy facade began to crumble.
Eastwood chose blonde Sondra Locke, 20 years his junior, as the film's love interest. Barely into filming, he seduced her on their first date. Locke recalls: ``We were almost living together from the first days of the film.'' What Locke did not realise was that Eastwood, while cheating on his wife with her, was at the same time cheating on her with other women.
After casting Sondra Locke again in 1977's The Gauntlet, Eastwood gave up any attempt at maintaining his public image. He and Locke were frequently photographed arm-in-arm at parties, often with Eastwood's children, Kyle and Alison, in tow. For Maggie Eastwood, it was finally all too much. She contacted a divorce lawyer.
Locke herself had a husband, Gordon Anderson, but if anything her marriage was more of a sham than Eastwood's, as Anderson was a homosexual.
For the first four years of their relationship, Eastwood, according to Fritz Manes, was ``in absolute, total, blind love'' with Locke. Inevitably, it couldn't last. In 1986, Jacelyn Reeves, a former air hostess and a long-time member of Eastwood's `stable' of women, presented him with a son called Scott. Later, she had a second child by Eastwood, a daughter called Kathy.
For a man with such an indiscriminate attitude to fatherhood, Eastwood didn't show any desire to start a family with Sondra Locke. In 1978, before Eastwood's divorce from Maggie, Locke fell pregnant by him. Eastwood told her the time was not right for children and persuaded her to have an abortion. A year later, she became pregnant again, and again Eastwood pressurised her to have an abortion, which she did. Eventually, Sondra Locke was sterilised.
In all, their relationship lasted 10 years, though Eastwood had cooled on it long before that. When Eastwood finally decided to split with Locke, he fell back on his usual pattern. He didn't actually tell her it was over, he simply began to pay less attention to her and more to other women as publicly as possible.
In one final, ignominious act, while Sondra was away filming, Eastwood had the locks on a Bel Air house house he had gifted to Sondra years before changed, and had underlings pack her personal belongings into boxes and leave them in the driveway for when she returned.
In 1996, after a bout with cancer, a mastectomy and years of tortuous legal battles, Sondra Locke finally won an undisclosed settlement from Eastwood. The ugly split left his already tarnished image even more battered. But by then he was already well on to his next woman, the British-born actress Frances Fisher, whom he met in 1988 while making Pink Cadillac. In fact, Eastwood and Fisher were already having a torrid affair as his relationship with Sondra Locke entered its final phase inevitably, both women were ignorant of the other's existence.
With Locke out of the way, Eastwood and Fisher's relationship moved up a gear, and before long they were living together. For a time they seemed inseparable, and in 1993 Fisher presented the 62-year-old Eastwood with a baby daughter, Francesca. Eastwood had always taken care of his children financially, but this was the first time he made a point of being present for the birth of one of them.
For the first few months of the child's life, Eastwood seemed every inch the doting, attentive father. But Eastwood being Eastwood, it suddenly turned sour, this time because of his other notorious character trait: tightness with money.
While working on a film in Texas, Fisher was forced to return to Los Angeles on urgent business and chartered a plane. She temporarily charged it to Eastwood's credit card. A short time later, she accompanied Eastwood to the Cannes Film Festival. On a stopover in Paris, she bought a $10,000 set of designer luggage, again on Eastwood's credit card.
When they returned home, Eastwood was incensed to find the credit card bills on his doormat. Though Fisher settled the bills herself, Eastwood whose crowning movie glory is called, ironically, Unforgiven got back at her in tried and tested fashion: he froze her out.
When it came to the making of his next film, the romantic drama The Bridges of Madison County, co-starring one of Fisher's idols, Meryl Streep (with whom, it is rumoured, Eastwood had a brief fling), Fisher was told there would be no role, no matter how small, for her. What's more, Eastwood barred Fisher from the movie's Iowa locations until Streep had completed filming her scenes.
The time had come for Eastwood to move on again, and the familiar pattern of cold-shouldering his current partner, while at the same time very visibly smooching up to other women, re-emerged.
Eventually, Fisher got the message and moved out of their shared home ... the very same Bel Air pad Eastwood had repossessed from Sondra Locke a few years before.
Like countless women before her, Frances Fisher has probably received the standard Eastwood post-coital compensation: a hefty sum and/or carefully monitored regular payments in return for a promise not to blab to the media.
Meanwhile, Eastwood who will be 70 next year simply reloaded his weapon and moved on to the next target. In the year Frances Fisher had his baby, Eastwood was already setting his sights on a woman young enough to be his daughter, 27-year-old TV anchorwoman Dina Ruiz. During the filming of The Bridges of Madison County in 1994, Eastwood bombarded Dina with lovey-dovey phonecalls.
In March, 1996, they married in Las Vegas and barely a year later Dina delivered Eastwood's latest child, Morgan Colette. Eastwood has said: ``As far as I'm concerned, this is the woman I like monogamy with.''
It seems that the star who began his glittering movie career as The Man With No Name will end up being remembered as The Man With No Shame.