Despite a long and prolific acting career that spans over 60 films, Clint Eastwood rarely worked with directors more than once. Only Sergio Leone, Don Siegel, and Ted Post worked with the actor on multiple occasions, with Post earning extra credit for directing "Magnum Force," a sequel to Siegel's "Dirty Harry." The directors in question might also be credited for creating some of Eastwood's most recognizable characters. Siegel and his screenwriters invented Harry Callahan, a tough-as-nails cop who cannot arrest a vicious Zodiac-like serial killer because of the police force's new implementation of Miranda laws. And Leone helped invent the stoic gunfighter often called The Man With No Name in a celebrated trilogy of Westerns in the 1960s.

Both characters are strong, silent types, their faces both etched with a permanent scowl of annoyance. Both are handy with a gun and tend to rely on vigilante justice. Both appear to live — or at least long to live — outside the bounds of ordinary rules, preferring to take care of themselves. Both characters also came to Eastwood at a formative five-year span in his career, bringing the actor into the public eye in a way he hadn't yet been.

And yet, according to Eastwood, the characters couldn't be more different. In the 1999 book "Clint Eastwood: Interviews," edited by Robert E. Kapsis and Kathie Coblentz, interviewer Patrick McGilligan pointed out the characters' similarities to Eastwood. The actor was quick to point out the vital way in which they diverge.

Harry Vs. Blondie

The Man With No Name, incidentally, is named Joe. He is credited as Joe in Leone's "A Fistful of Dollars." In the follow-up, "For a Few Dollars More," Joe is called Manco, and in "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," he is referred to as Blondie. It has been argued that these three characters can potentially be three different men, but it's more generally accepted that they are all the same man who accumulates different nicknames as he drifts through the American West.

Harry Callahan is a cop who is used to shooting perpetrators on-site rather than dragging them into the criminal justice system. His frustrations arise when he is no longer permitted to do that to one of the most dangerous criminals he has ever encountered.

When asked if they are the same types of people, Eastwood differentiated them thus:

"[T]hey're both moved by passions. Dirty Harry is a man who is callous, seemingly hard on the surface. I think the Man with No Name is much more satiric, it plays more on traditions of the West, and breaking the taboos of the West. Dirty Harry had a much more straight mind — he had a job to do that he became emotionally involved with. The only thing similar about them is that you don't know too much about the background of Dirty Harry, although you get a hint of it — you get a hint that he's had a certain personal life."

No Name's mystery, of course, may be the central part of his appeal. He's almost more symbolic than a flesh-and-blood person. Harry, as Eastwood points out, is more of an actual human being.

Humans Vs. Symbols

While Leone's Westerns and Siegel's cop drama come from a similar era, they bear almost opposing aesthetics. Leone is stylish to the point of being expressionistic. In a Leone film, nothing exists unless it's on camera — characters will be startled by the sudden appearance of an assailant, when, practically, they would have been able to see and hear the assailant approach on horseback across a wide prairie. For Leone, filmmaking priorities seem to rest with camera angles and close-ups. Siegel, in contrast, was a very down-to-Earth filmmaker, shooting films in an efficient, straightforward style. The one flourish that both filmmakers could be said to indulge was their careful attention to violence.

Eastwood knew that the Man with No Name couldn't, by his design, develop much as a character. His motivations and emotions had to be necessarily locked inside. Eastwood also revealed that he used to have a background, but it was — quite wisely — cut. He said:

"The Man with No Name — other than in 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' — doesn't develop too much, and you don't know anything about his background at all. That wasn't always true. In the original 'Fistful of Dollars,' we did have a background scene — it was kind of a prelude to the film — but it was better without it."

When it comes to "macho" cinema of the era, one couldn't do much better than "A Fistful of Dollars" or "Dirty Harry." It's amazing to think that Eastwood, even if he hadn't acted in 60 additional films and directed 40 of them besides, would still be a celebrated movie star.

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