Clint Eastwood was the antidote to John Wayne’s bucking brass and bluster, a hero something out of America, but not the America schoolbooks like to advertise. Wayne’s most enduring image, said critic Andrew Sarris, is that of the displaced loner vaguely uncomfortable with the very civilization he is helping to establish and preserve. Eastwood’s cowboy had no such compunctions. He rarely sides with the forces of progress anyway, seeking rather for soft-spoken restorative justice, authored with pistola.
Justice is a question central to the great Western flicks, a uniquely American genre despite occasional outsourcing to Italian directors. A classic example is “3:10 to Yuma,” remade in 2007 but showing in its original form, alongside the Eastwood staple “High Plains Drifter,” at the Carolina Theatre this Friday night. Glenn Ford, its Canadian star, strikes a bland contrast to the strutting charisma typical of Western leading men (thus a sort of answer to Wayne and Eastwood both) with an everyman sort of way that made him perfect as a fall-guy in film noir movies.
Ford gave one of his best turns in this Western as a captured bandit being transported to trial across Arizona badlands, with Van Heflin as the valiant deputy who must bring him in safe. The Eastwood pairing is a cynical take on the cowboy hero myth, shot in the early ’70s with the obvious influence of Spaghetti Westerns that helped carve Clint’s image.
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Carolina Theatre, 309 W. Morgan St., Durham
Info: carolinatheatre.org; 919-560-3030
Correspondent Tom Hartwell