Saturday, 20 January 2018

“Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” – A Psychoanalytical Re-evaluation by Steve Saragossi

















Our Thunderbolt and Lightfoot month continues with an excellent 2008 essay written by a good friend of the Archive, Steve Saragossi. Like myself, Steve is a native North Londoner, a fact that we discovered some years ago. Separated by only a fistful of miles, we also discovered the mutual love of film and soundtracks had us both searching through the same market stalls in our teenage quest for treasured books, records and film memorabilia. Today, Steve lives in Australia where he continues to write. My sincere thanks Steve for submitting and sharing this piece with the Archive. I should also add that this essay contains some spoilers.
Michael Cimino’s 1974 directorial debut, the Clint Eastwood crime caper “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” sits very comfortably in context with the Hollywood cinematic mood of its time. Capitalising as it does on several popular genres – the road movie, buddy movie, crime movie and starring Eastwood, who at the time was at the peak of his popularity, the film was superficially as unthreatening and mainstream as could be imagined. However, when reading the film from a psychoanalytical perspective, the film reveals itself as a treatise on both the Mulvian nature of the conventional heterosexual marriage / conformity model vs. the male-narcissistic not-marriage model. This is juxtaposed with idea that the film is also concerned with oedipal rivalry on numerous levels.

Michael Cimino’s brief career is, by any standards, marked out by films of a highly phallocentric nature. His films often deal with the spirit of male camaraderie. They mainly eschew the overt macho bravado of John Milius or Sam Peckinpah, for instance, in favour of a more thoughtful exploration of the male experience. In “The Deer Hunter” (1978), “Heaven’s Gate” (1980) and “Year of the Dragon” (1985) female characters are peripheral and are mainly relegated to the status of onlookers in the male protagonists journey of self-discovery. His viewpoint may not be wholly misogynistic, but is nonetheless fairly disdainful, verging on mistrust.

“Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” however presents an almost exclusively male universe wherein the very few female characters are either the fetishistic object of male desire, or portrayed as passive, dim-witted, or borderline psychotic. Pointedly, they are mainly seen to represent the castration fear personified. Of the female characters represented in the film, all of whom are extremely peripheral to the action, three are wives, two are independently minded young women, confident in their sexuality, two are prostitutes, one is a sexually frustrated housewife, and one is an aggressive feminist. Crucially, only two of these women are embodiments of the usual female role as described by Mulvey , highlighting the lack. The others do not provide inspiration for the “hero”, nor do they, as Mulvey states “…freeze the flow of actions in moments of erotic contemplation” . Rather, they seem to exist purely as signifiers of the emasculation of their spouses/tricks/voyeurs. Only the sexually confident secretary of the construction firm that Thunderbolt secures a job with, and the waitress at a diner (above), display typical Mulvian attributes in terms of existing purely as the objects of the male gaze.
Released in 1974, the film appeared at a point in time where generational gaps in the US were at there most extreme, punctuated as they were by the Korean and Vietnam wars and Flower Power. The three main principals represent generational stereotypes, and their attitudes juxtaposed to these historical benchmarks give rise to the narrative friction that allow the psychoanalytical  subtext to work in a way that would have been either difficult or clumsy to accomplish had all the leads been contemporaries of one another. Having Lightfoot being approximately twelve years Thunderbolts junior, and Thunderbolt approximately twelve years Leary’s junior allows for an exploration of Oedipal rivalries that would have been obscured or even non-existent had they all been around the same age.
The film deals with the robbery of a bank vault by four rootless characters, three of whom are career criminals. The film is concerned less with the mechanics of the robbery, than with character development, and a keen sense of place. Although undeniably exciting, the film offers much more than the thrills and spills expected of a genre piece, especially a Clint Eastwood one. Relaxed in pace, it offers a meditation on friendship, betrayal, and a shrewdly observed sense of the American Midwest. It portrays an America as it actually was in the early seventies, not what it once was, a country now blind to the decline of traditional institutions. The film opens with the depiction of a small church in the middle of a beautiful but desolate Montana landscape, but this is soon desecrated by the intrusion of gunfire and the unmasking of Thunderbolt as a criminal who has been posing a priest (“the wolf shall lie down with the lamb”). The motif of the schoolhouse is also a target. Being the secret receptacle of the first robbery’s loot, the films narrative has the building moved in its entirety from its original location to somewhere out of the way, to make room for the march of “progress”. These two scenes offer us a symbolic desecration of traditional values. As a debut, it is as accomplished as Terrence Malick’s “Badlands” (1973), and as deserving in comparison. 

Thematically, it bears strong comparisons with Arthur Penn’s “Bonnie and Clyde” but whereas Penn’s film offered a similar dynamic with its protagonists, it nonetheless offered a more balanced Mulvian viewpoint in terms of the marriage vs. not-marriage model. The Barrow gang were seen as a socially functioning “family”, wherein the females had roles sympathetic with the notion of integration. Also the conflicts between the four main protagonists and other characters were less polarised than Cimino’s film.
In any discussion of this film one cannot ignore the oft-cited argument regarding “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” as to its supposed gay subtext . It’s certainly true that Lightfoot, and by extension the audience, are invited to gaze upon Thunderbolt as an erotic object (the shoulder re-location scene is especially fetishistic in its execution, and seems to be in the film purely as an exercise in homoerotic sado-masochism). This could understandably lead to a reading of the film in terms of repressed homosexual voyeurism. But Michael Cimino, in conversation with this author  emphatically claims this to not to be the case, either consciously or unconsciously. This may be so, but there is no doubting the existence of much symbolism in the text to support an opposing viewpoint. Lightfoot’s adoration of Thunderbolt spills over into homoerotic wish-fulfilment on many occasions: when Eastwood re-appears in his car after apparently leaving for good, he remarks, in a lewd voice “people will talk…where there’s smoke there’s fire you know?”. Lightfoot is perhaps a little too at home when he has to dress up and act like a woman, falling easily into the role of the object of fetishistic desire. Cimino also slyly makes much use of cross cutting between Lightfoot, in drag, bending over in a short skirt, with Thunderbolt assembling a huge, extremely phallic cannon. Other factors, such as the films vernacular, which makes much use of the word “cock” in many situations, and its overall depiction of the a male world where females are sidelined could support a “gay subtext” reading. Ultimately though, this all serves to underestimate the richness, complexity and subtlety of the unconscious motivations and Mulvian interpretations, which offer greater rewards to the viewer, and furthermore withstand more robust examination. In his article “Tightass and Cocksucker” , journalist Peter Biskind posits the film as purely a repressed homosexual parable, citing the narrative as being a “…thinly disguised metaphor for the sexual tensions between the two principal characters.” This is an easy reading, but rather too superficial to stand up to close scrutiny, and ultimately the article resorts to disdainful remarks about the film as a whole rather than reinforcing his position. The piece does at least recognise the fact that all heterosexual characters apart from Thunderbolt and Lightfoot are humiliated – but he draws no conclusions from this.

“Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” takes its time to introduce its four main characters, giving the audience time to invest an interest and build an understanding of the main leads.
Clint Eastwood’s John Doherty (Thunderbolt) is a Korean and Vietnam vet emotionally and physically scarred by the conflict. His leg is in a brace and he bears the scars of battle over his body. He is wary of relationships, and in true Eastwoodian style is emotionally detached and reacts to situations rather than instigates them. His character acts as a bridge morally between the repressed, almost fascistic Leary, and the freewheeling, naïve Lightfoot, arousing as he does almost childlike adoration in both men. Thunderbolt is shown to be the most mature, well rounded character in the film - in control, omnipotent. He is the character around whom all the others display their needs and wants. He is representational of the idealised ego, and a patriarchal figure for Lightfoot and Leary.
George Kennedy’s “Red” Leary is an older Korean War veteran with and is strongly repressed sexually. He is portrayed as sexually impotent.  His violent tendencies are implicit, overt and a natural expression of his psyche. His worldview is as simple as it is cruel. He persecutes the gullible Goody at every turn, and even though he appears to want to kill Thunderbolt, once the “climax” of the opportunity to do so has passed, he reverts to a kind of hero-worship of him, and a hatred of Lightfoot, who he sees as an interloper.   Leary, read from a Freudian perspective, is best seen as the father who has been beaten by the son (Thunderbolt), who absconded with the money, which could be read as the forbidden matriarchal object of desire. Leary, now beaten, is consequently rendered impotent. In an expository sequence, it is intimated that Leary may have been the gang leader in the original heist, setting up, prior to the films’ start, the Leary/Thunderbolt dynamic as a father/son model. This theory is manifested in an early sequence wherein Leary finally catches up with Thunderbolt after apparently years of chasing him, and they begin a physical fight in which Leary is quickly reduced to a gasping, wheezing heap, compared to the powerful, in-control Thunderbolt. This final humiliation, coupled with Lightfoots’ arrival on the scene triggers a shift in the protagonists’ dynamic whereby Leary defensively displaces his anger to Lightfoot, the other son figure. Lightfoot’s appearance on the scene enrages Leary, who now sees himself a rival with Lightfoot for Thunderbolt, having now lost the Oedipal battle, and is now relegated to a sibling role, in competition for the place of favoured son. Lightfoot’s own history pitches him in trajectory to view Thunderbolt also in terms as a father figure, so the scene is then set for a metaphorical showdown, with Thunderbolt as the “prize” which in turn fulfils Thunderbolt’s omnipotent fantasy and reinforces his phallic narcissism. 
From Leary’s perspective though, Lightfoot can be seen as weaker son, a lesser rival, with whom, when challenged, Leary determines never to be beaten again, at any cost.  Leary wishes to kill Thunderbolt, the new father figure, for having overthrown him in an oedipal battle, and for being a rival for the matriarchal, hidden cash. It is a quest that has been with Leary for many years, and when he finally has the opportunity to slay the “son” who challenged him, and claim his “mother”, he cannot.
Leary has never developed a human being, and his character in the film displays all the responses one would expect from the beaten father, now emasculated and  impotent. He is shown to be in awe of the female, but unable to interact with them on a mature level. He is the voyeur, risking identification and capture during the heist scene when he comes across the bank managers daughter naked, having intercourse with her boyfriend. He can do nothing but stare in awe at the tableau in front of him, and is starkly reminded of his own inability to perform. When Lightfoot recalls an incident when a housewife appears nude at a window in front of him, Leary’s response is childlike and awestruck “did’ya…did’ya see…y’know..everything?”. During a scene when Leary and Goody are posing as Ice-cream vendors, his response to an irritating lad who berates Leary for not being on the right street at the right time is typical from one child to a peer “Hey…why don’t you go fuck a duck”. The outburst is initially shocking, as a mature adult, even a criminal one, would not talk to a small child in this way, but seen in view of his stunted worldview, the response is wholly appropriate. 

In fact, Leary’s rhetoric is littered with phallic references (“drop your cocks and reach for your socks”). For Leary, the female genital, the threat, has remained intact and rampant, and his development has remained forever stunted by the fact his desire for the money, the hidden, has never been resolved. His violence, toward everyone in the abstract, and Lightfoot in particular, is a manifestation of masturbatory catharsis, his only recourse. His pathological tendencies are a result of his unresolved repressed attitudes. Having been familiar with this film for many years, and now reading the narrative from a psychoanalytical viewpoint, I am satisfied that the concepts Freud introduced have validity in this film, and either consciously or subconsciously Cimino has written a character that follows a typical Freudian arc.
The catalyst of the films narrative is Jeff Bridges’ Lightfoot. A young rootless drifter for whom crime is just another means of coming by some money, he is portrayed as sexually ambiguous not so much in deed, but in terms of his being a male drifter in his early in his early twenties in the US in 1974. In the film he is searching indirectly for an absent father figure. Symbolically this is manifested in many ways. Whether stealing a large overtly phallic car from under the nose of a patriarchal car dealer, with which he destroys Dunlop, a former gang-member of Thunderbolt’s group; or his obvious delight at Thunderbolts’ return to his car after apparently leaving for good, we see in Lightfoot a need to reconcile with a father figure. Lightfoot also displays Oedipal tendencies in his relationship with Thunderbolt. He is more socially and morally aware than Leary, but still sees in Thunderbolt a father figure. There is passing reference to Lightfoot’s past where he relates to Thunderbolt that he was removed from home very early on to a boarding school, and was subsequently taken in by a much older woman who apparently introduced the naïve youngster to sex. This may go some way in explaining Lightfoots’ unresolved issues surrounding a mother figure, and a need to ally closely with Thunderbolts’ patriarchal figure. In an early scene, Lightfoot is seen to fail in his Oedipal task of throwing Thunderbolt free of his stolen “phallic” car, and thus defeated, falls into the role of attempting, for the remainder of the film, to identify with the patriarchal aggressor. Thus, Lightfoot becomes the character with whom the audience most readily identifies, because in attempting to symbolically resolve his desirable impulses, he is manifesting the very reasons we the audience find satisfaction through the enjoyment of films, i.e. the desire to satisfy the Oedipal conflict, even within a genre piece like this.
Geoffrey Lewis’ character Goody, would appear to exist as a stooge for Leary, and a safe vent for his toothless rages (he resorts to the cheap shot of firing his gun in impotent anger in the air after failing to capture Thunderbolt, causing Goody, who was taking the opportunity of reliving himself, to urinate all over himself). Goody seems to be comfortable in his role as the receptacle of jokes/anger/badly aimed punches, and emerges as an affable, but ineffectual member of the gang.
The film is unusual in that within the growing relationship that develops between Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, it is Thunderbolt who emerges as the fetishistic object of Lightfoot’s gaze. This then leads to both the audiences unusually  scopophilic identification with the Eastwood character (typical of the persona he had cultivated up to that point) and Lightfoots’ more narcissistic identification, as there are sexual elements rooted in his regard of  Thunderbolt.
As in most of his heroic, mythical roles the Eastwood character is the bearer of the audiences look. He is the protagonist who will propel the narrative, and is certainly the most powerful ego on screen. In fact, as Mulvey states, Eastwood, when playing the hero, is powerful and omnipotent to an extraordinary degree . However, there is a dichotomy at play in this particular film. For though, as spectators, we are not fully subjecting Eastwood to the sexual objectification that is so often the case with female characters, we are nonetheless invited to partially objectify Eastwood as a sexual animal. As Neale states in his article “Masculinity as Spectacle” when referring to John Ellis’ “Visible Fictions” – “…identification is mobile, fluid, constantly transgressing identities, positions, and roles. Identifications are multiple, fluid, at points even contradictory.” In several key moments, we are shown lingering shots of Eastwood slowly removing the belt form his trousers (always in service of the plot – either to form a harness to re-locate his dislocated shoulder, or to use the buckle as an improvised screwdriver), or he is lovingly shot from a low angle against the wide Montana sky. Lightfoot is often shown admiring Eastwood from a distance, and we as the audience are invited also to objectify him. When referring to Freud’s dream theory, our ego’s are fooled by the “normal” depiction of male movie star objectification, and the truer nature of our (and Lightfoot’s) repressed desires slips by un-noticed on a conscious level.
This dichotomy befell a handful of stars in the 60’s and 70’s. Eastwood, Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Steve McQueen typically had their obligatory “shirt-off” scenes. They uniquely managed to maintain their positioning in narcissistic identification roles, controlling events, whist muddying the water as being the erotic object, significantly without eroding their “omnipotence”. Few stars have been able to display this – John Wayne, Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin for instance would not instil this dichotomy in the spectator. This dichotomy appeared during the post war years. Certainly no male star beforehand inspired this type of ambiguity in the audience response. Marlon Brando was perhaps the first to display this, but it was the above mentioned stars who took it further. The Reagan-era stars such as Schwarzenegger and Stallone displayed a rather more Nietzschian hero ideal, and the audiences objectification has nothing to do with sexual politics but rather owes more to a narcissistic super-egocentric version of the mirror image ideal. 
So, in “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot”, accustomed as we are to the partial objectification of a typical Eastwoodian character, the audience is not aware on a conscious level of the potential castration-fear inherent in such objectivity.
The film also goes to great lengths to underline its position of the Mulvian marriage vs. not-marriage position. All throughout the narrative we are shown conventional male/female couples wherein the male is portrayed as totally emasculated and powerless – a direct result of their embracing the socially integrated conformist heterosexual marriage model.  They are seen as jealous of the direct opposite embodied by Thunderbolt and Lightfoot – i.e. the phallic,omnipotent, non-conformist, empowered, free “not-marriage” model. Cimino’s position in this regard would appear to be unequivocally in favour of the not-marriage role, for although ultimately Thunderbolt ends up no better off than the beginning of the film – his narcissism is intact, but all his friends and colleagues end up dead, the overriding sense is that of the “not-marriage” option being by far the most attractive.
The film has several scenes wherein Thunderbolt and Lightfoot come across married couples on their travels. In each case the wife is seen as sexually unattractive, in control, oblivious to Eastwood’s superego, and domineering of their spouse. In contrast, the husbands are meek, emasculated, and in awe of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. In the final schoolhouse scene, simply their wordless, non-threatening presence is sufficient to reduce one such husband to gibbering subservience, handing over his belongings and cash when nothing was further from Thunderbolt and Lightfoot’s mind, whilst the wife looks on in disgust. Although played for laughs, this vignette exemplifies the contradiction between what Steve Neale refers to as “narcissism and the law, between an image of narcissistic authority on one hand and an image of social authority on the other”. The film is quite constant in ridiculing this portrayal of the socially integrated symbolic whilst extolling the virtues of nostalgic narcissism inherent in the main characters, extending to Leary and even the child-like Goody. Although many films, typically westerns, portray the “hero” in the “not-marriage” position, it is rare to find a film that wholly ridicules the “marriage” model to such an extent. This, I believe, is tied in with Cimino’s phallocentric viewpoint, wherein males and male camaraderie is the desired option and males who are “tainted” by association with the castration-fear object of the female are weak and ineffectual. 

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot’s interaction with two prostitutes (right) weakens their omnipotence, and reveals their insecurities. It also shows their inability to interact meaningfully as socially integrated people. The encounter for Thunderbolt serves no “purpose” for him, and is perfunctory at best for Gloria. Seen as a Venn diagram, this and other crossovers with integrated society serve mainly as reminders for Thunderbolt why he chooses to be as removed as he is from this model. For Lightfoot too, the encounter is far less satisfactory emotionally for him (“Redheads are always bad luck, man”) than being in Thunderbolt’s shadow. In fact any time Thunderbolt, Lightfoot, Leary or Goody come into contact with anyone representing social integration the result is usually the repelling of one group by the other.

The only scene which offers a glimpse of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot’s position in a possibly greater milieu than simply marriage vs. not-marriage is their encounter with Bill McKinney’s unhinged bunny killer. This surreal incident is treated for uneasy laughs, but shows clearly that although Thunderbolt and Lightfoot are obviously  personifications of the not-marriage model by virtue of their resistance to social standards and responsibilities, they are however infinitely more integrated than McKinney who has departed so far from social integration as to be barely functioning. The scene, which depicts McKinney and his car, and its contents, portray his character in an even earlier stage of fixation than either Thunderbolt or Lightfoot. He displays what Freud refers to as anally expulsive, chaotic characteristics  (the gibbering, the cars’ exhaust piped into the interior of the car, the caged defecating racoon) which portray McKinney in a regressive state that even consciously the audience recognises Thunderbolt and Lightfoot will not sink to. The film attempts to show here that ultimately, however appealing the trappings of not-marriage may be, the ultimate price paid is total abstention from any point on the moral compass. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot’s quest for the cash however, when thought through, serves to further an argument in favour of a more integrated position in society. Lightfoot, for instance, wants nothing more than to purchase a brand new Cadillac, i.e. obtain the trappings of society, to become a part of it.
The film is rich with symbolism, and one which is deserving of mention, as it occurs many times in the course of the film, is the constant placing of the protagonists near clear fresh water – lakes, rivers, etc. Water in symbolic terms can be seen to represent many things – the unconscious, emotions etc. But although the considerably high number of scenes featuring fresh water would seem to indicate a deeper meaning, it is perhaps, a visual aesthetic at work only and nothing more.
“Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” ends with the destruction of Leary and Lightfoot (and incidentally, the hapless Goody), both of whom fail to resolve their Oedipal desires (though neither dies at the hands of Thunderbolt). For Lightfoot, the signs were never good. Thunderbolt had given clear messages throughout the film that although he was clearly comfortable in Lightfoot's company, there was never going to be a lasting relationship between them, Thunderbolt intending them all to split up and go their separate ways after the successful heist. For Leary, his trajectory was never in doubt, his rage was never going to find catharsis (apart from perhaps in killing Lightfoot). For Thunderbolt, the future looks equally bleak, the loneliness of the narcissist has been restored, his inability/unwillingness to maintain a relationship underlined by the dénouement, left to drive alone through a nihilistic landscape.
Ultimately then, the film offers a rich and fertile ground to examine and test various psychoanalytical suppositions, and I think, for the most part, the theories, especially Mulvey’s emerge with much credence. 
(Left, Michael Cimino with Clint in 2015)

Friday, 19 January 2018

Actor Bradford Dillman dies aged 87

Some sad news filtered through to me this morning – the news that Bradford Dillman, Clint’s co-star in two of the Dirty Harry films, The Enforcer (1976) and Sudden Impact (1983) had died, he was 87. I have reproduced the Mike Barnes story from The Hollywood Reporter.
Bradford Dillman, who starred with Dean Stockwell in the taut 1959 crime drama Compulsion and portrayed Edmund in the original Broadway production of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, has died. He was 87. Dillman died Tuesday in Santa Barbara due to complications from pneumonia, family spokesman Ted Gekis announced.

The lanky, dark-haired Dillman also played Robert Redford's best friend J.J. in The Way We Were (1973), and his daughter Pamela said that it was this movie that "perfectly captured the essence" of her father, particularly during the scene on a boat when the actors reminisce about their lives and best moments. Dillman also appeared opposite Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry films The Enforcer (1976) (left) and Sudden Impact (1983).

In director Richard Fleischer's Compulsion, derived from the infamous Leopold & Loeb case of the 1920s, Dillman and Stockwell starred as the brazen killers Arthur A. Straus and Judd Steiner, respectively, who think they have committed the perfect murder. Dillman, Stockwell and Orson Welles (who played their attorney) shared best actor honors at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival. The Fox film was an adaptation of a Broadway hit, with Dillman taking on the role that Roddy McDowall had originated on the stage. Dillman's family said that he was most proud of his work in Compulsion, along with his portrayal of Willie Oban in O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh (1973), an adaptation directed by John Frankenheimer for the American Film Theatre.

Dillman had made his Broadway debut in 1956 in Long Day's Journey into Night, creating the role of the author's alter ego, Edmund Tyrone, for 390 performances and winning a Theater World Award in the process. However, it was Stockwell who played Edmund in Sidney Lumet's 1962 movie version.
Dillman was born on April 14, 1930, in San Francisco, the third of the four children. He grew up in the city but spent his summers in Santa Barbara acting in local theater productions. He attended boarding school at the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut and Yale University, where he studied English and drama, then entered the U.S. Marine Corps and served as a lieutenant in the Korean War. After an honourable discharge, Dillman auditioned for Lee Strasburg and entered the Actors Studio alongside fellow classmates James Dean and Marilyn Monroe.
Following Long Day's Journey Into Night and a role in Katharine Cornell's Hallmark Hall of Fame production of Robert E. Sherwood's Pulitzer Prize-winning There Shall Be No Night, Dillman was signed by 20th Century Fox. He was cast in the 1958 films A Certain Smile and In Love and War and received the Golden Globe for most promising newcomer — male in 1959. In 1961, Dillman had the title role in Francis of Assisi, directed by Michael Curtiz. Omnipresent on television throughout the 1960s and '70s, Dillman had a recurring role on Dr. Kildare, starred with Peter Graves in the short-lived series Court Martial and guest-starred on shows including The Name of the Game; The Wild, Wild West; Mission: Impossible; The Man From U.N.C.L.E.; Columbo; Ironside; Barnaby Jones; and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. His autobiography, Are You Anybody?: An Actor's Life, was published in 1997.
A lifelong fan of the San Francisco 49ers, Dillman was invited in the late '70s by coach Bill Walsh and owner Eddie DeBartolo to sit in on NFL Draft sessions, and he gave the team a suggested pick for the next 20 years. He wrote a book about another NFL team, Inside the New York Giants, in 1995.

Survivors include his children Jeffrey, Pamela, Charlie, Christopher and Dinah and stepdaughter Georgia. He was married to Frieda Harding McIntosh and, from 1963 until her death in 2003, model and actress Suzy Parker, whom he met in London while they made A Circle of Deception (1960). The family asks that a donation in his memory be made to Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care in Santa Barbara.
Our sincere condolences go out to his family

Rip Sir.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Warner Bros. reveal THE 15:17 TO PARIS One sheet poster

So, here is the latest U.S. One sheet poster design released by Warner Bros for Clint's upcoming film The 15:17 to Paris. I have had an early look at the U.K. Quad equivalent and can confirm it is based  on the same design. I'm wondering if the overall design will vary that much from country to country? The industry and their approach in general towards poster art seems to have reached a rather stagnant and uninspired level. Looking back at Sully, there was just the two varying designs - worldwide. It appears that those great days of poster collecting, and the beautiful range of designs that came with it, are well and truly over. It's a sad fact, but it appears that the promotion range, and the importance placed upon it, will never quite be the same... 

Friday, 12 January 2018

The passing of Dave Toschi

I received some news earlier this evening regarding the sad passing of Dave Toschi and felt that it should be mentioned here. I have of course used the story from The San Francisco Chronicle, as only I could…

Dave Toschi, a dapper cop who became the lead San Francisco police investigator for the Zodiac serial-killer case in the late 1960s and ’70s, has died at the age of 86.
Toschi died at his home in San Francisco on Saturday after a lengthy illness, relatives said.

The Zodiac terrorized the Bay Area in 1968 and 1969 when he stabbed or shot at least five people to death, writing taunting notes and cryptograms to police and newspapers including The Chronicle after his kills. Toschi was drawn into the case when he was assigned to investigate the killing of the Zodiac’s only San Francisco victim — Paul Stine, a cabbie shot to death in his taxi on Oct. 11, 1969.
It was the Zodiac’s final confirmed slaying. Like every other inspector looking into the saga, from federal agents to police in Vallejo and Napa County, Toschi was unable to solve the case. But he never lost zeal for the mystery, friends said.
“He was a super guy and a great cop,” said Duffy Jennings, who covered the Zodiac case as a Chronicle reporter in the 1970s and maintained a lifelong friendship with Toschi afterward. “And he told me that he still went every year on Oct. 11 to the Paul Stine murder scene to look around and try to figure out why they couldn’t catch the guy.

“The Zodiac case gnawed at him,” Jennings said. “He said it gave him an ulcer.”
Toschi was born in San Francisco and, after graduating from Galileo High School, he pulled combat duty in the Korean War with the Army. Upon his return to San Francisco in 1953, he was hired at the Police Department and stayed there until retiring in 1985. In addition to his work on the Zodiac killings, Toschi was part of the team that solved the racially motivated Zebra murders in the early 1970s, in which four black men were convicted of the random slayings of 14 white people. In 1985 he received a meritorious conduct award from the department for arresting a man who raped senior citizens and burglarized their homes.

His penchant for bow ties, snappy trench coats and the quick-draw holster for his .38-caliber pistol drew the attention of Steve McQueen, who patterned his character in the 1968 movie “Bullitt” after Toschi. Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” character was also partially inspired by him.
But it was the Zodiac case for which Toschi was best known. He worked the clues until 1978, when he was taken off the case after admitting he sent fan notes with fictitious names to then-Chronicle writer Armistead Maupin praising himself. Toschi told the San Francisco Examiner that the notes were an “ill-advised indulgence.”
In the brouhaha that resulted, there were suspicions that he might have also written a letter to The Chronicle that purported to be from the Zodiac. However, nothing was proved, Toschi denied it and he remained with the department as a homicide inspector until his retirement. He was portrayed by Mark Ruffalo in the 2007 movie “Zodiac.”
“I always looked up to him because he was this Italian guy who got this crazy case,” said Gianrico Pierucci, who retired in November after being the latest in a long line of homicide inspectors to head up the still-alive Zodiac investigation. “He was a good cop. He said he was always happy to get up and do his job.”
Of the Zodiac case, Pierucci said: “Dave did the best he could. He was always very pleasant and charming, and dapper, and Zodiac is a tough case.”
After leaving law enforcement, Toschi worked in the security business, including several years as vice president of Northstar Security Services.
“He loved books, music and could sing with the best of them,” said his daughter, Linda Toschi-Chambers of San Francisco. “His greatest pleasure was his loving family, and we will miss his keen sense of humor, his gentle guidance and his unconditional love.”
Toschi is survived by his wife, Carol Toschi of San Francisco; two daughters, Toschi-Chambers and Karen Leight of San Mateo County; and two granddaughters, Sarah Leight of Pacifica and Emma Leight of Los Angeles.
Private services were held Wednesday. Donations may be made in his name to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in San Francisco, or to a charity of choice.

RIP Sir 

THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT: A personal reflection by Paul Rowlands

Born in Chester in the UK, Paul Rowlands is a much respected friend of the Archive. Today, Paul lives in Japan. As a lifelong fan of movies, Paul also enjoys writing about them. In 2011 he created his own site Money into Light, a wonderful place where you will find interviews with actors and actresses, directors, screenwriters, producers, and many people connected to film and have fascinating stories to tell. Do try and take the time to explore Money into Light HERE, I think you’ll find it’s well worth the visit. 
Some time ago, Paul wrote a rather nice piece on Michael Cimino’s much loved masterpiece which he has kindly permitted us to share as a part of our January celebration of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. Our kindest thanks Paul. I should also point out that Paul’s essay does contain some spoilers; in the event that anyone has still yet to see this remarkable film. Did I really just say that?

THUNDERBOLT AND LIGHTFOOT (1974) is one of the most interesting films Clint Eastwood made in the 1970’s; during a period when he was at the peak of his stardom (he was the decade's top box-office draw). It wasn't one of his biggest hits, and although it is in many ways a typical Clint vehicle, in other ways it really broke new ground for him and anticipated the critical respect his career has enjoyed since his Oscar-winning UNFORGIVEN (1992).
The film is a 'buddy' picture, a road movie and a heist thriller, a welding of three genres particularly popular during that era. Eastwood stars as 'The Thunderbolt', a bank robber whose specialty is blowing open safes with a 20mm cannon. When we first meet him, it's clear that this picture is going to at least be a little different: Clint is wearing the dog collar of a clergyman and addressing his clergy! The first shots of the movie, the beautiful scenery of Montana, inform us that this isn't going to be an urban thriller like COOGAN'S BLUFF (1968) or DIRTY HARRY (1971). When two thugs suddenly burst into the church, shooting up the place in an attempt to kill Clint, it's clear within five minutes that Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is going to be an Eastwood action thriller like we are accustomed to, but also a little more offbeat, humorous and panoramic.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is the directorial debut of Michael Cimino, who went on to win an Oscar for directing the controversial THE DEER HUNTER (1978). He would later be blamed for bankrupting United Artists with the flop HEAVEN'S GATE (1980).
The original idea for the picture came from Cimino's agent Stan Kamen at the William Morris Agency. Kamen suggested he write a script on spec with Eastwood in mind. Upon reading the script, Eastwood was sufficiently impressed to consider directing it himself, having been happy with Cimino's work on MAGNUM FORCE (1973) and very interested in making a road movie (EASY RIDER had been a huge success in 1969). Eventually, Eastwood decided to give Cimino the director's chairs. It is clear Eastwood believed in Cimino's talent, but it's also highly probable that one factor was that he would be able to control him. Cimino later became famous for the number of takes he filmed, but according to Jeff Bridges, Cimino had to ask Eastwood for permission if he went over a few takes (but would allow it if Bridges wanted to try something different), and according to first assistant director Charles Okun, Eastwood would refuse to go over four takes and wouldn't stand for long set-up times. (The year before, Ted Post and Eastwood had clashed over Eastwood calling the shots too much.) Warner Brothers considered the film too offbeat for Eastwood, and declined to finance the film. Eastwood (whose Malpaso Company would produce the film) took the film to United Artists instead.
In the film, Eastwood flees his pursuers by accepting a lift from a happy go lucky, con-man drifter named Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges). The story now becomes a 'buddy' movie, in which the pair strike up an unlikely friendship. 'Thunderbolt' is an ex-Korean War veteran, about ten years older (in actuality nearly twenty!), a professional and a loner. Lightfoot is charmingly cocky, carefree and energetic. 'Thunderbolt' is touched and amused by his insistence on them becoming friends, and eventually brings him along on his next caper, alongside two ex-colleagues (an angry George Kennedy and an hilarious Geoffrey Lewis) who mistakenly believe Eastwood betrayed him on a previous 'job' and stole the loot. Meanwhile, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot secretly plan to locate and grab the missing loot for themselves.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is an interesting film because it delivers the entertainment we expect from an Eastwood vehicle, but there's something off-kilter going on both in and under the text. In his first film, Cimino exhibits mastery of tone. The picture's humour alternates between light and breezy (particularly hilarious are Kennedy and Lewis's adventures in suburbia as they get 'real jobs') and oddball. The scene involving the leads getting a lift from a deranged hillbilly (Bill McKinney in his first of seven Eastwood appearances - he's the guy who raped Ned Beatty in 1972's DELIVERANCE) comes out of nowhere and is both hilarious and a little disturbing. The hillbilly has an impressive car that attracts the hitch-hiking leads, but it becomes quickly clear that all is not right with their driver: he keeps a caged raccoon on the passenger seat and is going mad from the leaking carbon monoxide fumes coming off the broken exhaust pipe (which he has broken on purpose). Eastwood and Bridges are trapped in the back seat. Once they manage to get out of the car, the guy opens his trunk to reveal numerous white rabbits. As they proceed to escape, he starts shooting at them, before being overpowered by the mighty fists of Eastwood. The scene is an important scene in the film not only because it's an entertaining highlight, but also because it's a brilliant example of how the film works on two levels. It works as a funny detour that could simply exhibit Cimino's odd sense of humour, but it also works subtextually. It's ambiguous enough to have many possible readings (certainly the dangers of 'the road' or America itself that lurk below the surface is a persuasive one), but it arguably is meant to foreshadow, and subliminally prepare us for, the devastating ending where Jeff Bridges is kicked to death by George Kennedy and has a slow death that Eastwood fails to notice until he slumps on the car seat.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot is predominantly a 'male' film. Women don't get too much of a look in the film, and the characters don't seem too interested in the personalities of the women they meet, only their bodies (note the woman who flashes her naked body to Bridges from the living room window). 

This may just be a convention of the 'buddy' movie, which some commentators have decided is an anti-feminist genre anyway, but Cimino uses the genre to go a little deeper. Eastwood's sex scene in the film has him appear disinterested and embarrassed. Peter Biskind (the author of 'Easy Riders, Raging Bulls', 1998) wrote a very interesting review upon the film's release, believing the film to have 'frank and undisguised contempt for heterosexuality' and 'occupy(ing) and exploit(ing) an area where homosexual and working class attitudes towards women overlap'. 
He goes on to say that 'the action becomes a thinly disguised metaphor for the sexual tensions between the two principle characters.' (Certainly there are not many things more phallic than a 20mm cannon or a cigar, objects prominent on the many different posters used to promote the film worldwide.)

One reading of the film is that Bridges' character is the catalyst for change in the film. His relationships with Eastwood and George Kennedy are very different but they share one quality: they are both attracted to him. Eastwood and Kennedy's characters are both war veterans who have been damaged or disillusioned by their experiences. In one shot we see that Eastwood has been physically damaged by war: he is wearing a leg brace. In another scene Eastwood pops his shoulder out, making the film one of the first examples where he is allowed to appear vulnerable. Interestingly, Eastwood also had a damaged leg in THE BEGUILED (1971). By the end of the film, Eastwood's notions of the limits of male friendship have been proved wrong. 
He has achieved a close relationship with Bridges. Kennedy is a repressed man who cannot abide his sexual attraction to Bridges, and when Bridges jokingly kisses him on the mouth (literally giving him what he wants), Bridges fate is sealed. He will die for bringing out into the open what Kennedy (and society?) wants to be sealed forever. One could also see Bridges' death as representing the death of '60's idealism. The energy and positivity of Bridges has real worth, but at the end of the day, 'traditional' and 'straight' values will always prevail. Eastwood returns to the familiar world he lives in at the end of the film, but he has been forever been changed and his victory (reclaiming the loot he had stashed away from a previous robbery) now seems hollow. America was changed forever by the idealism of the '60's, but it couldn't and wouldn't be allowed to exist forever.
Up until the aftermath of the heist (in which Bridges is required to dress in drag), the film has maintained a balance of humour and action, crossed with 'buddy' movie elements and the mountainous landscape of Montana being almost a character in the film, courtesy of Frank Stanley's fine widescreen camerawork. With the 'aftermath', the film unexpectedly (although we have had the subliminal foreshadowing) shifts gears to become a tragedy. George Kennedy kicks Bridges to death, and as the pair approach their victory and find the stashed loot in a one-room schoolhouse, we the audience (and not Eastwood) see that something is very wrong with Bridges' condition. It's unexpectedly heart-breaking, being twinned with the moment of victory. Bridges' performance here is almost certainly what won him the Best Supporting Actor nomination (the second of six nominations). It's brilliant. First you see him get bothered, next worried, then unnerved, and finally overcome by the paralysis creeping through his face and body. It's one of the most memorable and moving bits of acting in cinema. The scene also marks Cimino as a major director. We now realise that he has subverted our expectations of what an Eastwood picture, a buddy movie or a heist thriller should be. It doesn't feel like a trick or a betrayal because subliminally we have been prepared, and we now realise that Cimino was playing for keeps all along. The ending doesn't make us feel angry because it feels right: life is light and breezy, sometimes oddball, sometimes exciting, is defined by how close we get to people...but the spectre of death, of a reversal of fortune, of fate, of the consequences of our actions, of being 'free' in a 'straight' society is always present even if we are too preoccupied to pay notice to it.
Eastwood was unhappy with the $9m domestic gross of the film (although it eventually recouped the $4m budget over six times in the US alone) and blamed UA for weak promotion. He vowed he would 'never work for UA' again, and cancelled a two-film deal he had signed with the studio. Some have proffered that his anger was really due to the fact that he felt upstaged by Bridges and/ or he felt he should have been pushed for an Oscar nomination as well. Regardless of whether or not he should have been nominated (he should have been), his performance is both subtle (one can see a flicker of sorrow on his face when he drives off at the end with a dead Bridges beside him) and generous one (he allows Bridges to shine and never tries to upstage him, and with Kennedy and Lewis allowed their own space in the film, it's almost an ensemble piece anyway). He and Bridges have good chemistry), which makes the film work. They're a great match, the still, taciturn Eastwood and the ball of energy Bridges. One is really convinced that the actors really liked each other (which reading between the lines in interviews they almost certainly did). In fact, Eastwood has rarely been as relaxed, as self-deprecating and as human as in his scenes opposite Bridges. It's a shame they never collaborated again, and a double shame because the great majority of Eastwood's future co-stars never rose up to the challenge or had the chops to share the screen with him.
Bridges is simply a great actor who until recently, I’ve considered to be the most underrated actor alive. He's one of the most likeable actors ever too, and despite having the showier role, he is quite a subtle actor himself. Lightfoot is a character who could easily become tiresome (he's always 'on'), but he makes the character so 'alive' and in tune with himself that he becomes the pulse and heart of the picture, making his death all the more powerful. For once, we actually wonder whether Eastwood will be able to cope with the loss of a loved one and maintain his loner mind-set.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, despite its cult status, deserves even more recognition. It's deceptively light and breezy tone and status as an Eastwood vehicle disguise the fact that there are more interesting things going on underneath if you're willing to look. It's also the most consistent, balanced and well-paced film Cimino has ever directed, and deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as THE DEER HUNTER and HEAVEN'S GATE. It's so much more than just a minor work from a director who went on to bigger and better things.

NB. It's interesting that Cimino was the only director given a break by Eastwood who ever had a successful film afterwards. Even Cimino's success is limited to THE DEER HUNTER. That said, HEAVEN'S GATE and YEAR OF THE DRAGON (1985) now have their admirers (including me). James Fargo, Buddy Van Horn and Richard Tuggle have all failed to capitalise on their time with Eastwood. 
SOURCES:
'Clint: The Life and Legend' by Patrick McGilligan (Harper Collins, 1999)
'Clint Eastwood in the 1970s': Wikipedia entry
'Sexual Politics in 'Thunderbolt and Lightfoot' by Peter Biskind, Jump Up no.4, 1974
'Thunderbolt and Lightfoot' : Wikipedia entry 

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Very Rare Thunderbolt and Lightfoot Trade Advertisement

As we are celebrating Thunderbolt and Lightfoot this January on the Archive, I thought it would be nice to share this very rarely seen summer Trade Ad from United Artists. As the film was released in America on May 24th 1974, this Ad was probably published within a trade paper such as Variety around the June or July period and probably for one day only.

Below that, from the U.S. to the U.K. - it took some 6 months for Thunderbolt and Lightfoot to cross the pond, eventually being released in London and surrounding regions during the November of 1974. 

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

A local story from Great Falls, Montana – the home of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot

I recently discovered this wonderful little story which originally appeared in the Great Falls Tribune – June 18th 2017. It also led me to track down a couple of ‘then and now’ photos which illustrate just how little this beautiful part of Montana has changed over the decades.

Thunderbolt and Lightfoot was produced largely in Great Falls and the surrounding area. It’s a classic, starring Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges, and for many it’s memorable. For one man who lives across the world, the film has formed the fabric of his life.
Klaus Erik Okstad 57, is a TV journalist from Norway who first saw the film in 1974. He’s been obsessed with it ever since. Five years ago, he made his first trip to Big Sky Country.
“Having had Montana in and my mind since 1974 I was finally ‘coming home,’” Klaus says in an email. “Driving in evening light towards Choteau I felt instantly I was in the movie and that with very few exceptions the Great Falls area buildings and landscapes look pretty much like they did in 1973.”
The crime film, which also starred George Kennedy and was directed by Michael Cimino, who later made the brilliant “Deer Hunter,” was shot in the summer of 1973 on location in Hobson, Wolf Creek, Fort Benton and Great Falls.
“The real star of this picture is the Montana landscape,” Klaus says. “It was love at first sight. From the fabulous opening shot of the church in Hobson to the final images on I-15 the film gives you a sense ‘Place and America’ that really moved me. I think it is one of the best ‘location movies’ Hollywood has made.”
Klaus has made two additional trips to the Great Falls area, always with the intent of visiting the locations used in the filming. “The three trips,” he says, “have resulted in a large-format, three-volume book. One for every location in the film with comparison shots location today.” He has 300 pages worth, and has even given a copy to Jeff Bridges. Klaus was in California in December of 2015 and Bridges was giving a musical concert at the Fremont Theatre in San Luis Obispo.

(left) Klaus showed up five hours before the event and bingo, Bridges was there to rehearse. “He had long hair and an avalanche of a beard,” Klaus says, “but he was instantly recognisable.” So Klaus told the actor he had a gift for him and handed over the 300 pages on the Great Falls movie made decades before. “He was all smiles,” Klaus says. “And as I was about to show him the book he looked at my very loud shirt with a Navajo pattern and said: ‘Cool shirt, man.’ His laid-back California presence is something to behold.” Bridges, of course, has had a fabulous career on the silver screen, with films like “True Grit, The Big Lebowski, Crazy Heart” and “The Last Picture Show.” “He remains,” says Klaus, “a favourite actor of mine.”

Clint Eastwood has been a favourite for millions of movie-goers for decades. It was true in 1973 as well. But Clint wasn’t really treated like a celebrity when he spent time in the Minneapolis Bar, the late, great lower Southside watering hole that for more than 100 years offered boozing and schmoozing for Great Falls folks. Paul Horning and his family owned the place. Back in 1973 Paul was an 18-year-old bartender and, he says, “sure enough Eastwood was hanging out at the Minnie House.” Paulie says he saw the famed actor more than once. “He was there probably a dozen or 15 times,” Paul says. “And the last time he was in, he came up to my father (Phil) and I and said ‘Thanks guys, for making for feel so welcome here and for not letting other people bother me.’”
So the Hornings looked out for Clint and kept the regulars away?
“We didn’t have to,” Paul says. “What was amazing about the whole thing was people would come in and go, ‘Oh look, is that Clint Eastwood over there shooting pool? Hey it is, isn’t that cool. OK, give me a Bud.’ “The whole time he was in here I think one person asked him for an autograph,” Paul laughs. Clint usually had a few folks with him in the bar. But one time he was alone. “He was looking for somebody to play pool against,” Paul says. “And I said I would. He goes, ‘Do you want to play for a beer, kid?’ And I was like sure.” It was Paulie’s bar. And guess who won the game? “So he had to buy me a beer,” Paul laughs. “I should have saved that beer.”
Klaus has never met Clint Eastwood. But he has met his son, Kyle. “Kyle had a bit part in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, ” Klaus says. “He buys an ice cream outside Meadowlark school.” Klaus met Kyle at a jazz concert in Oslo four years ago. “Kyle was five at the time (of the Great Falls movie shoot),” Klaus says. “He called it his first paid gig, since he got the $25 that all the extras got.” Klaus says the Great Falls Tribune covered the filming at Meadowlark and had photos of Clint and Kyle between takes.
Below: Meadowlark Elementary School, 2204 Fox Farm Road, Great Falls, Montana -Then and Now
What captured Klaus about the film then and now?
“The film turns on the Eastwood-Bridges relationship,” Klaus says. “Eastwood confidently draws on his tender, vulnerable side. And Bridges, after his adult debut in ‘The Last Picture Show’ (1971), continues to refine and define his role as the optimistic, small-town all-American boy, retaining a cheerful, bewildered innocence even as he grows older.” If Klaus sounds like he’s carried away by the 44-year-old film, it’s because he is. And really, what’s wrong with that? “I will definitely visit Great Falls and the surrounding areas again,” he says. “And have breakfast at Tracy's on Central Avenue. I am from mountainous Norway but simply love the Rocky Mountain Front and the plains below it.

“Prairie,” he adds, “we ain't got in Norway.” Klaus has a message he wants to spread, too. “If any of you good Great Falls citizens have pictures or stories from the shooting of the film 44 years ago,” he says, “please let me hear from you.”
Below: The house on River view Drive East, Great Falls, Montana, that lawn is still looking good