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Baker, R. (1999). Deconstructing Dirty Harry: Clint Eastwood's Undoing of the Hollywood Myth of Screen Masculinity. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 80(4):821-824.

(1999). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 80(4):821-824

Deconstructing Dirty Harry: Clint Eastwood's Undoing of the Hollywood Myth of Screen Masculinity

Review by:
Ronald Baker

Play Misty For Me (1971)

Director: Clint Eastwood

Distributor: Universal/Malpaso

Clint Eastwood attained super-star box office status as ‘The Man with No Name’ through Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns in the sixties and Don Siegel films, especially Dirty Harry (1971), in which he played the title part. Eastwood exemplified the prototypical macho male Hollywood hero: cold, refractory, cruel, sadistic, murderous, ferocious and seemingly invulnerable, his callous contempt and abuse extending no less to women than to men. However, in his directorial debut, Play Misty For Me (1971), Eastwood cast himself as a character whose vulnerability contrasted markedly with his iconic screen persona, a portrayal that anticipated themes that recurred ever more poignantly in his subsequent films.

In Misty, Eastwood plays an all-night disc jockey Dave Garver, a philanderer who has jeopardised his relationship with a girlfriend, Tobie (Donna Mills). They have temporarily parted but it is evident that he wishes to rebuild that relationship. A girl regularly requests Erroll Garner's ballad Misty, which he occasionally plays. One night Dave is picked up by Evelyn (Jessica Walter), the girl who likes Misty, in a bar. They agree to a one-night-stand with ‘no strings’. Evelyn turns out to be a morbidly jealous and murderous psychotic. She invades Dave's life with ever-increasing intimidation and violence, including verbal abuse, stalking and humiliation in public. Later she slashes her wrists, tears his house apart, attacks him with a knife, severely injures his maid and murders a policeman investigating the case.

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