And so begins what I like to call Clint Eastwood’s Country Music period that cast him in more of a good old boy light with plenty of Grand Ole Opry stars on the soundtrack and a few making cameo appearances. An era that culminated with Clint’s wonderful turn in Honkytonk Man 5 years later.
Beginning with Eddie Rabbitt’s title song over the credits this comedy venture was as far from anything Clint had ever done and proved a winner at the box office as Clint teamed with his stock company of players and Clyde the Orangutan to deliver plenty of laughs and tough guy bravado on screen. Clint is Philo Beddoe, a truck driver by day and a bare knuckle streetfighter in his spare time when money is needed to keep him and his pal Geoffrey Lewis afloat in their towing business. At home he has his best buddy, Clyde and the most cantankerous elderly woman played by foul mouthed Ruth Gordon in a scene stealing performance. Shotgun at her hip and all!
“Hospitable my ass. Get off my porch! “
The only thing Clint’s Philo Beddoe isn’t any good at is in his efforts at finding love. He’s got tacky come on lines that get him no where but when he sees Sondra Locke down at his local Honky Tonk as the opening act for stuttering Mel Tillis he’s in love at first site. For the record, Mel sings one of his signature songs but slightly alters the lyrics. The song is Coca Cola Cowboy. The original line I’m referring to is…. “You’ve got an Eastwood smile and Robert Redford hair.” Mel removed Eastwood and inserted “sexy smile”. I say this of course for us fans of useless trivia in both movies and country music when country music WAS country music. Also included in the film is the Silver Fox, Charlie Rich singing a song at another local bar Clint hits later on in the film and his classic song Behind Closed Doors is used in a funny gag for us fans of Clyde’s shenanigans.
With Locke stringing Clint along and his making enemies with an inept group of aging motorcycle riders known as the Black Widow Spiders, Clint’s crazy adventure/road trip is set to begin. It doesn’t help much when he makes enemies by beating the hell out of off duty police officer Gregory Walcott either who promptly takes his vacation time to pursue Clint across country towards Colorado. The reason? Clint is convinced that Sondra is the one. When she leaves town without saying goodbye after scoring some major dollars from good old Clint, he impulsively takes off with Lewis, Clyde and lovely Beverly D’Angelo playing Lewis’ girl in pursuit of his singing cowgirl and one true love.
I don’t think I’m alone when I confess that I could have cared less about the romantic angle of this laugh out loud effort from Clint and yes that is mainly due to the fact that I have zero interest in Miss Locke on screen. Sorry. The pleasure I take out of this film is because of my child mentality. I love monkeys of all sorts thanks to Johnny Weissmuller and Cheetah in Tarzan flicks and I also subscribe to Clint the tough guy beating the hell out of one character actor after another in a comical slant.
How’s this for character actors who more or less became members of Clint’s stock company over time.
The obvious presence of Geoffrey Lewis combined with John Quade, Bill McKinney, Roy Jenson, Dan Vadis, Greg Walcott (Plan 9), Walter Barnes, James McEachin, William O’Connell, Joyce Jameson and John Ford favorite Hank Worden are all in here and add to the pleasure of this goofy flick. Long time assistant director under Clint, James Fargo helmed this one after turning out the third Dirty Harry flick, The Enforcer keeping it a tight knit Eastwood affair. Most of the above mentioned would return in the follow up, Any Which Way You Can two years down the road.
No it’s not Unforgiven or any other of Clint’s later critical successes with the Academy. What it is though is a fun popcorn movie with everyone getting a chance to steal scenes from the iconic star who more or less plays straight man to Ruth Gordon and Clyde the Orangutan. One you can share with the whole family. Then again perhaps it’s a guy thing. My sons and I laughed like heck again last night after not seeing it since they were much younger while wifey meandered about the kitchen tuning us out.