Leaves Of Grass, A Fistful Of Dollars & Do You Feel Lucky, Punk??
I’ve been doing a series of Birthday Clock Caricatures. It’s a chance to experiment with different Photoshop techniques. I include a clock in the drawing, and use it to highlight career milestones of the people involved. When I discovered that American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) and tough guy actor Clint Eastwood (b. 1930) shared a May 31st birthday, I knew there was a great caricature idea in there somewhere. I was right– here’s the final:
And a detail of Mr. Eastwood, his laundry, and the clock. Eastwood became a star in the Sergio Leone film A Fistful Of Dollars. He wore a poncho which became an essential part of his western bounty hunter image. I decided to add a couple of clothespins, a sock, and a pair of red polka-dot boxer shorts.
Whitman used free verse in his poetry, giving it a new respectability. He is remembered for one work in particular: Leaves of Grass (1855). He paid for the first edition with his own money. He continued to revise and expand the work until his death. The first edition contained 12 poems. The final edition: almost 400 poems.
The title is actually a wonderful pun: at the time, “grass” was a derogatory term used by publishers for works of little value; “leaves” was just another term for the pages in a book. Mr. Whitman clearly had a sense of humor.
Whitman wrote O Captain! My Captain! (1965) as a tribute to President Abraham Lincoln following Lincoln’s assassination. Interestingly, Whitman used a conventional meter and rhyme scheme for this poem, rather than free verse.
I knew very little about Whitman before researching this post. I got quite a shock when I got to the end of Whitman’s Wikipedia entry and read the following:
Whitman also influenced Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, and was the model
for the character of Dracula. Stoker said in his notes that Dracula represented the quintessential male which, to Stoker, was Whitman, with whom he corresponded until Whitman’s death.
There’s no question that Stoker was a Whitman fan. He visited the poet several times, and the two did correspond until Whitman’s death. Here are two photos of Whitman. Is there a vampire lurking in there? Hm. I think I’d take that theory with a grain of garlic… : )
Clint Eastwood trivia: How many people did Clint kill in his first credited film role? Answer: None. He played Jonesy, a sailor, in the comedy Francis In The Navy (1955). Who was Francis? A talking mule. No, I’m not making that up. The human star was Donald O’Connor.
Easy to spot Clint on the left in this still from the movie. Mr. O’Connor is front and center in his shorts. And yes, that’s Martin Milner, of Route 66 and Adam-12 television fame, standing behind O’Connor.
Eastwood became a television star in Rawhide, a western series about an ongoing cattle drive. It ran for seven and a half seasons (1959-66). He capitalized on this success by recording an album of “cowboy favorites” in 1963. It was distributed by a teen label. It includes Tumbling Tumbleweeds, Mexicali Rose, and Don’t Fence Me In. Have I heard
it? Alas, no… : )
In late 1963, during a break shooting Rawhide, Eastwood agreed to star in A Fistful Of Dollars for Italian director Sergio Leone. He played a bounty hunter, the now iconic cigar-smoking Man With No Name. He shot many of the same Italian actor bad guys in two sequels, including the famous The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. An interesting bit of trivia about his character: the cigar was director Leone’s idea; Eastwood is a non-smoker.
Eastwood is also famous for playing trigger-happy San Francisco police inspector Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry (1971) and four sequels. In the original film, Harry dares bad guys to reach for a gun, asking them if they “feel lucky.” In the fourth film, he issues a similar challenge, using the more famous line: “Go ahead, make my day.”
Below left: Eastwood as the nameless bounty hunter in Fistful Of Dollars; right: as Dirty Harry.
What do you think? Can you see “Count” Whitman skulking around in a black cape, biting people on the neck? Do you think Clint should have worn that cute little sailor hat in his Italian westerns? Hope you’ll leave a comment.
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