Anation lives by its myths and heroes. Many societiesnhave survived defeat and invasion, even political andneconomic collapse. None has survived the corruption of thenpicture it has of itself. High art and popular art are not inncompetition here. Both may and do help citizens decidenwhat they are and admire. In our age, however, high art hasngiven up speaking to the body of its fellow citizens. Itndevotes itself to technical displays that appeal and can onlynappeal’ to other technicians. The greatest art, high ornpopular, aims at speaking to a whole society. The group maynnot be large in number, but it is felt to be a whole. Aeschylusnwas composing for only a hundred thousand or so Athenianncitizens, while Stephen King writes for millions of people,nbut one was trying to speak to everybody in his city, whilenthe other has a carefully marketed target audience that is andnis viewed as being only a fraction of his nation.nHollywood in the days of the great studios tried to expressna national feeling. This effort collapsed with the decline ofnthe studio system in the 60’s. It is striking how manynwatchable films, along with a few masterpieces, the oldnsystem produced compared with the dated products of then60’s. Yet the 60’s did produce a filmmaker who is committednto films that both work as popular entertainment and speaknto the American people. No real understanding of thenoeuvre of Clint Eastwood is possible unless the viewer seesnthis continuing effort to present America to itselfnEastwood’s famous chipped tooth and limited actingnrange had slowed down his career until he was cast as RowdynYates in the television series Rawhide. Eastwood’s youthfulngood looks and sullen passion won the hearts of thenteenagers who were becoming the majority of the nation innthose years. (The show is still syndicated all over America.)nBased on this success, Eastwood’s agent got him a part in anEuropean movie, a Western directed by an Italian with annItalian villain.nE. Christian Kopff teaches Greek and Latin in Boulder,nColorado.nArms and the Man:nClint Eastwood as Hero and Filmmakernby E. Christian KopfFnA quarter of a century later, that villain, Gian MarianVolonte, is considered one of Italy’s premier actors. Thendirector, Sergio Leone, has just passed away, honored as thencreator of one of the most popular sub-genres in film history,nthe “spaghetti Western.” It is an education to watch Leonengrow with Per un pugno di dollari (1964), hit his stride innPer qualche dollaro in piu (1965) and go on to create IInbuono, il brutto e il cattivo (1967). I have little patience fornhis later, critically acclaimed movies. They resemble nothingnso much as expensive imitations by someone who hasnstudied Sergio Leone movies, but cannot understand whatnmade them work. The original trilogy is slow paced, butntense with excitement, superficially immoral but in factndeeply ethical. Above all, it has Eastwood. The casting wasnas inspired as it was on that distant day when John Ford gotnto direct John Wayne for the first time in Stagecoach. Thenmen and the hour had met.nWhat Leone was doing needed Eastwood’s strengths andncould bypass his weaknesses. There was not much dialogue,nbut Leone needed a strong screen presence that was tough,nthat had a sense of humor and remained sympathetic.nCritics scorned the products and Italian Marxists explainednthat the trilogy and the many successive spin-offs were anChristian Democratic plot to make the Italian people forgetnabout the economic troubles of the end of the EconomicnMiracle of the 50’s. Ordinary people flocked to see themnand Clint Eastwood’s screen persona was born, created bynLeone’s genius and Eastwood’s own squinting charisma.nLeone’s vision of the American West was of a place freednfrom the traditions and constraints of the Old World, opennto incredible cruelty and violence, but saved, after all, by annindividual with a moral center and a sense of humor. Criticsnnoted the violence, horrific by the standards of the earlyn60’s, but forgot that even if virtue was not always rewarded,nhonor and a sense of humor always triumphed over rootlessnevil. Eastwood never forgot what he learned from the Italiannabout pacing and humor, but especially he was struck bynLeone’s vision of the world as the American West.nnnAUGUST 1989/21n