Friday, 15 June 2012

Alternate Best Actor 1971: Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry

Clint Eastwood did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Homicide Inspector Dirty Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry.

Dirty Harry is a very effective police thriller about a San Francisco Police Officer attempting to catch a serial killer known as Scorpio (Andrew Robinson).

Clint Eastwood did not receive a single Oscar nomination for portraying his arguably signature role of Dirty Harry. Although to be perfectly honest the only time where he really should have been considered is for his initial performance. Although I should note that Eastwood gives solid leading performances in Magnum Force, The Enforcer, and Sudden Impact still having strong presence and conviction in the role. Only in The Dead Pool does Eastwood give a lackluster performance never seeming particularly invested in the role in that film looking tired practically during the entire film. His first performance as the character stands as the best which is probably helped by the fact that it is the best film, as well as the most character driven.

I would say this is one of if not the most memorable role of Eastwood's because of how well his style for the role. Eastwood is a unique actor in his ability to dominate a scene without saying word, he can express more in a single glance than some actors do in a whole scene. This style is perfect for Dirty Harry who is the best officer on the force seemingly, and he says a lot in every scene he is in even when he does not have that many lines total. This is perfect for the role in the many scenes where Harry has to deal with his far less able superiors who question his methods, and go on in foolish ways to attempt to deal with the psychotic killer who is constantly making demands. Eastwood's quick piercing stares of complete discontent show strongly Harry complete lack of respect for their inefficient methods.

This is a terrific leading performance though by Eastwood and he brings through the film the whole way without question. Eastwood always controls every one of his scenes with seemingly no effort at times with his remarkable unique presence. Eastwood is absolutely on throughout the entire film, and gives a wonderful performance that surprisingly does a lot more than he even needed to do with the role. Frankly his part could have been settled as just a police officer with tremendous drive, something Eastwood most certainly shows but I will get to that later, what is amazing though is the amount of natural humor Eastwood brings to the part.   Eastwood says everyone of his Harry's without the utmost efficiency that brings humor to his role, while never making it seem out of the place in the film.

Eastwood interestingly never makes the part as lightweight though as many other actors might have considering this is not about the folly of the officer's conviction as Gene Hackman's performance in the French Connection was partially about. Interestingly Eastwood is able to connect both a star leading sort of performance along with a performance genuinely as part of an actual character, and not just a star's persona sort of performance. Eastwood always is Dirty Harry in this film, and certainly brings to life the hard boiled inspector. Eastwood as Hackman also did this year shows tremendous drive to the character. Eastwood actually carefully doesn't shows that Harry is like Popeye Doyle that his conviction is to the point of fault, Harry after all is always right, but nevertheless Eastwood shows the same power in his performance.

As an actor Eastwood usually has a great deal of intensity in his performances, and with only the possible exception of Unforgiven there has never been a better use of it than here. Eastwood here brings to life the unstoppable force that Harry can become when he is set off, and Scorpio certainly sets him off, perfectly. Again with only possibly the exception of the final tavern scene in Unforgiven, and maybe not even that, there is no more intense of a scene than when he interrogates (tortures) Scorpio to find the location of a girl that he kidnapped. In that scene Eastwood's stare, and delivery is absolutely chilling. It is an unforgettable scene because of Eastwood unyielding brutality that he brings to the scene, showing the complete devotion Harry has to finding the girl as well as the rage he has toward the low life killer.

I suppose I should mention since I did in the last three reviews how Eastwood portrays Callahan's attitude to the violence he commits. Eastwood is actually quite careful in his portrayal of this as there is certainly no hesitation in his actions, or when he kills someone. Eastwood though never portrays this lack of hesitation as any sort of indication that he genuinely likes violence, or doesn't like violence necessarily, Eastwood rather is able to convey the fact that Harry is simply doing his job. Like Caine in Get Carter though there is the moment in which it does become personal and the wraith of Callahan is well portrayed. This is of course only in one killing at the end of the film, and Eastwood shows that Harry indeed needed to reach this point, and the man had to be a horrible enough person to earn his hatred.

This is a great performance by Eastwood because of his ability to blend this well realizes portrait of a career officer who probably has seen a little too much in the line of duty, but as well gives a very enjoyable and entertaining performance at the same exact time. Eastwood is able to bring the same humor to a certain scene as well as also bringing the weight of other scenes just as effectively. There is never a disconnect to the Dirty Harry who says that he knows a beaten person wasn't beaten by him simply because he looks "Too Damn Good", to the Harry who somberly sees that after all his efforts the victim of the killer he puts his all into stopping still ended up dead. This really a magnificent achievement by Eastwood in his creation of Dirty Harry Callahan, that leaves no wonder in my mind why many consider this his signature role.


Michael Patison said...

Just a quick question. When you're going to go through an pick the unnominated performances to consider for each year during this new project, what is your policy going to be as far as actors already nominated for a performance that is different than perhaps a better one that could be substituted. The first example that comes to mind is Best Supporting Actress 1941 with Mary Astor winning for The Great Lie when most people, including me, feel that she should have won, but for The Maltese Falcon. Or Spencer Tracy for Fury in 1936 instead of San Francisco (even if you could decide to put him in supporting). For some reason I can only come up with Actress and Spencer Tracy examples, but I think you catch my meaning.

Louis Morgan said...

I will definitively include actors already nominated for example I will most certainly review Leonardo DiCaprio for The Departed even though he was already nominated for Blood Diamond. I actually care very little for that academy rule especially since it does not carry over to the other categories.

Michael Patison said...

Ok wow. So you don't even care about two nominations in one year. good to know. Thanks.

dinasztie said...

This is a great performance though I saw the film a long time ago.