Stars: 3 of 5.
Running Time: 53 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson.
Best one-liner: "Puttin' a high price on a pair of pants, aren't ya?"
So I've been doing a lot of Bronson reviews lately, and the subject of 'Bronson vs. Eastwood' has come up on several occasions. I'm going to take this opportunity to rehash 'what we know,' before proceeding with what may be the very birth of the (possibly imagined) rivalry; an episode of RAWHIDE, starring Clint, and guest starring Bronson. This article by no means will offer the final word on the feud, but will perhaps offer some deeper insights into this eternal battle. But before I get into the RAWHIDE episode, let's rehash...
WHAT WE KNOW:
#1. The Leone connection: Bronson might have, in retrospect, felt foolish for turning down the role of the 'Man with No Name' in Sergio Leone's famous Dollars Trilogy, a role that ultimately went to Clint and made him an international star. Later, Bronson finally broke down and made a film with Leone (and a slew of other European films in the late 60's and early 70's) - ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. Now, to complicate things, the three men who Bronson shoots in the opening sequence were originally meant to be the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Clint, Lee van Cleef, and Eli Wallach). Van Cleef and Wallach signed on for the cameo appearances, but Clint declined. Clint claimed (perhaps correctly) that he declined because it wouldn't be fair to diminish the character's legend in such a superficial, slapdash manner. But perhaps the real reason he declined was because he didn't want to be shot by Bronson.
#2. And much like how Bronson went and did Italian films after Clint had, Clint went and did some WWII ensemble cast movies after Bronson. Bronson had THE GREAT ESCAPE ('63) and THE DIRTY DOZEN ('67) under his belt when Clint went and did WHERE EAGLES DARE ('68) and KELLY'S HEROES ('70). Was Clint jealous that Bronson's 'men on a mission' movies were more successful? Hard to say. Clint didn't return to WWII until after Bronson's death, and even then he just directed (FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA).
#3. Bronson and Eastwood both have a preference for the 'finger and thumb gun.' Whether or not they ever had a 'finger and thumb gun' battle is unknown to me, but as far as I know, it was never captured on celluloid.
#4. Perhaps the most famous roles for Bronson and Eastwood were, respectively, Paul Kersey (the DEATH WISH series) and Harry Callahan (the DIRTY HARRY series). Each series had five installments- did Bronson only agree to DEATH WISH V: THE FACE OF DEATH ('94) so that he could match Eastwood for number of installments?
#5. Don Siegel was perhaps Eastwood's greatest mentor, and they collaborated five times (COOGAN'S BLUFF, DIRTY HARRY, THE BEGUILED, TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA, ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ). Late in Siegel's career, he worked with Bronson (TELEFON). How did this make Clint feel? Did Bronson ever twirl his mustache thinking about it?
#6. Bronson hates orangutans and mocks EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE in DEATH WISH II. There's a good possibility that Bronson disliked how much fun Clint was having, and this was borne of jealousy, though it's also possible that Bronson couldn't believe that a badass icon (who he was frequently compared to) could get away with a monkey/trucker movie. What if all this time, however, Bronson secretly wished he could do whacky movies involving apes and Oreos and duets with Ray Charles, but instead steadfastly remained a willing martyr to his jaw-clenching tough guy roles?
#7. Bronson and Eastwood both have worked with Lee Marvin, Clint just once with PAINT YOUR WAGON, and Bronson many times, with an episode of M SQUAD, an episode of BIFF BAKER U.S.A., DIPLOMATIC COURIER, YOU'RE IN THE NAVY NOW, THE DIRTY DOZEN, THE MEANEST MEN IN THE WEST, and DEATH HUNT. What did Lee think about all this?
Would he have knocked their heads together like coconuts, given the chance?
#8. There was a Filipino movie made in 1989 called PABLIHASA DETEKTIB, which evidently presented a fictitious staging of the Eastwood vs. Bronson rivalry. Any information on how to obtain this could prove valuable.
#9. Bronson appeared at the ALL-STAR PARTY FOR CLINT EASTWOOD ('86), hosted by Lucille Ball. Whether or not he was formally invited, or he 'crashed' it is unclear. I do know that they shook hands and appeared somewhat pleasant at this event, but whether it represented subterfuge or a genuine healing of the rift is not known to me at this time. I do know, however, that Bronson is really bad at subterfuge, so maybe it was genuine.
#10. Bronson and Eastwood both HATE crack. Bronson made a movie about how much he hated crack- DEATH WISH 4: THE CRACKDOWN. Clint made a PSA for TV. Perhaps this was some common ground they could bond over in the later years.
#11. Both appeared in the special HAPPY 100TH BIRTHDAY HOLLYWOOD ('87). Whether or not they interacted is unknown to me.
#12. They both had a significant other who they collaborated with many, many times. Bronson appeared with Jill Ireland in 16 films and one TV episode. Clint appeared with Sondra Locke in 6 films, most of which he directed. Bronson remained with Jill from their 1968 marriage until her tragic death from breast cancer in 1990.
Clint remained with Sondra (a breast cancer survivor) from 1975 until their breakup in 1990 (they were never married).
Now, granted, these are not all of the facts. These are only some of the facts. It's certainly something to go on. Now let's go back in time to 1965, when Bronson met Eastwood...
DUEL AT DAYBREAK is a pretty solid episode of 60's Western TV. The majority of the episode is the villainous Bronson trying to shoot people, Eastwood stepping in and talking some sense, and preventing said shootings from happening.
This makes Bronson mad. The opening scene involves Bronson trying to teach "a wet behind the ears kid a lesson in manners." The kid tries to use a plank to cross a gigantic mud puddle and gets Bronson's pants muddy. Bronson says that the "bridge" is his, it's private. The kid tries to leave.
Bronson demands the kid's hat, and a shoot-out is about to commence when Clint and a bunch of dudes step in and talk some sense.
"Puttin' a high price on a pair of pants, aren't ya?" says a pissed Clint. [Which is doubly ridiculous, given that later on, as Dirty Harry, Clint refuses to have his nearly $30 pants cut by a doctor to remove bullet shards ("For $29.50, let it hurt!")].
Anyway, Eastwood keeps breaking up duels between Bronson and other dudes, which pisses Bronson off, because he'd love to just be indiscriminately shooting people. (He would eventually get his chance in DEATH WISH 3).
Why won't Clint just let Bronson do what he's good at?!
He gets so frustrated he flings a table across his room.
"Get your foot offa that chair...."
Turns out, it's largely over a woman (this was long before Bronson was made into an asexual being by Golan-Globus in the 80's). Bronson finally gets his wish and shoots some people, but not fatally. In a re-duel with The Kid, (with Clint obviously backing The Kid), Bronson is fatally shot.
This is the little shitball...
...who kills Bronson.
Clint doesn't even get to handle a gun. Now it's great to see Eastwood and Bronson sharing the same (small) screen and flinging verbal barbs at one another, but I must say that, overall, it's not the most satisfying endeavor. I wanted Clint to tell Bronson to "Get off my lawn" and Bronson to say "Chicken's good. I like chicken."
I'm not sure what else to say. More to come.