9 October 2014

The boy has much talent

In October 1954, 24-year-old Clint Eastwood had yet to make his film debut. By then Billy Wilder was already a successful director and not far from casting his next film "The Spirit of St. Louis" (1957) on aviator Charles Lindbergh. Fellow director Arthur Lubin introduced Eastwood to Wilder and suggested him for the Lindbergh part. Whether Wilder had actually considered Eastwood for the part I don't know; in any case, he eventually cast 47-year-old James Stewart to play the 25-year-old Lindbergh. Clint Eastwood would make his film debut a year later with an uncredited role in "Revenge of the Creature", followed by more uncredited and minor roles before finally having his breakthrough with "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964). 

Below you'll find two letters both written in October 1954. The first one was written by Arthur Lubin to Billy Wilder in which he recommended Eastwood for the Lindbergh role ("the boy has much talent, though still undeveloped"). The second one is a handwritten letter from young Clint Eastwood to Billy Wilder. Eastwood was not happy with a test he had done earlier for Universal and, worried that it would diminish his chances for the Lindbergh part, asked Wilder not to use it but invite him for a personal interview instead.

Source: heritage auctions/ image reproduced with permission

Transcript: 

October 20, 1954

Dear Billy Wilder:

Thank you very much for talking with Clint Eastwood to whom I introduced you on your busy set yesterday. Only because of Solly Baiano's enthusiasm for his possibilities for the forthcoming Lindbergh picture did I take of your time and mine to bring him out. Believe me, the boy has much talent, though still undeveloped. I urge you to give him consideration when you are casting. As I will be in England on a picture, the lad can be easily reached by contacting the Casting Department at Universal. 

Much appreciation.

Sincerely,

(signed)
Arthur Lubin

Mr. Billy Wilder
"The Seven Year Itch" Company
Twentieth Century Fox
Beverly Hills, California

left: Billy Wilder; right: Arthur Lubin

Source: heritage auctions/ image reproduced with permission

Transcript

Tuesday, October 26, 1954

Dear Mr. Wilder,

Thank you for taking your time to see me last Tuesday when Mr. Arthur Lubin was kind enough to introduce us on your set. Mr. Solly Baiano of Warner Brothers seemed quite enthusiastic about my possibilities for the Lindbergh role, when he met me here at Universal where I am under contract. 
I was concerned when you mentioned to Mr. Lubin that you would like to see a test. The only one Universal has made was one of those difficult interviews in which I felt I was not very good, even though I was given a contract on the strength of it. When the time comes for casting, I would appreciate so much your letting me talk with you rather than seeing this test, for I have improved in every way since that time. I feel the qualities you might be seeking can better be found in a personal interview.
Again may I thank you and trust I did not take too much of your time. I now look forward to our next meeting.

Respectfully yours,
Clint Eastwood

4020 Arch Drive
North Hollywood 

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