The most exciting thing about Frank Sinatra’s 100th Birthday year, besides all the deserved recognition and attention from baby boomers to millennials, is the new information that is rising to the top of the entertainment news stories for everyone to see. One of my favorites involves how the Chairman of the Board was a part of establishing one of the most iconic movie characters of all-time and Clint Eastwood’s most memorable role – “Dirty Harry.”
For Eastwood, the success of “Dirty Harry” was incalculable in the formation of his career – a motion picture career that is thriving today, with a Best Picture nomination for “American Sniper.” He rose to recognition by being successfully cast in westerns like the “Rawhide” television show and the “A Fist Full of Dollars” movies, but no matter how successful you become, gifted actors know to avoid typecasting if they want to remain at the top.
This is where it gets interesting; the role of Harry Callahan was not intended for Eastwood, but Frank Sinatra. In fact, after Frank backed out of the movie, there were a whole slew of other actors that were offered the part, but they all turned it down too. These include, Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum, Steve McQueen, and Paul Newman – not exactly unknowns.
I’m not certain of the real reason Sinatra backed out after the script was prepared specifically for him. He announced his “retirement” in 1971, the year the movie was released, so was this a factor? I read something about a hand injury, which would make sporting that .44 Magnum – a character from the film is its own right – a little difficult, but no-one seems to know for certain.
Nevertheless, look at some of the now-famous quotations from the movie and picture them with Sinatra cool instead; they all work, especially the one that became Eastwood’s signature line: “I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow you head clean off, you've gotta ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?”
I’d say Clint’s been feeling pretty lucky Frank backed out of this role.