One of my favorite things in all of cinema is the American Film Institute’s list of the most famous phrases in history, this list, to be more exact, contains some of the most quoted, recycled, repurposed, parodied and recognizable phrases spoken. in the last century and a bit of the seventh art. gone With the Wind It is the most present film on the list, but among the dominators there is also a silent and sullen presence, a character that I would even dare to call “the cold-eyed Texan” if it weren’t for the fact that he was born in California. Clint Eastwood, a man of few words and many extremely expressive looks, is despite his low loquacity one of the protagonists of the AFI list, and in particular his Dirty Harry appears twice, with the first and fourth films in the series. dedicated to him.
“Series” is a curious word to use in this context, especially because of the meaning that is usually given to the term in recent years; speaking of dirty Harry With today’s gaze, it would be more correct to speak of a “franchise”, or even a “cineuniverso” -like Marvel, but with fewer superheroes and one more anti-hero, the Anti-hero par excellence, the policeman who distinguishes himself from the people he pursues just to wear a badge. Harry Callahan was the protagonist of five films, released between 1971 and 1988, that explored from all possible angles that thin red line that separates the forces of order from vigilantism; Throughout his life he was called a fascist, violent, the face of right-wing propaganda, and at the same time he carved out a fundamental place in the history of cinema, where he continues to dominate despite all the controversy. Telling the story of Dirty Harry in a few passages is not easy, his figure is complex, multifaceted and has also changed over the years and the movies; I try anyway, because I feel lucky, a newbie.
1- His name is Harold Francis Callahan. His nickname is Dirty, also in a metaphorical sense: in Spanish “Dirty Harry” has been translated as “Dirty Harry”, which sounds more like the name of an anthropomorphic animal from a Disney tale, but this is not the place or the time to discuss these details. It is important not to confuse Harry Callahan with Harry Callahan, an American photographer who died in 1999.
2- He was born in San Francisco on August 3, 1928Although according to Wikipedia he was born in San Francisco on August 3, 1930, and I swear that I cannot find an explanation for this discrepancy. His date of birth tells us, among other things, that Dirty Harry participated at least in World War II, but one of the characteristics of the character is that we know very little about his past, so this information is never explored in depth. .
3- The same happens with his wife: We know she existed, we know she died, run over by a drunk (Harry himself says so in the first movie), but we don’t even know her name, or if they had children (probably not, but we can’t rule it out). A little more information about Harry and his past can be found in the fictional adaptation of the first film, which, however, is quite out of canon and not even very good as a book.
4- Dirty Harry has a father and a mother. Metaphorically speaking, of course. We don’t know anything about Harold Callahan’s real parents, but we do know that the character was invented by husband and wife Harry and Rita Fink, who made their living writing scripts: they wrote Inspector Callahan: The Scorpio Case Is Yours! (Dirty Harry). Both were, in fact, the inventors not only of the character, but of the archetype: that of the disillusioned policeman, in perpetual conflict with his superiors and who has a, shall we say, flexible relationship with the law and civil rights.
5- Dirty Harry also has several partners. Male (first) and female (later): the image we have of Harry Callahan is that of the lonely policeman about to become a vigilante, but in fact in four of the five films in the franchise he is paired with another person (the only exception it is Sudden impact). In two cases (the first movie and the sequel, Harry the strong) is the classic novice partner, the inexperienced partner who will later be the base of thousands of police friends; in another case (Harry the enforcer) Callahan has as a partner first a partner of his level, then a woman, an absolute novelty at the time; and in the last film of the saga, The blacklist, Dirty Harry even works with a reporter from the stormtrooper.
6- Harry Callahan is exclusively Clint Eastwood. No one else has played the part – unless you want to count the NES game’s pixel bin – and, except for remakes that don’t seem to be on the horizon at the moment, no one else will ever. Eastwood himself retired his police officer in 1988, claiming he was too old and did not want to make Harry a parody of himself.
7- Scorpio’s case is yours, but not only yours. Something fun to follow while watching all five movies in the series of dirty Harry It is the evolution of the villain on duty. In the first film the villain in question is the serial killer Scorpio, loosely inspired by the (actually existing) Zodiac killer, the same one who will inspire David Fincher among others for his (beautiful) Zodiac. In the other films, also in response to the one I comment below, the villains are increasingly estranged from reality and exaggerated: we have drug lords, terrorists and, in the case of Sudden impact, a woman who has survived a rape and who is the protagonist of her own rape & personal revenge.
8- So, Dirty Harry is a fascist? This is the question that most American critics asked themselves when the first film was released, and it is also the same question that they will ask three years later when it is released. The city’s vigilante. The answer is complex, because on the one hand there is no doubt that vigilantism and taking justice into their own hands and solving it in their own way bypassing justice and civil rights are not exactly left-wing values. On the other hand, there are, in Harry Callahan and in other characters and films, a not so subtle vein of criticism and controversy, and above all an attempt by the writing team to distance themselves from their actions and frame them in the philosophical question, something like “our character behaves like this because these reasons, you choose if it is good or bad “.
9- The evil destiny has deprived us of a masterpiece. I mean the first version of the script by Inspector Callaghan …, the one written by John Milius and not yet reviewed and adjusted by the production and the director. Milius, who is not even credited as he had worked on the script when the protagonist should have been Frank Sinatra, had imagined a dirty Harry even more absurd and exaggerated, and a series of scenes judged too excessive and therefore cut (among them, one in which a Scorpio armed with a flamethrower hijacks an entire school bus). Milius would rewrite the second film in the franchise, Strong harry…; however, its script was changed and readjusted by Michael Cimino to the point that Milius would disown him, calling the film “the worst I have ever worked on”.
10- What is the most famous phrase of Dirty Harry? Well, the two most famous, more or less tied, are the ones I mentioned at the beginning. Later, if you let me choose which is his best phrase, I vote for the most famous of The blacklist, the fifth and final film in the franchise: “Opinions are like asses; everyone has one.”
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