Sunday, 24 September 2017

The Eiger Sanction Rare photo collection

As part of our Eiger retrospective for September, I thought it would be the ideal time to post these 11 wonderful photos that I’ve had on file for some time. 

The Photo shoot features Clint (and James Fargo as first assistant director) during the filming of The Eiger Sanction in Zurich, Switzerland. The photos were taken by Beat Albrecht during the September of 1974. 

After five weeks on the Eiger, the production unit travelled to Zurich to film the opening scenes of the film around the area of the Grossmünster cathedral and the Limmat river, the Münsterbrücke bridge, the Café Bauschänzli, the Kirchgasse, the Napfgasse, and the Restaurant Karl der Grosse. 

Also included (left), is a rare shot of Clint with the real owners of the Hotel Bellevue des Alpes at Kleine Scheidegg. The Hotel was featured in the movie as the base for Hemlock where he meets the other members of the climbing party. 

Saturday, 23 September 2017

A Film: The Making of The Eiger Sanction

Clint on the cover of mountaineering magazine Alpinist
21-Jul-2017 By Chic Scott, photos and captions by John Cleare
The following article about the making of one of Hollywood's first climbing films originally appeared in the 1975/1976 edition of Ascent. It is republished here as part of our celebration of Ascent’s 50th anniversary. Founded in 1967 by the Yosemite pioneers Allen Steck and Steve Roper and now published by Rock and Ice, Ascent is the compendium of climbing’s timeless stories.

What’s it all about? Where do you lose that youthful dream, that idealism?
Maybe on this page ... Or maybe not. Perhaps I’ll know by the time I reach the end. Rébuffat has written, “Youth, to live, must have some great aspiration. When I was 15 ... I longed so much to become a mountaineer one day, perhaps, a guide!” How long it seems since I read that.

In this era of climbing commercialism, it is a little difficult to retain any integrity. The lure of glistening, distant peaks has been replaced by the lure of gold and silver, and it seems as if no climber can resist. Now Hollywood is in the arena, with the resources to make a Judas of any of us.
For seven weeks during the summer of 1974 I worked on the filming of “The Eiger Sanction.” It was a miserable time. It is over now and I am glad. But the summer lives on in more than memories, and that is what this ... (confession?) is all about.
For most of us mountaineers working on the film, it was our “Fistful of Dollars.” To one who lived on pea soup and porridge in a shepherd’s hut, it was a home for his wife and child. To another it was a log cabin in Wyoming, and to another it was the break into a new life as a professional mountaineer.
For me it was my temptation, my 30 days in the wilderness.
London, spring 1974. Phone rang. "Mr. Eastwood would like you to join him for lunch at Claridge’s." While not a movie buff, I was familiar with Eastwood’s name, and, intrigued, I accepted the invitation. 

Clint Eastwood seemed like a nice guy. He outlined his plans for the summer—shoot a Hollywood film, "The Eiger Sanction." 

But unlike other climbing films that had been shot on sets of fake mountains, Eastwood’s production would be shot on the real Eiger. Eastwood, I thought, was crazy. But when he told me that he’d already signed up Dougal Haston and Norman Dyhrenfurth, two friends I respected, as safety officer and second-unit director, I thought, "Why not?" 

In this photo, Eastwood, playing the art collector/ assassin Dr. Jonathan Hemlock, dangles from a portable tripod about 2,000 feet up the Eiger North Face —John Cleare, 2017

I had qualms about accepting the job. The smiling face of Toni Kurz, and the struggles of Heckmair and the rest were my boyhood treasures; “The White Spider” was my Homerian epic. But who among us can resist the lure of Hollywood, the silver screen, the starlets and the wine—and the money? I justified it by convincing myself that I might be able to get the whole script rewritten ... (In the face of the storm the team pulls together, and espionage and murder are forgotten. Through the Eiger’s most bitter mood, an international team winds through to the top. Friends and heroes, the team descends, and the culprit is found elsewhere—as does happen in the book.) Fat chance.
Juggling greed and idealism, and scared silly of what I might have to do, I made my annual flight east. Two pleasant days were spent scouting the face and rigging. “That scene on the Shattered Pillar would be terrific, and the cameraman could film from the 3.8 km window. The Rote Fluh is steep, too steep for actors, but it’s safe.” I learned a lot and made a fine acquaintance with the mountain. On the third day we started shooting. My first task was a 25-foot leap into space and I balked. A somewhat dramatic scene in the brass-and-leather Scheidegg Hotel bar the night before, and my cover was blown. I spoke my piece. No falls! But, of course, there were others more anxious than I that the show go on, and the gap was filled. Another point was raised that night—how many people would be killed by showing the wrong techniques and attitudes? I won few friends but made my point. That was the last official meeting, and our after-dinners were undisturbed in the future.

Swept by stone fall, the ice fields on the Eigerwand are not places to hang around, and the second-unit director, Norman Dyhrenfurth, from previous experience, pointed us at the perfectly safe north face of the Mathildaspitz, a small peaklet adjacent to the easily accessible Jungfraujoch just west of the Eiger, to which we could ride the train. 

Here we shot the ice-field sequences. As is obvious, Eastwood was no ice climber and is merely changing position—he was filmed only in static close-up while all movement takes were doubled by the elegantly moving Martin Boysen or myself. 

Luckily throughout the shooting here, the incongruous distance of green hills was obscured by constant poor weather.

I was relegated to other duties off camera. And so the film rolled. Two days later, at nightfall, we flew to a cliff high on the Eiger’s west ridge. The body of one of the team hung jackknifed in space, suspended from the anchor rope. My mind could barely register, for it was all too real. There was nothing we could do. His dreams of a Scottish Highland cottage were forever gone. In climbing there are too many scenes that you can’t retake. We had spent two days rigging and shooting the most difficult part of the film: “Stonefall hits climber who is held on rope and then pulled onto ledge. Climber ultimately dies.” All had gone well and the final scene (plastic rocks being dropped from above) had been shot when a real rock did its job. Result: one dead real climber and one bruised cameraman. 
We all know one thing—climbing is very real and Hollywood is fantasy. You can’t forget that and stay alive. I had been standing beside my now-dead friend 20 minutes before it happened and, as I was no longer needed, excused myself and jumared to the waiting helicopter. It was the second-spookiest place I have ever been. They say that the show must go on and it did. After a few days grace and the miraculous appearance of a special $100,000 insurance policy, we were back at it—bivouac scenes, ice climbing, rock climbing, and day-for-night shots with knives flickering in the moonlight as they silently slit ropes (oh, sacred ropes). But the heights of absurdity and black humor had yet to be plumbed, and several days were spent doing the “body-hauling scene.” Bidet, the body, was not real and became a silent companion. The humour was that a rope continually oozed real blood on wet snow. No one ever considered replacing it.
The crux of filming was the Big Fall where everyone dies but Eastwood, and his subsequent rescue a la Toni Kurz. Masterminded by Hamish MacInnes, the famed Scottish mountaineer and "Fox of Glencoe," the scene was shot on the Eiger North Face itself. Winched by chopper into a tiny eyrie overlooking the Rote Fluh on the Eiger’s North Face, we rigged an alloy ladder out into space. We then dropped three kapock-stuffed climbers from the ladder, to freefall some 1,000 feet, hoping first unit’s camera was running in the meadows below the wall. Then it was Eastwood’s turn. No wonder he looks gripped. Haston re-checked the ropes and knots and Eastwood tightened his Whillans harness around his crotch before swinging out to the ladder’s end and lowering some 20 feet into space.
Finally we reached the “body-discovered scene.” The makeup man outdid himself and created a frozen, putrid, and mutilated corpse. We all remember Longhi, Sedlmayer and Mehringer and so, it seems, did the scriptwriter. 
Ironically, someone commented that the movie had lost all contact with reality. Finally, there was the dramatic leap, the three-thousander down the face—the ultimate peel. Even my California cousins balked at this, and so three dummies were enlisted. Footage from cameras thrown over the edge and from several dozen other falls should make a heart- stopping climax. There was some climbing for fillers. The Shattered Pillar was never touched, although it offered, to me, the finest camera angles for climbing. The actors did most of their paces themselves on an assortment of cliffs and boulders. Several more serious moves were recorded with stunt men in “doubling gear,” but they should not consume too much of the public’s time.
So if that’s the film, then what of the people? A mixture and, surprisingly, a pleasant one. The First Assistant Director liked the mountains, hiked with his wife and took some pleasure in learning a little technical climbing. He was always helpful and a joy to be with.
So Eastwood’s character Hemlock is dangling on his climbing rope, but through the magic of Hollywood a rescue party has instantly gotten a line up to him. He must now cut his own rope, plunge into space and (more magic) be swung into the Gallery Window on the rescuers’ line. Hanging in space on his taut climbing rope, Eastwood took in the rescue line with enough slack to plunge out of shot, sagged back into fallen-climber mode, ordered, "Action!" and cut the rope suspending him. A strangulated scream followed. The slack rope jerked taut. The ladder shook violently. Eastwood bounced in space 30 feet below us. "Arr ye olright, Clint?" shouted MacInnes. A rather high-pitched answer drifted up: "Say, guys, on which side does the Whillans dress?" Thus, Clint Eastwood earned our great respect. He was a brave man and a true professional, not just a Hollywood dilettante. He ordered a repeat performance just to make sure, but this time with his Whillans harness adjusted very, very carefully. Cut now to the Gallery Window, where Hemlock falls into shot and hangs there awaiting rescue. 
The Chief Cameraman made it 50 feet off the ground for the day- for-night shot and must have discovered more than camera angles. Perhaps it was the sunny weather, the meadows, the cowbells and the light on the Jungfrau, for that night he ecstatically thanked us for the finest day of his life. George Kennedy could not leave Scheidegg soon enough, although he was always most personable. He knew that mountains were for mountaineers, and that he was an actor (a good one, the best in the group). Jean-Pierre Bernard had the roles straight and did a fine job for the cameras. He knew that climbing is for climbers, and every day on the mountain was a test for him. Anyway, who wants to play a cuckolded, middle-aged has-been who gets bonked on the head and then dragged all over the mountain?
Michael Grimm showed the most climbing aptitude and has moved to Austria, where he hikes and skis with his family. Perhaps he is a little too weak on his lines, but climbers never were much for words. And Reiner, 6-foot-5 Reiner. Well, he lives every role he plays, so who knows?
Finally, there’s Clint, .44 Magnum traded for an ice axe. Eastwood, like the character he played, was willing to take his chances with the Eiger. They both lived through it, but not because of their own doing. Perhaps the gods look out for those without consciences, but who try. He’s got a lot more nerve and energy than I have, but I would not trade places. Through it all, the parade of Eiger candidates passed by. Messner and Habeler made their astounding 10-hour ascent. Roskelley and Kopczynski came and went as most, unnoticed. I played on the fringes, vacillating between guilt and despair. In late September the mountain was left to itself, and the party went home.

Who knows what will end up on the cutting-room floor and what will make the screen? It is unlikely, but there may be some taste shown in the editing. One thing is certain—this summer Eastwood will again be the North American idol, and the fellows who climbed the face for real will go unheralded. But perhaps that is the way it should be. And for the future, another film is being discussed. It will be on the life of Gary Hemming. Perhaps if the folks from Hollywood look closely enough into that life and themselves, they may realise why he blew his brains out.

"There comes a time in some movies when sheer spectacle overwhelms any consideration of plot, and Clint Eastwood's 'The Eiger Sanction' is a movie like that," wrote the movie critic Roger Ebert in 1975. 

Indeed, while the story was silly, the movie did well at the box office thanks to the efforts of the real climbers who provided the spectacular camera angles, took the risks and provided Eastwood with advice, which was usually implemented. While we were busy filming, Messner and Habeler zoomed up the 1938 Route in the then-record time of just 10 hours. They could hardly avoid passing our hotel at Kleine Scheidegg on the way down, and of course, they were well entertained. There was great camaraderie up there at Kleine Scheidegg; we all mucked in. The Hollywood boys were delighted to escape from the clutches of the film and actors' unions—all the bit parts were played by technicians or climbers, even by me. The first casualty occurred before we started filming, when the renowned first-unit cameraman, hardly an outdoor type, was rushed down to the hospital with ... surely not altitude sickness? And there he stayed for the duration, though the critics later applauded him for our work.

There was a twist in my own tale when, after the filming wrapped, I tripped on a curb outside our Zurich hotel on the way to the airport and home, and tore a ligament in my knee. Ironically I was insured up to the point of stepping out of the hotel. I had to be wheelchaired to the airplane. —John Cleare, 2017
After “The Eiger Sanction,” Chic Scott continued to climb and guide, notably in the Mount Logan region. In the early 1990s he began writing ski guidebooks, climbing and ski histories, and biographies. He has lectured extensively on mountain themes.
John Cleare continued in photography, lectured around the world, edited a climbing magazine, published 40 books, and made dozens of expeditions on six continents.
Left to right: Eastwood, Reinhold Messner, Heidi Brühl (Mrs. Montaigne), Peter Habeler, Jean-Pierre Bernard (Montaigne), Reiner Schone (Freytag) and Michael Grimm (Meyer). 

The original feature can be found HERE

Friday, 22 September 2017

The Eiger Sanction Summit June 1976 article

Continuing with our September ‘Eiger’ retrospective theme, here is a reproduction of the rare 4 page feature that appeared in the June 1976 edition of Summit magazine. Summit was America's first monthly climbing and mountaineering magazine, published from 1955 to 1989. Whilst I don’t own this particular magazine, the source scans that were originally sent to me were a little rough around the edges and some of the text was a little blurred. However, I have tried to clean the pages up to some degree which has now made most of the text readable. 

Saturday, 16 September 2017

The passing of actor Harry Dean Stanton

It was sad waking up this morning to learn that actor Harry Dean Stanton had died from natural causes at the age of 91. Stanton was something of an understated screen legend. I suppose some would argue with the term 'legend' but to many film fans, Harry Dean Stanton was every bit a screen legend. He was such a solid, charismatic actor, a reliable presence who always brought something special to a movie, more often in a supporting role. Stanton was given his first starring role at the age of 58 in Paris, Texas by Wim Wenders, a film which was awarded the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

He was also widely respected as a musician, His group Harry Dean Stanton and the Repo Men, later simply known as the Harry Dean Stanton Band, often played clubs in and around Los Angeles.  Back in the late 60s, he shared a house in Hollywood with Jack Nicholson, and they partied hard with David Crosby, Mama Cass Elliot and the burgeoning Laurel Canyon rock aristocracy of the time.

Stanton, known for his roles in films like Two-lane blacktop, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, Rancho Deluxe, The Godfather II, Straight Time, Escape from New York, Alien and Cool Hand Luke was born in Kentucky and had a career which spanned more than six decades, and dozens of films. He seemed to have a knack of choosing films which ultimately emerged as cult classics.  

Of course there was also a strong Eastwood connection starting as far back as Rawhide, the TV western for which Stanton made four appearances. 

Arguably, a lot of ‘casual’ film fans may not even be aware that Stanton also appeared in a rather infamous version of A Fistful of Dollars, (above) appearing in a specially filmed prologue for when the film was first aired on American TV. However, most Eastwood fans will remember Stanton as Private Willard (left), one of Kelly's 'heroes' in the classic film of the same name.

More recently, he appeared in the hit HBO show Big Love, and this year's revival of yet another cult classic Twin Peaks.

Thank you for so many great memories

RIP Sir, our thoughts go out to all those who knew him best - 

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Stunning Eiger Sanction poster for the Mendi Film Festival 2014

Some time ago on The Eiger Sanction page, I featured this beautiful poster which was produced for the 2014 Mendi Film Festival in Bilbao. Subsequently, I was very fortunate to link up with founder and director of the festival, Jabier Baraiazarra – who today I’m very happy to call a friend. 

The whole concept behind the poster is an interesting one. The photo originally came to Jabier’s attention through the cover shot of Alpinist magazine issue 41 from winter 2012. The breath taking photo was taken by Hamish MacInnes OBE, a Scottish mountaineer, mountain search and rescuer, author and adviser. 

He has been involved with a number of films, as climber, climbing double and safety officer, which of course included Eastwood’s The Eiger Sanction (1975) and Roland Joffé’s The Mission (1986). The photo was an obvious choice for Jabier who managed to track down and contact MacInnes in order to obtain permission and using it as the prominent image of the 2014 festival.  

The Bilbao Mendi Film Festival has become one of the best mountain and adventure film festivals around the world. The best filmmakers of the genre offer an unprecedented insight into mythical scenarios for mountaineering and adventure from the Alps to Himalaya, to the South Pole, Patagonia, Karakoram mountains, Greenland, the jungles of Mexico, Venezuela, the Andes, Borneo, and the Grand Canyon.
Furthermore, Mendi Film Festival also offers an extensive programme of activities, including the presence of directors and athletes who provide the direct testimony of their experience. It is well worth checking out their site HERE.

On a personal note, I’d like to thank Jabier for his generosity and kindness. I was absolutely thrilled when a tube turned up at the door this week and completely bowled over when I opened it. Thank you so much my friend. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am when people occasionally contribute by sending me a few pieces - which in the past has ranged from a few magazine features from their personal files, a 58lb box of worldwide cuttings or, as on this occasion – a poster. 

Your contributions certainly make all the time and effort put into this site so worthwhile. I am constantly updating pages all over the Archive with everything that is sent to me – it may take some time to cover absolutely everything, but it’s there as a permanent resource as well as for Eastwood fans to simply enjoy.  A BIG thank you to everyone who helps make this site what it is today.        

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Clint arrives on the Venice set of his movie The 15:17 To Paris

Clint Eastwood, 87, looked passionate about his latest project as he arrived on the set of his forthcoming movie, The 15:17 To Paris, in Venice, Italy, on Wednesday.
The widely-publicized film tells the real-life tale of three American heroes who thwarted a terrorist attack on a train in Paris, France, in August 2015 by bravely tackling an AK-wielding gunman.
Child actors will play the trio in flashback scenes as the movie sets out to explore who the men are and what drove them to react they way they did on that fateful day.
Eastwood looked relaxed as he brought the crew to the canal-bound Italian city on Wednesday, wearing light grey slacks and a dark grey polo, with a straw fedora to keep the summer sun off his face.
The octogenarian arrived in style, chartering an iconic water taxi to navigate the submerged streets.
Eastwood seemed happy and relaxed as he chatted to his crew on set as they prepared for another busy day of filming. The first filming day for 'The 15:17 to Paris' took place at Santa Lucia Station in Venice
The Thalys train was en route from Amsterdam to Paris, via Brussels; it is unknown what part of the story Eastwood was filming in Venice.
The film also stars The Office's Jenna Fischer in an as-yet-unspecified role, and Judy Greer, who according to Deadline will play 'an independent and fiercely religious single mother who always has a glass half full type of mindset'.
Eastwood himself met all three men at Spike TV's Guy's Choice awards in June last year, where he presented them with the Heroes Award.
Eastwood was widely praised for his decision to cast the trio in the movie.
Variety reported at the time of casting: 'Eastwood began a wide-ranging search for the actors who would portray the three Americans.
'The studio and Eastwood made their choices but at the 11th hour decided to have Sadler, Skarlatos and Stone portray themselves.'

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

The passing of country legend, Glen Campbell

Country music legend Glen Campbell passed away yesterday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.

One of the giants of country music has died. Glen Campbell passed away yesterday at the age of 81 after a six year battle with Alzheimer’s. His family released this statement: “It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and legendary singer and guitarist, Glen Travis Campbell.”

Although he’ll always be known as a country artist, that’s really selling him short. Glen could do everything. He started as a guitarist who joined the wrecking crew in 1961. They were a group of L.A. session musicians that worked nonstop.

In 1963 alone Glen played on 586 songs. The list of artists he played with through the years included Frank Sinatra, Merle Haggard, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, the Mamas and the Papas, and the Beach Boys. He even toured with the Beach Boys in 1964 when Brian Wilson went on hiatus. Singing is what made him famous. His first hit was “Gentle on my Mind” in 1967. And then the hits kept coming: “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, “Wichita Lineman”, “Galveston”, “Southern Nights”, and “Rhinestone Cowboy”.
He became a TV star in 1969 when he hosted “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour”. He did a little acting too, co-starring with John Wayne in the original “True Grit”, and he played himself in Clint Eastwood’s “Any Which Way You Can”. Campbell also sang the title track to Any Which Way You Can which appeared on the soundtrack album and was also released as a single. The song was a Top-10 hit on the country music charts.
Campbell in Any which way you can (1980)
Glen sold over 45 million records, received 11 Grammys, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. 
Even his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 2011 didn’t stop him. He decided to bring light to the disease by doing interviews, making appearances, and launching his Goodbye Tour. His final studio album, “Adios”, was released in June.

Our thoughts and deepest sympathy go out to his family.

The Clint Eastwood Archive 
Clint with Glen Campbell February 2000 at the AT&T Pro-Am golf tour Pebble Beach from Country Weekly Magazine

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly location reborn in Spain

BBC News published a story today on the Sand Hill Unearthed project which has been made into a full length documentary by our friend, filmmaker Guillermo de Oliveira.  The story was reported by Guy Hedgecoe in Burgos, Spain.

Cédric Biscay dons a poncho and places a cheroot in his mouth. Behind, the hills and rocky escarpments of Burgos, in northern Spain, shimmer in the summer heat. And all around him is a place he had only ever seen before on the movie screen: Sad Hill cemetery, site of the final showdown in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the 1966 western directed by Sergio Leone.
In that scene, the characters played by Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach meet in the cemetery for a three-way duel that will decide who gets to keep the gold buried in one of the graves.
"I feel like I'm in the movie!" says Mr Biscay, who is visiting from Monaco, after wandering around the cemetery and admiring its central paved circle and the hundreds of wooden crosses surrounding it. Nearby are props from the movie's final moments: a noose hanging from a solitary tree.
"This is such an important place for me," he explains. "I've watched the movie four times a year for the last 30 years, so yes, I'm a big fan."

But two years ago, Sad Hill looked nothing like this. There were no crosses to be seen and cows roamed across the site, which looked like just another overgrown, grassy meadow. The cemetery had been created solely for the purposes of the movie, much of which was filmed in this area of Spain. Then Sad Hill was forgotten for nearly five decades.
But in 2014, a group of local people decided to restore the site to its former glory. They called themselves the Sad Hill Cultural Association and after locating the exact cemetery spot, with the help of photographs from the film's final scene, in 2015 they set about the painstaking process of excavating the site.
"At the start it seemed like it was going to be impossible, but bit by bit people from other provinces of Spain, other towns, and even other countries, came to help us rebuild the cemetery and it snowballed," says David Alba, the 35-year-old president of the association. Aficionados could help finance the project by paying €15 (£13; $18) to have their name painted onto one of the wooden crosses.
Mr Alba remembers a key moment early in the excavation.
"We were digging in the ground and we saw that underneath the earth were the original stones of the central circle of the site, the place where all the actors, the director and all the technicians had walked across during the filming," he says. "It was like digging in the ground and finding treasure."
Documenting the entire process was filmmaker Guillermo de Oliveira (Right). He has recently finished filming a documentary, Sad Hill Unearthed, telling the story of the cemetery's restoration. It is due for release later this year. Several celebrity fans of the original western feature in the documentary, such as James Hetfield, the singer of heavy metal band Metallica, and Gremlins director Joe Dante. In addition, there are interviews with some of the key personalities from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly itself, including composer Ennio Morricone and Eastwood, who declared himself delighted that the cemetery had been restored.
The Sad Hill Cultural Association now stages concerts and other events at the cemetery, which is drawing increasing numbers of visitors from Spain and abroad. For many of them it is a chance to see the location of what Oliveira describes as "one of the most important scenes in the whole history of cinema". Leone, he explains, masterfully used the eerie location and Morricone's music to generate several minutes of heart-stopping suspense as Eastwood, Van Cleef and Wallach glared at each other before drawing their guns. Oliveira and his team also tracked down a number of locals who were extras in the western.

For them, and the younger volunteers who have rebuilt the Sad Hill site, the whole exercise has blurred the boundaries between reality and cinema, says Luisa Cowell, producer of the Sad Hill Unearthed documentary.
"Most of the volunteers had seen the film when they were children, with their families, their father or grandfather, so it has marked their lives, it's something that is very special to them," she says.
"So they all went there with the intention of unearthing a piece of something that for them is real - it's not fiction for them anymore, it becomes real," she adds. "And once they unearth it and they find the stones it becomes even more of a reality and they become part of this reality."

Thank You to David Vernall-Downes for sending me this story

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Clint’s debut on UK Video cassette

Intervision's opening video Logo
I was chatting with a few friends last night, reminiscing about the beginning of the Video revolution here in the UK. Naturally the subject got on to Clint, and we were discussing those wonderful big box Warner Home Video releases. It appears that most of us began our collections with one of those releases. I can remember vividly my own first purchase, Dirty Harry. Back then they were in a great large case and we had the pleasure of enjoying the film in a panned and scanned format (oh the joy). 

But I reminded my colleges that Clint’s arrival on VHS / Betamax (and V2000) in the UK actually came courtesy of Intervision video.  

Intervison was one of the earliest VHS labels in the UK. Managed by Mike Tenner and Richard Cooper, the company distributed major film releases (namely those from United Artists) as well as horror films through Alpha Video. The company eventually folded following the rise of major VHS distributors in the UK, but not before they released The Good, the bad and the ugly (UA A B5010) in 1980. I remember the campaign quite well, and the whole TV campaign that ran on UK television. I remember a number of clips contained in that advert alongside The Good, the bad and the ugly, such as Network, Carrie, The Exterminator, Lenny and I think I recall Rollerball.

The packaging came in the shape of a cardboard slip case and the film was of course panned and scanned, which was something of a travesty when it came to Sergio Leone's beautifully crafted vision. I could never recall if these titles could be bought at the time? The sleeve always seem to have ‘rental only’ which probably explains why there are very few of them floating around to purchase. Perhaps some were sold off as ex-rentals once they were worn down to the bone? However, it did prompt me to go and dig out the wonderful cover (front and spines) which I have in my collection. One of the spines is a little worse for wear; remember these were made of card (and it is some 37 years old now). But I did a quick digital restoration on it before presenting it here. It is near impossible to find a good image or a scan of the packaging anywhere on the internet, so I wanted to change that. I suppose it represents a little piece of history in some respects. It was Clint’s first film ever to be available on the new format and could be watched at any given time. It certainly would shape things in respect of how we would come to view movies and arguably signified something of a revolution. 

Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Cowboy Favorites LP and early single recordings

Whilst Clint’s 1963 album is already featured elsewhere on this site, I thought it would be interesting to look at it a little deeper. There have since been numerous CD releases and the album has even come full circle with a vinyl re-release in 2016. I thought it might be a good idea to also look into Clint’s 7” singles that were also released during this early period. I will also look into the different CD issues and weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of what each CD has to offer.
Clint’s music career actually predates the Cowboy Favourites LP for which he is perhaps most famously (or infamously) associated. The story begins in 1961. Clint was already an established household name, due to Rawhide which had been running on the CBS network since January 9th, 1959. It wasn’t unusual for the music industry to try and capitalise on young teen idols of the TV screen. Some young stars were already being drafted into the studios to make recordings; for example, Johnny Crawford of The Rifleman (ABC 1958 – 1963), had five Top-40 hits. There is very little known of Gothic Records, other than they were based in Hollywood,California. 
However, the idea came about largely in order to exploit Clint’s popularity on Rawhide. Clint was hardly a teen; in fact he was 31 years old at the time but still had the boyish good looks that were appealing to the girls. It is unclear how the offer or idea to record presented itself. His financial advisor at the time was Irving Leonard and it’s believed that his talent agency was Mitchell Gertz whom he had signed to in 1957. However it came about, it was presumably ‘green lighted’ by one or both of these gentleman.

Unknown Girl / For all we Know (GOX 005) was released as a 7” 45rpm by Gothic Records in August of 1961 - which suggests it was recorded during the summer break in between the filming of Rawhide. 
Unknown Girl (of my dreams) was a routine ballad written by Darlene Paul who also had a brief singing career with both Atlantic and Capital Records. For All We Know was a popular and established song published in 1934. 

The music was written by J. Fred Coots and the lyric by Sam M. Lewis. Nat "King" Cole had recorded it and used it as a B side to Nature Boy in 1952, as had Nina Simone in 1958. As a Jazz fan, it is entirely possible that Clint was influenced by one or both of these artists’ recording of the song. 

Nevertheless, Clint’s first vinyl cut failed to do very much and it has since been recorded as not reaching the chart. It did however produce a nice picture sleeve and the single cut has become something of a collector’s piece these days. It was also the only recording Clint made for Gothic Records.
Clint’s next piece of vinyl was also in the way of another 7” 45rpm, this time from GNP Crescendo Record Co. GNP was an independent record label founded in 1954 by Gene Norman and continues to operate from Hollywood, California. 
Released in February 1962, Get Yourself another Fool / For You for Me for Evermore (GNP 177X) was produced by Larry Stith, the man responsible for also producing Unknown Girl. 
Get Yourself another Fool was written by Edward W. Mitchell and previously recorded by The Charles Brown Trio in 1949. The original recording is a great bluesy, mellow Jazz number featuring Brown accompanying himself on piano with lyricist Eddie Mitchell on bass and Charles Norris on guitar. It’s a simple, uncomplicated track. Unfortunately, Clint’s version of the song is provided with an upbeat, almost ‘jaunty’ musical backing with added strings. It’s almost as if there is an obligation (on the record company’s part) to provide that old ‘cowboy trail’ rhythm and backing track, they seemingly can’t resist. 
The grey strip that obscured the Gothic Records ID
It was all about exploiting the TV show at any given opportunity. In fact, GNP Crescendo had gone one step further than Gothic Records. In an almost identical picture cover, GNP Crescendo had added the words ‘Star of Rawhide’ to both the sleeve and the record label. Curiously, I do still wonder if Gothic Records were linked with GNP Crescendo or perhaps even a subsidiary. Firstly, Larry Stith acted as producer on both singles, which suggests that both recordings came from the same sessions and secondly, there’s that sleeve? Was it already printed up as Gothic’s next release? Had Gothic Records folded in between Clint’s singles and subsequently picked up by GNP Crescendo? Strangely enough, the strongest evidence seems to appear on the reverse side of the ‘Get Yourself another Fool’ cover. As mentioned above, the reverse of both sleeves are practically identical, except for a rather mysterious dark strip which appears exactly where the words ‘Gothic Records Hollywood, California’ were printed on Clint’s first single (left). 
It seems pretty obvious that this had been designed in order to obscure that identification mark. The single’s B-side "For You, For Me, For Evermore" was a George and Ira Gershwin composition written around 1936 -1937. It was something of a strange choice which probably didn’t help do much for its sales. It has also since been recorded as failing to enter either the U.S. or Canadian charts.
Billboard News September 21st, 1963. Cameo / Parkway studios - Above, Dave Edelman who worked on Cowboy Favorites
The UK picture sleeve single on Cameo / Parkway
During 1962 Clint and GNP Crescendo had parted company. However, another label was waiting to eagerly sign him up. Cameo-Parkway Records were the parent company of Cameo Records and Parkway Records which were both major American Philadelphia-based record labels from 1956 (for Cameo) and 1958 (for Parkway) to 1967. 

In 1962-63, Cameo was running short of star acts, so the label turned to television signing up both Clint and Merv Griffin. Despite the poor history of Clint’s first two singles, Cameo-Parkway must have had a degree of faith in Clint, and there was probably good reason – Rawhide was into another season and continued to be extremely popular. 

A single was recorded (in November and December, 1962) at the Cameo Parkway Studios, Philadelphia and planned for the Christmas Holiday season.

In December 1962 Rowdy / Cowboy Wedding Song (C 240) was released on both sides of the Atlantic. Rowdy was a tailor-made little ditty, an intended theme song for Eastwood's Rawhide character. The song was written by Texan singer Jesse Lee Turner who had scored a top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959 with the novelty song Little Space Girl – but failed to do little else. Cowboy Wedding Song was written by Ben Raleigh and Artie Wayne and was a rather tedious song if truth be known. What remains fascinating about this single, is that most people still believe that Rowdy was the A-side. Yet, on the U.S. version of the 45, it was in fact Cowboy Wedding Song and Rowdy was instead used as the B-side of the single.
Above: The U.S A-side, Cowboy Wedding Song and the U.K. A-side, Rowdy

So what was the confusion? This is probably attributed to the UK single. Yes, it’s a fact; Rowdy was released in the U.K. as the A-side. Moreover, the UK version of the single was also released in a rather nice picture sleeve; I have yet to discover a U.S. picture cover. The U.K. sleeve has always been the prominent image associated with this release and as such, most assume this to be the generic U.S. release. With the vivid black wording of ‘ROWDY’ scrolled across the front, the myth (and misunderstanding) is fully cemented. Regardless of how good the U.K. single looked, the one common denominator remained, neither version failed to enter the chart.
Regardless of the poor single sales, Cameo Parkway went ahead and released ‘Rawhide’s Clint Eastwood sings Cowboy Favourites’ (C-1056) in September 1963. The recording sessions took place on May 13th and 14th 1963 at Fine Recording’s Bayside, Queens Studio in New York. Twelve tracks were selected for the album.

Cowboy Favourites provided exactly what the title suggested, Clint's versions of classic cowboy-style tunes. Clint would undoubtedly be the first to admit that he was not the finest vocalist ever born on the planet, but he was hardly the worst. It was a period in time where plenty of other equally handsome young men (with a ‘limited’ vocal range) were also being pushed and promoted as popular singers. Cameo Parkway was certainly no different and keen to push their new star. Their original album liner notes stated:

The folk songs that truly represents a branch of American culture, is the western cowboy song. Ever since courageous Americans crossed the prairies, western songs have been popular. And there is no better prototype of that ‘cowboy’ than Cameo/ Parkway's recording artist, Clint Eastwood, a ‘native’ westerner and a ‘natural’ performer. ABOUT THE SONGS -- During the long watches of the dark night, as the cowboy rode around the milling herds, he sang colourful ballads and melodies. Alone with just the moon, the stars and the herd, the songs of the cowboy were often plaintiff, sad and emotionally moving. He sang of his home, his girl, his land of dreams and his hopes for tomorrow. In the Cameo recording, Clint Eastwood presents an exciting song picture of the west - as it was. He vividly describes the life of the cowboy...he sings of their dreams, their sorrows and their joys. And, he sings this unique collection of ‘Cowboy Favourites’ with an intimacy and style that marks him as a true show business ‘great.’
On this hi-fi recording, listen to his outstanding performance as he sings: "Bouquet of Roses," "Sierra Nevada," "Don't Fence Me In," and "Are You Satisfied (*co-written by Clint’s Rawhide co-star Sheb Wooley)." Other folk classics equally outstanding are: "Santa Fe Trail," "Last Roundup," "Mexicali Rose," Tumblin' Tumbleweed," and "Twilight on the Trail." Included also are "Searchin' for Somewhere," "I Love You More," and "San Antonio Rose." This album represents a collection of songs closely identified with the spirit of America. Here, then, Cameo/Parkway's talented vocalist Clint Eastwood, and America's most popular "cowboy favourites" an unsurpassed combination that spells ‘entertainment.’
German pressing of Cowboy Favorites
Over the passing decades, the album still manages to retain a certain charm, there’s a real innocence and sentimentality about it, regardless of its cheesy style. After all, it is often such flaws which make it so enjoyable. Later reviewers such as J. Allen have remarked on it as:
Eastwood's soft, somewhat laconic croon might not possess the commanding quality that was de rigueur for the era's country stars, but he never strays off-key, and his style is a kind of cross between legendary cowboy singer Roy Rogers and Dean Martin. Most of the tunes he tackles here were already well-known in hit versions by other artists -- The Sons of the Pioneers' ‘Tumbling Tumbleweeds,’ Bob Wills' ‘San Antonio Rose,’ Gene Autry's ‘Mexicali Rose,’ etc. The loping rhythms, lonesome harmonica, lazy guitar licks, and male backing-vocal choruses are all in keeping with the production conventions of the day for cowboy artists.

Netherlands LP pressing PCP206 released in 1965
Whilst I wouldn’t entirely agree that Clint ‘never strays off-key’ or that his singing style should be shared in the same breath as Dean Martin, I do agree that the production values are in keeping with convention. ‘Cowboy Favourites’ is very much a product of its time and as long as the listener remains mindful of that fact, the easier the listening experience will always be. Cameo Parkway produced a lovely album cover with a nice photo of Clint taken in full Rawhide regalia. The design (from what I’ve seen) is pretty consistent with other editions, with the exception being the German pressing (above). The album didn’t do well in terms of sales, and before long Cameo Parkway reverted back to their more traditional genres including jazz and several albums by Maynard Ferguson and Clark Terry among others. The original vinyl is still a collectable piece, it took me years to eventually track one down and add it to my own collection. However, whilst Cowboy Favourites, in general slipped further into obscurity, time eventually proved to be somewhat favourable in respect of its fate... 
LaserLight Digital was a label owned by the Delta Leisure Group and formed in the 1980s. It was a label which often picked up public-domain material. Nevertheless, it was still something of a surprise when in 2002 the company released a CD titled Clint Eastwood COUNTRY Favourites (21 981). It was really something of an eye opener and certainly unexpected. Aside from a slight change in the title’s wording, it actually contained the entire Cowboy Favourites album – on a digital CD! In addition to this, the CD also contained bonus tracks in the form of  four themes from, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, A Fistful of Dollars and The Man With the Harmonica (from Once upon a time in the West). Unfortunately, they were all rather weak cover versions performed by The Western Sound Orchestra? The cover was also a rather shabby affair, and wasn’t related at all (perhaps for copyright reasons) to the original album concept. Instead we had a tourist type photo of what looks like monument valley with a sidebar film strip featuring three shots of Clint (from Bronco Billy, High Plains Drifter and Pale Rider). Despite its visual flaws, it did however provide a breakthrough in terms of audio, and at last Eastwood collectors could now enjoy listening to it free of any pops or cracks. After the U.S. branch of Delta folded in 2007, LaserLight Digital eventually went into dormancy.
In 2010 the well-respected label Ace records released a new version of Cowboy Favourites (UK and Europe - CDCHM 1269) (in the U.S. - Cameo - C-1056, Collectors' Choice Music - CCM2110). With this release, it was established that the license now belonged to ABKCO, a music publisher and film production company that was founded in 1961 as Allen Klein & Company. Allen Klein was a controversial American business manager specialising in music clients such as Bobby Darin and Sam Cooke and later went on to manage The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.  
This new release also benefited from a complete audio restoration by The Magic Shop & ABKCO Studios in New York, and the results are superb. Unlike the previous LaserLight release, there were also a couple of genuinely relevant bonus tracks, consisting of Clint’s Cameo Parkway single Rowdy and Cowboy wedding song. Furthermore, the CD proudly displayed a beautiful reproduction of the original album artwork. Backed by some fine liner notes by James Ritz, it felt as if Cowboy Favourites had finally arrived with a degree of respectability and style.              
One could easily be forgiven in thinking that this is where the Cowboy Favourites story ends, but there was more to come. In 2010, U.S. label Real Gone Music continued the story. The vinyl LP was once considered a dead format, one which was only cherished by devotees, a niche society of collectors with a passion for hunting down and buying past treasures. 

However, recent times have seen some form of resurgence in the format. Real Gone Music certainly displayed a degree of confidence by re-releasing Cowboy Favourites (RGM-0040) for the first-ever time on 180 gram vinyl. 

The reissue was an identical mono representation of the original 1963 album and contained no extra tracks.
(Left: Back cover of Real Gone Music's vinyl album)
In 2014, Not Now Music based in London, England released another superb 2 CD collection titled, Clint Eastwood & Frankie Laine, The Singing Cowboys (NOT2CD534). At first glance, one might think that this is something of a cheap and cheerful copy, when in fact, it is anything but that. In terms of value for money, and its content, it is arguably the best choice currently available. The two CDs are split between Eastwood and Laine with Clint’s content taking up Disc One (45.09). If you think that the running time looks a little rich for the Cowboy Favourites album, you’d be perfectly correct in your assumption, but for all the right reasons. The wonderful thing about this collection (aside from great audio, excellent packaging and slip case cover), is the bonus material. With the exception of ‘Get yourself another fool’ all of Clint’s single material from this period is included over five bonus tracks. In respects of ‘Get yourself another fool’ it remains something of a mystery. Why include a B-side and omit the A-side? 
Perhaps it’s a simple case of the master recording being damaged or even lost? It’s a great shame the track is not included here as it would of encapsulated Clint’s entire recording history for this period. But of course, there is so much more. The Frankie Laine disc is also a full and enjoyable listen (64.51) especially for the western fan and there is a smooth sense of connectivity. The most important connection of course is the theme to Rawhide which kicks off the CD and will for evermore link both Eastwood and Laine. There’s lots of other great western film and TV hits including Champion the wonder horse (1955), Gunfight at the O.K. Coral (1957), The 3:10 to Yuma (1957) and much more. There is also Laine’s recording of 'Tumbling Tumbleweeds', so you can compare it with that of Clint’s. Although it’s stated in the CD booklet that Eastwood and Laine did not work together, that isn’t exactly true. Laine appeared as Ralph Bartlett in an episode of Rawhide (Incident on the Road to Yesterday) in 1960.  Both men became good friends, which lead to Clint writing the foreword for Laine's 2009 biography, Mr Rhythm: A Tribute to Frankie Laine. The greatest thing about this CD is that it can be picked up for less than £5.00 with free (UK) postage on Ebay, and offers incredibly good value for money.
Finally, and to (perhaps) bring the story of Clint’s Cowboy Favourites full circle, July 1st 2016 saw another release by Real Gone Music – and again, it was back to vinyl. It’s perhaps fitting that this final entry arrives in the format in which it first began its 1963 journey. Real Gone Music’s additional vinyl release could be described as something of a novelty, while to others it’s arguably a rather nice collector’s piece. Cowboy Favourites (RGM-0435) is a very limited edition (300 pressed worldwide) mono reissue in Brown Tobacco coloured vinyl. Whilst it is one that will probably only appeal to the serious record collector or indeed the equally serious Eastwood collector, the word is, it’s already becoming very scarce. In fact, Real Gone Music’s own website already has it listed as sold out.
There is something rather charming about the renewed interest surrounding Cowboy Favourites. Someone actually once described it to me as ‘ear bleedin’ warblin’, but it never fails to make me smile. However one may choose to categorise it, there’s no denying, it continues to evoke and divide opinion. Personally, I’ve always prescribed one simple piece of advice to the prospective listener: Remove your serious face, plant tongue firmly in cheek and press play...

© Darren Allison, The Clint Eastwood Archive 2017

*To avoid any confusion and due to Microsoft’s Word software, Cowboy Favorites (as the original album is titled) is referred in the main body of text as Cowboy Favourites.