Clint Eastwood is one of the rarest of Hollywood types – a man with a long and illustrious career both in front of and behind the camera. An actor – and a fine one at that – as well as a movie star. And we're unlikely to ever see his kind again.
Eastwood is also one of the few actors to succesfully make the transition form TV to the big screen. A studio bit-player, he guested on Maverick in the late 1950s before joining the western series Rawhide, where he played Rowdy Yates for seven years. Three "spaghetti westerns" with Sergio Leone saw Hollywood finally take a real interest, and with his iconic role as Dirty Harry in 1971, a megastar was born.
What we have with Clint Eastwood: 35 Films 35 Year, in probably the biggest single-artist box set ever, are all of the films that Eastwood has made at Warner brothers. The collection kicks off with two terrific WWII films – Where Eagles Dare and Kelly's Heroes – before moving on to the character that really made Eastwood's careeer, along with his day: San Francisco cop Dirty Harry Callahan. As you browse through this DVD collection, you see a career in constant motion. Eastwood could quite easily have made a comfortable living just sticking with the westerns and police dramas that made his name, Instead, he liked to mix it up, challenging both himself and the audience. So as well as films like The Enforcer, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Unforgiven and The Dead Pool, there were comedies such as Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can, the country music drama Honkytonk Man, the romantic Bridges of Madison County, action films such as Firefox and biopics like Bird and White Hunter Black Heart. Not every film's a winner, though. For every Magnum Force and Heartbreak Ridge, there's a Rookie or a City Heat. But for my money, Eastwood's made more winners than stinkers.
My favourites? I adore the Dirty Harry films – yes, even Sudden Impact. It's got a cracking script, it just suffers from having a weak actress (Sondra Locke) in the main role. Still, it did give us the classic line: "Go ahead. Make my day." On the western side of things, while the world considers Unforgiven an absolute masterpiece, with which I wholeheartedly agree, my favourite is Pale Rider. It came along at a time when the western genre was almost dead and buried. Once again, Clint plays a character with no name – here is is smply known as The Preacher. It's a classic story, but told well here with a top cast, great characters and plenty of action. Also good (and good fun) are Midnight In The Garden Of Good and Evil, True Crime and Space Cowboys.
In the past decade, we've seen Clint mainly staying behind the camera for top efforts such as Mystic River, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters From Iwo Jima and Invictus. But he was back in front of the lens for the brilliant Gran Torino, which he has said will be his final film as an actor. Let's hope it's not. Because no other actor in Hollywood can snarl quite as well as Eastwood can. In all his films, he's been a man of few words, and I can't remember ever hearing him raise his voice. He's a true one of a kind, and Eastwood's is a life and career worth celebrating.
• Clint Eastwood: 35 Films 35 Years contains: Where Eagles Dare (1968), Kelly's Heroes (1970), Dirty Harry (1971), Magnum Force (1973), The Enforcer (1976), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Absolute Power (1977), The Gauntlet (1977), Every Which Way But Loose (1978), Any Which Way You Can (1980), Bronco Billy (1980), Honkytonk Man (1982), Firefox (1982), Sudden Impact (1983), Tightrope (1984), City Heat (1984), Pale Rider (1985), Heartbreak Ridge (1986), Bird (1988), The Dead Pool (1988), Pink Cadillac (1989), The Rookie (1990), White Hunter Black Heart (1990), Unforgiven (1992), Perfect World (1993), The Bridges of Madison County (1995), Midnight In The Garden Of Good and Evil (1997), True Crime (1999), Space Cowboys (2000), Blood Work (2002), Mystic River (2003), Flags of Our Fathers (2006), Letters From Iwo Jima (2006), Gran Torino (2009) and Invictus (2010), Plus the documentary The Eastwood Factor, narrated by Morgan Freeman.