When the name Clint Eastwood is mentioned, two things come to mind (or at least they should). Dirty Harry and westerns. Clint Eastwood does both well and one of his most iconic western films is now available on super streamer Netflix.
The Outlaw Josey Wales stars Clint Eastwood as the title character, a Missouri farmer who is hell-bent on revenge after his wife and young son are murdered by militants from Senator James H. Lane’s Kansas Brigade.
Josey Wales joins the war, linking up with Pro-Confederate Missouri bushwhackers to attack Union sympathizers. As the war concludes, Wales and his group are persuaded to surrender to Wales’s friend and superior, Captain Fletcher (John Vernon), as they are promised amnesty if they give up their weapons. Wales decides he is not for handing over his protection but survives the brutal massacre of those who did turn over their weapons. The massacre was led by Captain Terrill, the same man who killed Wales’s family.
Now on the run, Wales rides across the country with a $5,000 bounty on his head and a reluctant Fletcher on his heels. Along the way, Wales picks up a number of companions to include Lone Watie (played with great comic relief by Chief Dan George) and Laura Lee (long-time paramour of Eastwood’s, Sandra Locke).
The group finds shelter in an abandoned ranch, intending to settle in and live their lives. Wales makes nice with neighboring the Comanche tribe leader and things look to be easing up for Wales and company. But a bounty hunter whose partner was gunned down by Wales located Captain Terrill and guides him to the ranch.
Josey Wales’s companions are prepared for the attack. They take on Terrill’s men and dispatch them in fine, violent fashion. Terrill makes his escape and though Wales is wounded, he is hot on Terrill’s trail. Revenge is a dish best served cold and Josey Wales is ready to eat.
Bringing The Outlaw Josey Wales was not an easy task for Clint Eastwood. The movie was based on the novel written by Forrest Carter, which was actually the alias of the former KKK leader Asa Earl Carter. Carter was also the speechwriter of George Wallace. This was nothing, though, compared to how things went down when production began.
Michael Cimino, who directed the epic war film The Deer Hunter and also what’s routinely considered the biggest box office bomb Heaven’s Gate, wrote The Outlaw Josey Wales with Phillip Kaufman, who was brought on as the film’s director. But Eastwood and Kaufman didn’t see eye to eye on many things concerning the film, with Kaufman’s diligent attention to detail rubbing Eastwood the wrong way. Mainly, though, their disagreement came over who would end up with Sandra Locke. Both have a thing for her.
Midway through filming, Eastwood had producer Bob Daley relieve Kaufman of his duties with Eastwood taking over the director’s chair. This firing led to a major upheaval from the Directors Guild of America resulting in a $60,000 fine levied against the production. It also gave way to what was called “The Eastwood Rule” where an actor or producer couldn’t fire a director and then take over as director themselves.
Though there was much discord during the beginning of the shoot, once Clint Eastwood took the reins, the rest of the production went very smooth. He brought the film in for $3.7 million and made a killing at the box office at nearly $32 million.
To speak of all that 91-year-old Clint Eastwood has accomplished in his illustrious career would take quite some time. Eastwood is entering his eighth decade in the film industry, one that started with the 1955 film Francis in the Navy. For those who are uninformed, “Francis” was the talking mule who was the feature in the Francis the Talking Mule series that consisted of seven movies, the first six which starred screen legend, Donald O’Connor.
Clint Eastwood’s run through the ‘50s was punctuated by his starring role in the TV Western series Rawhide. From that point on, Clint Eastwood was a known Hollywood commodity and much of his early Hollywood work would consist of Western material.
Clint Eastwood would see his star truly begin to rise while he was still filming Rawhide. In 1964, Eastwood would star in the first of Sergio Leone’s Man with No Name trilogy, A Fistful of Dollars. This was the advent of the Spaghetti Western that would see Clint Eastwood take advantage two more times with Leone in For a Few Dollars More and the ultimate Spaghetti Western classic, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
Clint Eastwood didn’t move away from westerns after the Leone trilogy, but he did find himself another character, one that has become synonymous with cop movies – Dirty Harry Callahan. Eastwood would portray the .44 magnum-carrying cop in five movies to include Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact, and The Dead Pool. Eastwood’s Dirty Harry is the author of some of films most classic lines, one to be considered films most immortal – “Go ahead, make my day.”
Clint Eastwood would move away from the western for some time as the genre was becoming less and less popular throughout Hollywood. When he returned, though, he did it in high fashion, first with the 1985 hit Pale Rider. He would take another long siesta from westerns until 1992 when he played William Munny in Unforgiven, a movie which won Eastwood the Best Picture and Best Director Academy Awards.
As time moved on for Clint Eastwood, he found himself behind the camera more often than he was in front of it. Since 2000, Eastwood has starred in only six movies though he has directed 17 films. His last acting gig, which he also directed, was the 2018 film The Mule, though he did go on to direct the 2019 film, Richard Jewell. Up next for the 91-year-old legend in Cry Macho where he will both star and direct.
If you’re looking for one of Clint Eastwood’s most iconic and well-crafted western movies, The Outlaw Josey Wales is your ticket. Head on over to Netflix and give it a ride.