‘A Fistful of Dollars’ paid off for Clint Eastwood

TCM offers actor's first superstar-making movie Western

Predicting what will change a career often is impossible … and for Clint Eastwood, the turning point came on a break from the television series “Rawhide” when he went to Spain to make another Western, one that would boost his global fame substantially. Turner Classic Movies presents “A Fistful of Dollars” Saturday, July 31, and it’s easy to see how the role of the poncho-wearing man suited Eastwood’s style ideally.

The character gets involved in a power struggle between two families, and while that’s a familiar set-up, the big differences are Eastwood and director Sergio Leone … the latter cementing what became known as the “spaghetti Western.” A success on this level (released in Italy in 1964, but not in America until 1967) demanded a sequel, and TCM presents “For a Few Dollars More” immediately after this.

Other Retro Rewinds:

“Columbo” (MeTV, Sunday, July 25):

The original caper for Peter Falk’s folksy police detective (“Prescription: Murder”) didn’t sell the concept as a series, but this second run at it did. The 1971 mystery boasts an ideal opponent in Lee Grant as a crafty attorney who secretly stages her husband’s kidnapping, then kills him … and Columbo suspects there’s just “one more thing” that’s amiss.  The cast also includes Harold Gould.

“Absence of Malice” (Amazon, streaming):

Director Sydney Pollack’s carefully plotted 1981 journalism drama boasts a superbly understated performance by Paul Newman as a mobster’s son used as a pawn by an overly ambitious prosecutor (Bob Balaban) — as is an eager reporter (Sally Field) who’s duped by the attorney into putting her career on the line by aiding in the scheme. Also worth noting here is the sterling supporting work by Melinda Dillon and Wilford Brimley.

“The Breakfast Club” (Freeform, Wednesday, July 28, and Thursday, July 29):

Ask many people what the seminal movies of the ‘80s are for them, and writer-director John Hughes’ comedy-drama about a diverse group of high-schoolers stuck in detention is likely to be on a lot of those lists. Hughes muse Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall and later “St. Elmo’s Fire” co-stars Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy and Emilio Estevez are hugely affecting as the teens who learn a lot about each other and themselves.

“All in the Family” (getTV, Thursday, July 29):

Fabulous actors abound in “The Bunkers and the Swingers,” with Vincent Gardenia — who would return to the show as a different character, Frank Lorenzo — and later “Golden Girl” Rue McClanahan guest-starring as a couple seeking friends via a magazine ad that the new-acquaintance-craving Edith (Jean Stapleton) spots. She invites them over, only to find them a bit too free-spirited for the comfort of her and Archie (Carroll O’Connor).

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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