Did Clint Eastwood Really Model His Voice After Marilyn Monroe?

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Clint Eastwood has played so many great characters that listing them all would almost be superfluous. His character in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly isn’t just a great Western hero; he’s the definitive gunslinger that all other Spaghetti Western protagonists are compared to. The law enforcement anti-heroes in the criminal genre were also inspired by Detective Harry Callahan of the Dirty Harry series, who is still popular today. When he made his first few movies, Eastwood put a lot of effort into developing a very specific on-screen image, and it has remained with him throughout his career. While Eastwood has a reputation for keeping many aspects of his work a secret, there has been a lot of discussion online regarding the genesis of his recognizable voice intonations. Clint Eastwood himself clarified the matter, stating that Marilyn Monroe was not the inspiration for his recognizable voice. However, there are parallels throughout their early professional lives.

How Did Clint Eastwood Go From Westerns to Superstardom?

Clint Eastwood began his career with a series of low-budget genre movies at the tail end of the 1950s. However, it wasn’t until 1964 that he first announced himself as a superstar; although Eastwood is thought of as one of the quintessential “American heroes,” his breakout role came thanks to the Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone. Leone cast Eastwood as the enigmatic “Man With No Name” in his 1964 Spaghetti Western A Fistful of Dollars. The film was loosely inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s classic samurai film Yojimbo, and Eastwood embodied the stoic nature of a proud warrior. The eponymous “Man With No Name” barely speaks, but in the rare instances that he does, his voice barely rises above a whisper.

Although Eastwood played the same part in the 1965 sequel For A Few Dollars More, it was the third movie, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, that established his fame. The guy known only as “Blondie” makes stern, commanding comments to his naughty sidekick Tuco (Eli Wallach). Blondie eventually establishes himself as a hero by the end of the novel, despite the fact that his frightening voice initially suggests more nefarious tendencies. Blondie only uses aggression to get rid of bad-hearted folks; he isn’t willing to give up his honor for fame and money. In the film’s legendary final shootout, Blondie kills the merciless assailant known only as “Angel Eyes” (Lee Van Cleef).

The entire “Dollars trilogy” works as well as it does because of how enigmatic Clint Eastwood’s character is. Although it’s loosely suggested that this is the same character at different points in his career, the film lacks any connective tissue that would suggest any serious character development. “The Man With No Name” never speaks openly about what motivates him, or why he’s chosen his line of work. However, his heroic nature is revealed through his actions. In A Fistful of Dollars, he helps to protect a town of innocent Mexican villagers who are caught between two warring smuggler gangs; in A Few Dollars More, he helps defeat a legendary outlaw. It’s his actions, not his words, that show his heroic nature.
The low-level whisper of Eastwood’s voice certainly differentiated him from other Western actors at the time, such as John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and James Stewart. Instead of making comedic quips or making broad gestures, Eastwood seemed to whisper every word, making it critical to listen to everything he said. Eastwood’s breathy voice has invoked many comparisons to another Hollywood icon: Marilyn Monroe. Although Eastwood revealed that he was “never influenced by her,” he nearly got his first major role in Monroe’s 1956 comedy Bus Stop. It was only after losing the chance to star opposite Monroe that Eastwood earned his first few major roles overseas.

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Clint Eastwood and Marilyn Monroe Are More Similar Than You Think

Even if Clint Eastwood didn’t directly model his voice off of Marilyn Monroe, the two stars are much more similar than they may appear. Both Eastwood and Monroe were harshly judged early in their careers because of genre biases. The Western films Eastwood starred in and the romantic comedies that Monroe led weren’t necessarily considered to be “prestigious.” However, the specific timing of jokes in Monroe’s comedy films was not easy to pull off, and she was definitely not given enough credit within her lifetime for how funny she was.

Similar presumptions regarding Eastwood’s work in the Western genre had to be overcome. After establishing himself with “The Man With No Name Trilogy,” Clint Eastwood went on to direct a number of Western movies, including High Plains Drifter, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Pale Rider, Bronco Billy, and The Bridges of Madison County. Despite the fact that these movies each portrayed unique storylines and weren’t mere sequels, Eastwood was sometimes categorized as only producing Westerns. These presumptions neglect the excellent work he produced in other genres; in addition to Bird from 1988, he also directed numerous biopics, crime thrillers, character dramas, and musicals.

The difference between them is that while Monroe was never appreciated within her lifetime (as she tragically died at the age of 36), Eastwood’s brilliance was eventually recognized by the industry at large. His victories for Best Picture and Best Director at the Academy Awards for his 1992 masterpiece Unforgiven served as a “career trophy” for how he had changed the Western genre over the course of his career. Ironically, Eastwood has become even more popular in recent years thanks to his work in other genres; he even won additional Best Picture and Best Director trophies for his 2004 sports drama Million Dollar Baby.
Eastwood and Monroe’s mysterious backgrounds contributed to their appeal. Both Eastwood and Monroe felt like outsiders who didn’t match the stereotype of what a typical “movie star” looked like or sounded like. This wasn’t simply because of their quiet tones. They both gave respect to genres that would have otherwise been viewed as “escapism”; Eastwood demonstrated that Westerns could engage in deeper and more complex subjects, while Monroe demonstrated that romantic comedies could be serious, imaginative, and even perceptive. The fact that Eastwood is still making movies is fortunate for cinephiles, as Monroe’s greatness could only be appreciated in retrospect.

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