For the last six decades, Clint Eastwood has inspired and captured the hearts of millions of Americans and people around the world. Whether it’s through the movies he starred in as a young cowboy or his more recent films like “Scully”, Eastwood is a name to be reckoned with in Hollywood.
Now the 86-year-old actor and director is also known for his conservative viewpoints and his healthy lifestyle. But few people know that Eastwood’s childhood was loaded with chaos and heartbreak. But those struggles were integral to his rise to stardom in the mid-20th century.
Learn more about Clinton “Clint” Eastwood Jr. and his humble beginnings below!
Born on May 31, 1930 in San Francisco, California, Clint came from an impoverished background. His father was a steelworker and migrant worker of the Dust Bowl era and his mother Margaret Ruth “Runner” Eastwood worked a factory.
Clint was big from the jump. He weighed 11.59 pounds at birth and the nurses at the hospital nicknamed him “Samson” because a healthy newborn that large was rare in the 1930s.
As he grew, his family moved often, seeking better jobs in the next town. Eventually, the family settled in Piedmont, California where Clint Jr. attended Piedmont Junior High School.
Because of the chaos and constant movement of his upbringing, Clint constantly found trouble. He also struggled to learn his lessons. He attended summer school almost every year so he didn’t fall behind.
Although he had athletic talent and a musical gift, he rejected the offers to join the high school’s sports team or band. With a 6ft 4-inch frame, he focused on individual pursuits like tennis, piano, and golf.
For a while, cars became a bigger priority than girls. The only thing that mattered to him were “fast cars and easy women.” So, his father found $25 and bought the boy his first car.
Because he destroyed the school’s football field, Piedmont High School refused to admit Clint. Instead, he attended Oakland Technical High School, where he got his first taste of drama. The teacher encouraged him to participate in the school plays but he refused being “far too shy to step foot on stage.”
When his family moved to Seattle in 1949, Clint stayed in Piedmont to finish school and found jobs to support himself like: a lifeguard, hay baler, paper carrier, grocery clerk, forest firefighter, golf caddy, and he also played ragtime piano at a small local bar. After graduation, he joined his family in Seattle and worked with his father at the Weyerhaeuser Company pulp mill in Springfield, Oregon.
Desperate for a better future, Clint enrolled in college. But then he was drafted into the United States Army, where he was appointed lifeguard and swimming instructor.
On a visit home, the Douglas AD-1 bomber he was in crashed in the water. Clint was grievously injured and swam 3 miles to shore. “I thought I might die. But then I thought, other people have made it through these things before. I kept my eyes on the lights on shore and kept swimming.”
After this near-death experience, Clint started to see his future in Hollywood. Fellow Army men had connections in the movie business and Clint moved to Los Angeles to take a shot at stardom.
Only after a cunning con did Eastwood get his big break. Along with his army buddies, he snuck into a Universal studio and got in front of cameraman Irving Glassberg, who was impressed. He said Eastwood was “the sort of good-looking young man that has traditionally done well in the movies”.
His good looks also won over director Arthur Lubin. The director swiftly arranged an audition for Eastwood. But no one saw any hope for the awkward young man. Until his awkwardness made him a star.
But this was the lowest point of his career, and Eastwood said it made him “really depressed.”
Six years after his move to Los Angeles, the 28-year-old Eastwood received a casting call for “an hour long Western series” that would forever change his life. He won the role of “Rowdy Yates” in the CBS Show “Rawhide.”
Although it was the turning point in his career, the Rawhide years were tough. From 1959-1965, he filmed about six days each week for 12 hour days. And it was all in the Arizona heat.
At this time, to keep his physic in top shape, Eastwood stopped drinking sugary drinks and began eating more vegetables and fruits loaded with vitamins. After his father passed in 1970, he became more intense about his physical fitness, abstaining from hard liquor and eating even healthier.
When asked how he played the part of “The Man with No Name” Eastwood revealed, “In Rawhide I did get awfully tired of playing the conventional white hat. The hero who kisses old ladies and dogs and was kind to everybody. I decided it was time to be an anti-hero.
“I wanted to play it with an economy of words and create this whole feeling through attitude and movement. It was just the kind of character I had envisioned for a long time, keep to the mystery and allude to what happened in the past. It came about after the frustration of doing Rawhide for so long. I felt the less he said, the stronger he became and the more he grew in the imagination of the audience.”
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