He rose to international fame with his role as the Man with No Name in Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy of spaghetti Westerns during the 1960’s and as antihero cop Harry Callahan in the five Dirty Harry films throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s. These roles, among others, have made Eastwood an enduring cultural icon of masculinity.
Eastwood’s acting debut was an uncredited bit part as a laboratory assistant in the 1955 film Revenge of the Creature. Over the next three years, he had uncredited bit parts in several other films including Lady Godiva of Coventry, Never Say Goodbye and Escapade in Japan, as well as a small speaking role in Francis in the Navy.
In 1959, he made a guest appearance on Maverick, opposite James Garner, as a cowardly villain intent on marrying a rich girl for money. Eastwood had a small part as an aviator in the French picture Lafayette Escadrille and took on a featured role as an ex-Confederate renegade in Ambush at Cimarron Pass, a film that Eastwood viewed as disastrous and the lowest point of his career.
According to the CBS press release for Rawhide, Universal Studios (then known as Universal-International) was shooting in Fort Ord when an assistant noticed Eastwood and arranged for him to meet the series’ director.According to biographer Richard Schickel, a man named Chuck Hill was instrumental in securing employment for Eastwood at Universal; Hill, who had contacts in Hollywood, managed to sneak Eastwood into one of Universal’s studios, where he showed him to cameraman Irving Glassberg.
Glassberg arranged for Eastwood to have an audition withArthur Lubin who, although impressed with Eastwood’s appearance and 6-foot-4-inch (1.93 m) frame, initially questioned his acting skills, remarking, “He was quite amateurish. He didn’t know which way to turn or which way to go or do anything.”Lubin suggested Eastwood attend drama classes and arranged for his initial contract in April 1954 at $100 per week. After signing, Eastwood was criticized for his stiff manner, his squint, and for hissing his lines through his teeth, a feature that would become a lifelong tradema.rk
He finally received his break in the role of Rowdy Yates for the CBS hour-long western series Rawhide in the summer of 1958, although he was not especially happy with his role. Eastwood, then 28, felt his character Rowdy was too young and cloddish for him to feel comfortable with the part. Rawhide premiered in January 1959 and after its release took only three weeks to reach the top 20 in the TV ratings. Although the series never won an Emmy, it was a considerable success for several years, reaching its peak at number six in the ratings between October 1960 and April 1961. The Rawhide years (1959–65) were some of the most grueling of Eastwood’s career. He often filmed for six days a week at an average of twelve hours a day, yet some directors still criticized him for not working hard enough. By late 1963 Rawhide′s popularity had declined. Lacking freshness in the scripts, it was canceled in the middle of the 1965–66 television season. Eastwood made his first attempt at directing when he filmed several trailers for the show, although he was unable to convince producers to let him direct an episode.
In late 1963, Eastwood’s co-star on Rawhide, Eric Fleming, rejected an offer to star in an Italian-made western called A Fistful of Dollars, to be directed in a remote region of Spain by the then relatively unknown Sergio Leone. Knowing that he could play a cowboy convincingly, Richard Harrison suggested Eastwood, who in turn saw the film as an opportunity to escape from his Rawhide image. He signed a contract for $15,000 in wages for eleven weeks’ work, with a bonus of a Mercedes automobile upon completion. Eastwood later spoke of the transition from a television western to A Fistful of Dollars: “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.” Eastwood was instrumental in creating the Man with No Name character’s distinctive visual style and, although a non-smoker, Leone insisted Eastwood smoke cigars as an essential ingredient of the “mask” he was attempting to create for the loner character