Tony Deyal | Clint Eastwood and the naked gun
There are people who, like me, are in their 70s and yet can still quote some of the classic lines from the old Western movie The Fastest Gun Alive.
In the movie, released on April 12, 1956, former gunslinger George Temple (Glenn Ford) goes into retirement in the little town of Cross Creek and builds a new life as a shopkeeper. One day Temple made the mistake of showing his prowess with a gun and the criminal Vinnie Harold (Broderick Crawford) hears about it and comes calling.
Vinnie is a killer as evidenced in this exchange during a bank robbery. A customer exclaimed, "Vinnie Harold! I thought it was you." Harold cold-bloodedly killed the man and replied with typical Broderick Crawford cool, "Now you can be positive".
Yet even this classic piece of dialogue is not in the class of the menacing first meeting between the two men. Crawford says, "I'm lookin' for Fallon!" and Glenn Ford responds, "You the one I been hearin' about? The one that's been lookin' all over for Fallon?" "That's right," was the terse response. This was met with one that was even more blunt, "I'm Fallon." Later, Fallon says quietly, "Mister, I don't want to fight" and then warns, "But don't push it." Vinnie insists, "Mister Fallon, I'm pushing because I gotta know!"
Gathered in the cheapest seats of the cinema, down in what was called "pit" and with the screen huge and bright above us, we lapped it all up. We all applauded when what we called the "gun talk" was filled with a cool menace that was meat and drink to the true aficionado.
"Dat is man!" we would exclaim, repeating the words and making them even more menacing. Later, there was Marlon Brando in The Godfather with the classic, "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse."
Then Eli Wallach, spaghetti western star extraordinaire in movies like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. He got serious adulation from the pit when he said, "When you have to shoot, shoot and don't talk."
We cheered Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, "You gonna do something, or are you just gonna stand there and bleed?"
Several years before, the first warning shot came from Alan Ladd in the classic Shane, the 1953 movie that blew everyone away, even me, and I was just eight years old at the time. He tells the heroine, "A gun is a tool, Marian; no better or no worse than any other tool: an axe, a shovel or anything. A gun is as good or as bad as the man using it. Remember that."
In Tombstone, one of my favourite Western characters, Doc Holliday, was insulted and jeered at by Billy Clanton who said in mock surprise, "Why, it's the drunk piano player. You're so drunk, you can't hit nothin'. In fact, you're probably seeing double." Clanton drew a knife when he said that and Holliday, taking out a second gun made his point very effectively, "I have two guns, one for each of ya."
Yet even the Doc was no match for the man with no name whose name became a household word. Clint Eastwood. In The Outlaw Josie Wales in 1976, 20 years after Glenn Ford and Broderick Crawford, Eastwood quipped, "Dying ain't much of a living boy." An article on classic westerns makes the point, "This quote best captures the resolve all of Eastwood's Western characters needed in the face of endless and gratuitous violence."
Then in 1985 there was another classic that we seasoned veterans loved. Brian Dennehy as Sheriff Cobb in Silverado spoke the brutal truth, "We'll give you a fair trial, followed by a first-class hanging!"
However, for me, all roads lead back to Eastwood. In Fistful of Dollars (1964) he advises, "The heart, Ramon. Don't forget the heart. Aim for the heart, or you'll never stop me." Almost 20 years later in Sudden Impact, the dialogue heads towards the classic Eastwood line which embeds his character, Harry Callaghan, deep in gun-talk history.
It starts with his threat to robbers in a diner. "Well, we're not just gonna let you walk out of here." The bad-guy had the temerity to ask, "Who's we, sucka?" Callaghan slowly drew his .44 Magnum and clarified, "Smith and Wesson ..." He paused and added, " ... and me." Then came the challenge, a whisper and yet the toughest threat in any movie you will ever hear, "Go ahead, make my day."
This is why the naked "gun-talk" by the most recent star on the Trinidad and Tobago celebrity circuit, former Government Minister of National Security, Gary Griffith, now chosen by the present Government to be Commissioner of Police, cuts no ice with me.
According to a local newspaper, "In a television interview, the former national security minister said some of these people may not fear God. He vowed they will soon know the 'fear of Gary'." In true "bad-man" style, Griffith added, "I am not going to be made a political football or tool. There is not going to be a Gary Griffith sandwich in this at all."
This is certainly not the cool of that other Gary (Cooper) who starred in High Noon and a lot more like Gary Coleman in the comedy Diff'rent Strokes. In terms of dialogue, it does not stand up to Eastwood's, "Girlie, tough ain't enough" in Million Dollar Baby or, as he warned in the 1976 movie, The Enforcer, "She wants to play lumberjack, she's going to have to learn to handle her end of the log."
However, there is an even more relevant and appropriate quote from the Clint Eastwood "gun-talk" diary. Forty-five years ago, in Magnum Force, he gave a pointer to the wannabes in every field. "A good man always knows his limitations". I put it a little bit differently. Talk is cheap (unless you own a cell phone).
- Tony Deyal, in a message to the latest gun-talker on the block, quoted Clint Eastwood who said in Heartbreak Ridge, "With all due respect, sir, you're beginning to bore the hell out of me."