Growing up, I had a hero. He wasn’t a sports hero, a superhero or a musician. Nor was he a TV or movie star. He had an unassuming walk, and he seemed quite harmless—that is if you look at him for what he represented. I always thought of him as enterprising. But that’s just me.
I’m talking about the Man with No Name, the character Clint Eastwood portrayed in 1964 that made him an international superstar. What would Wednesday Warriors be if I didn’t feature this taller-than-life character for my weekly series?
Directed by Sergio Leone, A Fistful of Dollars brought to life a character so rich in detail and so vivid in breadth that Leone had to direct two other movies (For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) to solidify the Man with No Name’s legend in the annals of the great American Western.
Known as Joe, Manco and Blondie, based on chronological appearance in the films, Clint Eastwood’s interpretation of a man who happens to wander in the middle of a feud turns into a battle cry for opportunity. The character pits families and armies against each other all in an effort to gain a profit from the animosity created.
Smoking cheap cigars and wearing a Mexican shawl, anyone else would consider him a regular nobody. But his adversaries can’t help but notice how he towers over them at six-foot-four and carries under his shawl a peacemaker called a Smith & Wesson.
In his first gunfight, he asks the local undertaker to prepare three coffins. He then strolls to the center of town challenging a group of hoodlums to apologize to his mule for scaring it with their errant gunfire. They were only teasing. He understands, but you see, the mule didn’t take kindly to the suggestion they were only fooling. Now if they’d apologize, like he knows they would, everything would be fine.
They don’t apologize.
When the Man with No Name passes by the undertaker once more he simply says, “My mistake” and holds up his fingers, “four.”
In the second and third movies, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly being the most popular, the character establishes his gunfighter prowess by eliminating one gang after another with a mission to gain as much gold as he can in the shortest possible time. His nicknames range from The Stranger, The Hunter to The Bounty Killer. However, if you think the character is all rock and no velvet, he does have a soft side. He reunites a little boy with his mother and sends them away, to the chagrin of the local gang who had held the boy for other nefarious intents.
Clint’s character also suffers brutal beatings at the hands of the gangs when he tries to do what he feels is best for everyone in a situation.
What I like most about the character Man with No Name though, is how the strong and silent type became a template for other actors in future films, even up to this day. To the merit of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood, the character typifies that not every situation in life deserves words.
Sometimes, all we need is action.
Have you seen any of the Man with No Name movies starring Cling Eastwood? What do you think of them?