Skip to main content

Eastwood's 'Letters from Iwo Jima'

Clint Eastwood has examined the Battle of Iwo Jima from two sides this year. His acclaimed film Flags of Our Fathers followed the stories of the American soldiers who raised the flag in one of World War II's most enduring images. His new movie, Letters from Iwo Jima, explores the perspective of the Japanese soldiers who fought it. The actor once best-known as a western and action star has directed a number of great films, including Unforgiven, Mystic River, and Million Dollar Baby.


Other segments from the episode on January 10, 2007

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 10, 2007: Interview with Clint Eastwood; Review of the dvd set of films "The Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection."


DATE January 10, 2007 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Clint Eastwood discusses directing the movies "Flags
of Our Fathers" and "Letters from Iwo Jima"

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

My guest Clint Eastwood has directed two films about one of the bloodiest
battles of World War II, the battle of Iwo Jima. The first film, "Flags of
Our Fathers," showed the battle from the American point of view and told the
story behind the famous Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of five Marines planting
the flag there. Eastwood's new film, "Letters from Iwo Jima," describes the
battle from the perspective of Japanese soldiers. The Japanese soldiers on
Iwo Jima were told to expect to die there, and most of them did. About 20,000
of the 22,000 Japanese troops on the island were killed in the battle. About
7,000 Americans died there. The Japanese general who was chosen to command
the battle, Tadamichi Kuribayashi, developed a strategy of digging underground
caves through the island, interconnected by about 16 miles of tunnels, so that
when the Americans invaded, they were attacked by soldiers who remained hidden
from view. But the Japanese were outnumbered by the more than 70,000 Marines
who came in over 800 ships. The battle lasted 36 days. "Letters from Iwo
Jima" is on many film critics' 10 best lists, including our critic David
Edelstein, who also included Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers."

Clint Eastwood, welcome back to FRESH AIR. And congratulations on your new
film. Did you know that you wanted to make two films, one from the Japanese
and one from the American point of view, on Iwo Jima? Or was the second film,
the one that was just released, did that occur to you somewheres during the
process of working on the first?

Mr. CLINT EASTWOOD: It occurred during the process. As we were preparing to
do "Flags of Our Fathers," it occurred to me that the general who was the
defender of the island was considered by American generals to be quite clever.
And so I just started getting curious about as to what he was like. And so I
asked a friend in Japan to send any book that were on him. There were no
books in English, but there was a small book about letters that he had written
home when he was an envoy in the United States and Canada in the late '20s and
early '30s. And so he had written home and drawn little pictures for his
daughter and his son to show them what it was like where he was.

And so I thought, `This is an interesting person,' not only the humanity that
he had as a father towards his kids but also the fact that he was learning
English and learning a lot about our culture at that particular time.

GROSS: Is the movie based on letters that he actually wrote during the battle
of Iwo Jima?

Mr. EASTWOOD: Yes. The book actually takes it up through letters that he
later wrote from Iwo Jima, right up until he wasn't heard from anymore. And
then I went through, and we got many articles from magazines and things,
though it is not taught--history of this battle is not taught in Japan, there
was some articles speculating on some of the people who were on the island at
that time. And everything from Olympic champions to regular, you know, the
working men who were sent over there, with the instructions that don't plan on

GROSS: Is it not taught in Japan because the battle was such a defeat for the

Mr. EASTWOOD: I think so. I think after the war, they didn't teach much
about any of the final days of it. A little bit more on Okinawa because there
was a lot of civilian casualties there. But in Iwo, which was the first
Japanese soil that the Marines invaded when they were taking--because
throughout the South Pacific, they were retaking islands that had already been
taken and controlled by Japan. And now this was the first Japanese soil, so
it became a very important battle for them to defend. They were trying to
discourage the Americans from invading the mainland of Japan.

GROSS: You know, as an American watching the movie, you're in a very always
awkward situation. Usually in a war film, the film is told from your
country's point of view, if it's an American movie. And, of course, you're
rooting for the soldiers and you're rooting for them to, you know, vanquish
the other side. But in this film, you become very fond of, you know, some of
the soldiers and leaders, but--not all of them but some of them. And you
don't want them to die. And at the same time, you don't want them to kill the
Americans who they're fighting. So you can't have a conventional war film
response to this movie.

Mr. EASTWOOD: No, absolutely. You're not--it isn't meant to take their side
of the story. It's just meant to show that they were in a very tough position
by being defenders of a cause that hadn't been working. And the Japanese at
that time were under the influence of military complex that was very
aggressive. Had been very aggressive throughout the world, and now they were
on the final defense. And so this is just to show their reaction and what
their people like. But what it boils down to is when mothers are losing their
sons, mothers--whether they're Japanese or American or whatever
nationality--the reaction is always--has the same pathos.

GROSS: Now, you mention that "Letters from Iwo Jima" is loosely based on real
letters from lieutenant general who led the Japanese in the battle, and he's
played in the movie by Ken Watanabe. Did you read those letters yourself?

Mr. EASTWOOD: Well, yeah. I read the ones that were all in the books and
everything we could find, and the family furnished us with quite a bit of
information. All the letters that Ken Watanabe reads back, most of the
information in there is exactly as it was.

GROSS: What struck you most about those letters?

Mr. EASTWOOD: Well, the poignancy of a father writing to his children and to
his wife about being off at war and about doing this job and wishing he could
be with them and wishing he had fixed the kitchen door before leaving and
apologizing for not attending to as many things. Talking to his kids about
their use of grammar in their letters back. And it was just kind of a--it was
the same as any father in any society.

GROSS: It was really interesting to watch how the Japanese military is
portrayed in the film. You know, I think most Americans know that there were,
you know, so-called Kamikaze fighters during World War II who flew planes
right into their target and the pilots basically committed suicide in the
attack. And you portrayed the kind of emphasis on honor and that killing
yourself would be better than surrendering and better in some instances than
retreating, as far as the Japanese military higher-ups were concerned.

There's a scene in the movie--and I hope you don't feel I'm giving too much
away here--but there's a scene in the movie where several of the Japanese
soldiers, knowing that they've lost their end of the battle, consecutively
blow themselves up with hand grenades that they've kept. And it's just a
really kind of shocking and just like disturbing scene to watch them kill
themselves like this. Can you talk a little bit not only about shooting it
but what you had read or heard about this kind of thing happening.

Mr. EASTWOOD: Well, it was quite common philosophy at that particular time
of committing "seppuku" as they call it, or "hara-kiri" as we--but if you
read books, there's a book out called the "Kamikaze Diaries" about--that's in
English. And it kind of--it's letters also, letters back from these young
students who were conscripted into flying, and they picked these young college
students because they figured they give them a cram course in flying where
they were only going to fly one way. So it was--but most of the letters are
quite pathetic because you see there they are writing back and telling their
mothers that they really don't want to be doing this and they really don't
want to die, and they couldn't resist. The chain of command throughout the
Japanese military was very, very strict and very rough, and if you didn't go
along with it, you were in deep trouble.

GROSS: Could you talk a little bit about shooting that scene in which several
of the Japanese soldiers blow themselves up with hand grenades?

Mr. EASTWOOD: Yeah. Well, that actually happened, and we portrayed that,
the results of that, in "Flags of Our Fathers." But in the Mount Suribachi,
there was a point where the Japanese that were stationed in that section of
the island felt that they were overrun, that there was no hope, and so they
just started blowing themselves up. And that's very, very difficult for us to
understand from an American philosophy. But they actually did that and that,
in the book "Flags of Our Fathers," they account for that sequence. They
chronicle that sequence, and it's a kind of an amazing thing. And so in the
other one we showed the actual--we show them leading up to it and how it came
about by a misunderstanding, actually, because General Kuribayashi didn't
believe in all that.

The interesting thing that made me want to tell the story about him was that
he didn't really believe in suicide attacks and banzai attacks and all these
things that were very common for the Japanese soldiers at that time. He
believed that being a dead soldier was not being effective at all, so he was a
very practical guy. And he came up with all the ideas of tunnelling through
the island and connecting tunnels that would make a person be able to get away
and fight another day.

GROSS: The movie starts with the letters of the lieutenant general being dug
up on Iwo Jima in 2005. Were the letters actually buried and dug up later?

Mr. EASTWOOD: Well, there were some letters found there, but whether it was
done in that exact same form, we're not sure. We're speculating because
nobody really knows exactly how General Kuribayashi died. It was speculated
that--there was many stories. One that he died on the island with a PFC in
attendance and committed suicide, and another one that he just disappeared.
But nobody really knows.

The same with Baron Nishi, who was an Olympic equestrian champion in 1932 at
the Olympics in Los Angeles. And nobody knows quite how he died except that
it was speculated, and there has been stories written that he was blinded and
he stayed behind in a cave by himself.

GROSS: My guest is Clint Eastwood. His new film, "Letters from Iwo Jima,"
opens this weekend.

We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Clint Eastwood, and we're
talking about his new movie, "Letters from Iwo Jima," which is a companion to
his film that was released in 2005, "Flags of Our Fathers." "Flags" tells
about the battle of Iwo Jima from the American point of view, the battle and
its aftermath, and "Letters from Iwo Jima" is about the Japanese soldiers in
the battle.

The film opens with shots of Iwo Jima today. Can you describe what it looks
like now and what it felt like to be there knowing the casualties in that

Mr. EASTWOOD: Yeah, it is. It's like visiting any battlefield, going to
Utah or Omaha Beach and Normandy or any of those battles. And you can almost
feel the activity there. The first time you walk out on our Green Beach, the
Americans named it Green Beach, which is right at the foot of Suribachi, and
you walk out there on that deep black sand, and you start thinking about all
of the--looking out there and visualizing an armada coming in of American
ships. It's quite overwhelming. And you think of all the Marine Corps
personnel who suffered casualties on that island. It's an overwhelming

And then the first--we did that the first trip over there. And then, later
on, when you go over there to film and then you film down in the caves where
the hospitals were all built underground in caves and the places where the
troops resided, you wonder how the hell they did it because it's amazing. The
island, there's a lot of geothermal activity, so these caves are immensely,
they're tremendously hot. And so there's just very humid feeling. In fact,
you go into them now, and they don't recommend you stay in there more than 15
or 20 minutes, but these people had to stay in there for days at a time.

GROSS: The cinematography is really--beautiful sounds like the wrong word to
use because we're talking about war here. It's not like it's pretty. But the
mood, the tone of it just seems so right. A lot of the sequences are shot in
something very close to black and white. I think the color is so subdued it
looks almost black and white, although it's very blue-grey more than it is
black-white sometimes. But the explosions are in full color. Would you talk
a little bit about like figuring out what look you wanted the film to have and
how you went about getting it?

Mr. EASTWOOD: Well, the film was shot in color, but I sort of de-saturated.
We de-saturated it down to the point where it didn't look comfortable color.
We didn't--we certainly didn't want the picture to have a technicolor in the
old-fashioned sense, Dorothy and Toto in "The Wizard of Oz" or something. But
we wanted--so we wanted to de-saturate it down to where it looked almost close
to black and white. The colors were very subdued and, of course, explosions
are a little brighter because they're explosions. So it was just a question
of choices that we all made to have it have that look, which gave it the
noncomfortable feeling of war.

GROSS: Because the movie is from a Japanese point of view, the actors in it
are largely Japanese. I mean, there are some Americans portrayed as well.
And the movie is shot in Japanese. The characters speak Japanese and it's
subtitled. So, I don't know, were most of the actors who you cast
English-speaking as well? Were you able to communicate to them in English?

Mr. EASTWOOD: Yeah. There was several of them spoke English, but we also
had interpreters along for the actors that didn't. And the majority of them
did not speak English that well because we brought most of the actors
from--there was a few from Los Angeles and New York, but most of them were
brought over from Tokyo. And we had interpreters but we're all, you know,
emotions are emotions in all languages, and so it wasn't a hard thing to do.
But I didn't feel that the picture should be told in English, have Japanese
people speaking English because that would definitely feel more movie
movie-like. To me they should be speaking Japanese, except in the scenes
where English is the predominant language being used.

GROSS: Did you meet survivors of the battle of Iwo Jima from each side?

Mr. EASTWOOD: Yes. I didn't--not from the Japanese side so much. There's
not too many of them. Out of the 21,000--22,000 men that were stationed on
the island, only 1,000 survived and we're not sure how many of them were
combat folks or whether they were Korean conscripted labor. But there were a
few, very few. And we didn't get to talk to too many of them, though I've
read articles by some of them that are all quite good. But American survivors
I talked to quite a few of them.

GROSS: Is there an image that really helped guide you in making "Flags of Our
Fathers" from those conversations you had with survivors?

Mr. EASTWOOD: Well, yeah, there is. There's one image that is kind of
common, is that most of them that were in combat there, they just never really
spoke about it too much. They would get together and maybe have a Marine
Corps celebrations or Marine Corps organizations, but they wouldn't really get
into the--they didn't--there's not the gung-ho-ness that you'd think there
would be. There was just--it was a tremendous battle. It was intended to be
a three or four-day affair, lasted over a month. And they were pinned down a
good portion of the way. When you see an awful lot of your friends are
wounded and killed, it's not something you forget easily.

GROSS: Have you gotten any reaction yet from Japanese viewers to "Letters
from Iwo Jima"?

Mr. EASTWOOD: Yeah. Well, the film has been out--the film has been out
there for four weeks now, and it's running very, very well, doing tremendous
business in Japan. So the Japanese viewers and Japanese reviewers have been
very kind to the film. And I think they like it from an entertainment
standpoint, but they're liking it historically as well. I think the younger
generation is getting a lot of answers to curiosity about that battle and what
the wartime conditions were for the Japanese soldiers and civilians.

GROSS: What about "Flags of Our Fathers," did that show in Japan?

Mr. EASTWOOD: Yeah. That showed in Japan, too. That ran first, and that
did well there, too. But "Letters," of course, is doing tremendously well

GROSS: Clint Eastwood will be back in the second half of the show. His new
movie "Letters from Iwo Jima" opens this weekend.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.



I'm Terry Gross, back with Clint Eastwood whose new film, "Letters from Iwo
Jima," tells the story of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II from
the perspective of Japanese soldiers. It's a companion to Eastwood's 2006
film, "Flags of our Fathers," which described the battle from the American
perspective and told the story behind the famous photo of five Marines
planting the American flag on Iwo Jima. "Flags of Our Fathers" takes a very
heroic image, the picture of the soldiers planting the flag at Iwo Jima and
looks at what really happened and how much more ambiguous the story is when
you know what really happened. The photo was actually staged after the
original flag was given to a congressman, if I remember correctly, who asked
for it.

Mr. EASTWOOD: Yeah, I think the secretary of Navy asked for it...

GROSS: Is that...

Mr. EASTWOOD: That's...

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. EASTWOOD: much as we can get on i.

GROSS: And then the men in the photo, at least in the telling of the story in
the movie, feel like frauds because the photo was staged and they-- seen as
these great heroic moment but they don't feel like it was a heroic moment.
What spoke to you about this story?

Mr. EASTWOOD: Well, the picture wasn't staged, and that's what makes it so
great is the picture just people matter of factly trying to put up a flag, but
it was a second flag because they had put up one before that was a smaller one
and they decided to exchange, much like you laid out here. But it was
different. They just didn't think too much of it, three out of the six men
who raised the flag in the famous photograph were killed within a week or so
of that incident, including even one of the cameramen, the movie cameraman,
and so they didn't feel heroic. They just felt they were just doing a job,
but all of a sudden, they're brought back and they're being called the heroes,
and they're being treated like tremendous stars and being romanced by
politicians and society in general to go out on these bond tours. So it's a
little tough for them to accept that. It's a big thing to lump on to people
who are 19 or 20 years old and, all of a sudden, be in that kind of commotion.

GROSS: Did you see a lot of World War II films in the '40s and '50s, and did
they have an impact on you?

Mr. EASTWOOD: Yeah. I saw a lot of them when I was growing up but, yeah,
they did have an impact on me. They were exciting as a kid to watch war
movies, and you're always rooting for somebody, mainly our side, and the enemy
was always portrayed as villainous, and our guys were always portrayed as
heroic. But those days are gone. I mean that era was more black and white
with it all, and that isn't the way war is to somebody else, so it's fun to
look at it from different perspectives. But--and those war pictures were
mostly propagandistic. They were--they told--they were selling America as
great, and that's where the audience was and that's where it would always be.

GROSS: Your view of violence in movies has really changed over the years, and
some of your early films were very violent, particularly the Sergio Leone
Westerns, like "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." I mean, those films almost
take a certain pleasure in violence, in film violence? And, you know, the
last few movies that you've made are just--some of them are so much about the
costs of violence, whether it's, you know, in war or on the street. Was there
a turning point in your life where you started to rethink the--rethink film
violence and what you wanted to do with it? I mean, I think of the turning
point in your movies as maybe being "Pale Rider" and "Unforgiven," but in
terms of like what you wanted to do with your gifts when portraying violence

Mr. EASTWOOD: Yeah. I think I've been interested in that probably--I think
it's just a natural maturing of life as at some point you start thinking about
things a little differently, but that's part of the growing-up process, and I
always figured myself, even though I'm in my--senior status right now, I still
consider myself a person who's growing up, so you're always changing or
thinking of things from a different perspective, and you're looking for
stories that think of things from a different perspective. "Unforgiven," you
mentioned, was a man who was haunted by violence, and so we got into that
thing where how it affects you personally and what it does to your soul. And
I think now, in present times, we're looking at World War II, which is easy to
look at, but what that has done--what that did to the souls of those men when
they came back and how some of them had a hard time adjusting to civilian life
after being asked as very young men at an impressionable age to go off and get
involved with violent activity.

GROSS: I'd like to just ask you about your movie "Million-Dollar Baby" in
which you played a boxing coach at a neighborhood gym who reluctantly takes on
a woman boxer and ends up caring for her, like a daughter, and as everybody
knows, some people on the right accused that film of advocating assisted
suicide, and I felt that anybody who had actually seen the film would find it
hard to think of the movie as like promoting assisted suicide, considering the
incredible cost--without getting deep into the plot--the incredible cost that
it has for the person who helps. And I'm wondering what it was like, what the
experience was like for you to find a film being, I think, very misinterpreted
and used for political effect.

Mr. EASTWOOD: You hit on the most important activity when you say, `Have
seen the picture.' If you have seen the picture, you look at it a lot
differently. I certainly don't advocate assisted suicide. I don't believe in
suicide and--or assisting, but I can see where a person might get to that.
Imaginatively-wise you can see how people might get to that position, and this
was an extreme case, but it doesn't mean we were advocating going out and
saying, `OK, this should go on all the time.' You're always telling extreme
cases, but that's what you do when you do a play or a movie. You're always
telling some sort of story with extreme dynamics to it, and this--you take the
story and you take a person who's lost a relationship with his daughter and
has no--and feels terrible about it, and he finds a relationship with a sort
of a surrogate daughter, and then, all of a sudden, tragedy happens and how
does he deal with it? And he doesn't deal with it, and we don't portray the
character--that I was portraying--we don't portray him as a person who goes
off and lives happily ever after. It's--obviously, his soul is ripped for the
rest of his life. But that's the drama of it all, and you're telling an
extreme situation.

GROSS: What did it say to you that your movie was used in the way that it was
to make points that you didn't think it even made, you know, that it became
this kind of talking point?

Mr. EASTWOOD: Well, people interpret things the way they want to interpret
them, and that's--you can't do anything about that. The majority of the
people got the program, and the majority of the people, whether your rightist
or leftist, you don't--you--I don't think anybody feels that different, an
intelligent audience, about it in the long run.

GROSS: My guest is Clint Eastwood. His new film, "Letters from Iwo Jima,"
opens this weekend.

We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Clint Eastwood. Earlier in his career, he starred in a
trilogy of iconic Westerns--"For a Fistful of Dollars," "For a Few Dollars
More" and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.' Each of those Italian films had
scores by Ennio Morricone. Morricone also scored several films Eastwood
directed. Morricone is now considered one of the most important and
influential movie composers of our time. He'll get an honorary Academy Award
this year. Next month, he'll make his first American concert appearance to
conduct his music at Radio City Music Hall and will also give a private
concert at the UN. Before we ask Eastwood about Morricone, here's Morricone's
theme for "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly."

(Soundbite from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly")

GROSS: Your movies with Sergio Leone had scores by Ennio Morricone and at
what point did his music enter into the process for you? Like, take "The
Good, the Bad and the Ugly." At what point did you hear that really incredible
theme that he'd written? Was all of your work done already by the time you
heard it?

Mr. EASTWOOD: Well, the first time I heard it was on "Fistful of Dollars,"
which I had gone off and made during a hiatus of "Rawhide," and I did the
picture in Europe and then came back, and then they were asking me to come
back and do a sequel the following year, and I said, `Well, how about sending
me the first one? Let me see what that looks like. Let's see what we've got'
because I've been reading about how it's doing well on a foreign box office
and everything but I had no idea how it looked. And I came in and, all of a
sudden, this score comes on, and I thought, `Wow, this score is really
unusual.' And unusual is the thing I would say about Ennio Morricone is
that--and I don't know whether it's him or a combination of Sergio Leone, but
Sergio was always very interested in music and he was always interested in the
framing of sound effects and music in films, and Morricone was part of those
three films, "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" and "A Few Dollars More," and
then we used Morricone on "Two Mules for Sister Sara" and "In the Line of
Fire." So over the years, we've spent a lot of time with Morricone's scores.

GROSS: Did looking at yourself on screen with his music behind you give you a
sense that you didn't have before of how music could change the impact that an
image had on the viewer?

Mr. EASTWOOD: Yes. Absolutely. The Leone pictures were very operatic, and
Morricone could go flat-out on those with great trumpet solos and all kinds of
different sounds and stuff, and he's very clever, very innovative for that
particular time especially, and now he's been imitated by many people since

GROSS: If this is too personal, just let me know. You're in your mid-70s now
and obviously still directing great movies. Is getting older--how does
getting older compare to what you expected, say, being in your mid-70s would
be like?

Mr. EASTWOOD: Well, it's a lot better than I thought it would be. I think
that getting older is great if you're constantly learning something, you know,
providing you have good health and all the things that everybody wishes for
but you know more. You can look at things from more perspectives and you've
seen more in life and if you enjoy it properly, it can be a nice experience.
A lot of people joke about it. Henry Bumstead, who was an associate of mine
who just recently passed away in his 90s, he used to always say, `Ah, to be 80
again.' So it's all point of--it all depends on where you're looking from. If
you're 40, you say, `Oh, 30 wouldn't be bad.' Or if you're 80, 70 looks pretty
good. But it's a great learning experience about life, and if you keep it as
a learning experience, then it's always fun.

GROSS: You have such an iconic face because of the movies that you've been
in. I think all of us as we get older we look in the mirror and study how our
face has been changing with age, and you know, some people decide, `Oh, well,
it's changing. I don't want it to change, so I'll get cosmetic surgery or
something.' And if you don't, you examine your face changing and you make of
it if you will. You know, it's interesting or you regret it or, you know,
whatever. What's it been like for you with such an iconic face to watch your
face change with age.

(Soundbite of Clint Eastwood laughing)

GROSS: And to watch it on the large screen, as well as on the mirror, yeah.

Mr. EASTWOOD: I don't think one pays that much attention, you know, because
it's all a gradual process, and you're this way and you look this way at this
point of life. You've--you're this way, you feel this way at this point of
life, whatever it is, and you go on and you enjoy the going on. If you sit
there and worry about it and say, `Well, gee, I'll get cosmetic surgery and
I'll try to look like I did when I was 28,' that ain't going to happen. All
it's going to do is make you look like you're--you have a vanity problem with
it, and it's not going to be pleasant when people come up to you and say,
`Didn't you use to be so-and-so?' And so it's kind of--it would be kind of an
embarrassing moment, so I think people have to just accept things the way they
are and just move on, move on and say that was another phase. Your 30s were
one phase, your 40s were one phase and just keep on going?

GROSS: Is cosmetic surgery a problem for you as a director because so many
actors have had, or are having it done, and you can tell looking at them on a
big screen.

Mr. EASTWOOD: It is a problem, because if you're casting a person in a film
and you say, `OK, I'd like to cast so-and-so in part,' say, well, now you have
to say, `Can you bring them in?' Before you could say, `Well, I know his or
her work because I've seen him in many pictures and so I don't have to see
them. I know how good they are,' but now you say, maybe, `Hmm, well, let me
see how they are today,' because like you say, like you're insinuating here,
that they may not look the same. They come in and they say, `Geez, they're
all cosmetized,' if that's a word, and there you go. That's not the look I
was expecting. That's not what was in my imagination when I thought of
casting that person.

GROSS: Are you already working on another movie?

Mr. EASTWOOD: No, not right at the present time. I'm trying to abstain.

GROSS: Take a little rest?

Mr. EASTWOOD: Just a--yeah, exactly.

GROSS: You probably never expected these two movies to come out as quickly,
you know, as close to each other as they did.

Mr. EASTWOOD: Well, they were both sort of distant companions of one
another, so it was a way of coming out. Yeah.

GROSS: Well, Clint Eastwood, I want to thank you so much for talking with us.

Mr. EASTWOOD: Thank you very much, Terry.

GROSS: Clint Eastwood directed the new film, "Letters from Iwo Jima." It
opens this weekend.

Coming up, Lloyd Schwartz reviews a DVD collection of Rodgers & Hammerstein
musicals. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews DVD
collection of Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals

Among the most popular film musicals of the 1950s and '60s were the ones based
on the most popular Broadway shows of the 1940s and '50s, the long-running
musicals by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Classical music critic
Lloyd Schwartz has some reservations about these musicals, but he says there
are some features on a new 12-disc DVD set that are more than worth the price
of admission.

Mr. LLOYD SCHWARTZ: Richard Rodgers and his first lyricist partner, Lawrence
Hart, created some of the best musical comedies in the history of Broadway,
but when Rodgers was offered the opportunity to do a musical version of a
sentimental folk comedy called "Green Grow the Lilacs," Hart wasn't
interested. So Rodgers began his landmark collaboration with a new partner,
Oscar Hammerstein II, already a Broadway legend in his own right. Originally
called "Away We Go," the musical version of "Green Grow the Lilacs" opened at
the St. James Theatre in New York with a new name, "Oklahoma!" The show was
hailed for its innovations. It opened with a solo song, not a chorus of
dancing girls. It had a dream ballet. It even had a threatened rape. And it
had songs that furthered rather than interrupted the plot. Today, the
cornball Americana of "Oklahoma!" seems more like old-fashioned operetta, not
nearly as sophisticated as the witty satires Rogers wrote with Hart, but its
tuneful songs became instant classics.

(Soundbite from "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top")

Mr. GORDIAN McCRAE: (Singing) "Chicks and geese and ducks better scurry when
I take you out in the surrey, when I take you out in the surrey with the
fringe on top! Watch that fringe and see how it flutters when I drive them
high-steppin' strutters. Nosey folks'll peek thru their shutters and their
eyes will pop! The wheels are yeller, the upholstery's brown. The
dashboard's genuine leather with isinglass curtains you can roll right down in
case there's a change in the weather. Two bright sidelights winkin' and
blinkin' ain't no finer rig I'm a-thinkin'. You can keep your rig if you're
thinkin' 'at I'd keer to swap for that shiny little surrey with the fringe on
the top!"

(End of soundbite)

Mr. SCHWARTZ: Unforgettable tunes and a certain high-minded moralizing
characterized the Rodgers & Hammerstein shows that followed. First was
"Carousel," with its touching love story moved from the Hungary of Ferenc
Molnar's play "Liliom" to the coast of Maine. Then came a series of musical
dramas that confront cross-cultural misunderstandings: the super-romantic
wartime story, "South Pacific"; "The King and I" about a 19th-century
schoolteacher who goes to Thailand; and "Flower Drum Song" about the
Americanization of Asian immigrants in San Francisco. Rodgers' last
collaboration with Hammerstein was "The Sound of Music." The most satisfying
of all their films is probably "The King and I" with excellent performances by
Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner, who won his Oscar for recreating his Broadway
role as the king of Siam.

(Soundbite from "A Puzzlement")

Mr. YUL BRYNNER: (Singing) "When I was a boy, world was better spot. What
was so was so. What was not was not. Now I am a man, world have changed a
lot. Some things nearly so, others nearly not. There are times I almost
think I am not sure of what I absolutely know. Very often find confusion in
conclusion I concluded long ago. In my head are many facts that as a student
I have studied to procure. In my head are many facts of which I wish I were
more certain I was sure."

(Speaks) Is a puzzlement!

(End of soundbite)

Mr. SCHWARTZ: The bland acting in the lead roles of most of the other
Rodgers & Hammerstein films by newcomer Shirley Jones and such Hollywood types
as Gordon McCrae, Mitzi Gaynor and Rossano Brazzi underline the sugary
wholesomeness of the shows themselves. But the secondary players come to the
rescue. Rod Steiger as the menacing Jud and seductively pouty Gloria Grahame
as Ado Annie, the `girl who can't say no' in "Oklahoma!" Juanita Hall
hauntingly recreating her original role of Bloody Mary in "South Pacific." But
the real treasure in the Rodgers & Hammerstein set are the bonus materials.
The "Carousel" DVDs include Fritz Lang's marvelous 1934 French version of
"Liliom," with Charles Boyer in one of his best performances as the tough-guy
carnival barker. And there are extraordinary clips from a landmark tribute to
Rodgers & Hammerstein that was broadcast simultaneously on all the major
television networks in 1954, which featured members of the original Broadway
casts. In "South Pacific," Mary Martin lifts you out of your seat because
she's "in love with a wonderful guy." And who wouldn't melt over Martin and
the great operatic baritone Ezio Pinza singing "Some Enchanted Evening."

(Soundbite from "Some Enchanted Evening")

Ms. MARTIN: (Singing) "Who can explain it, who can tell you why?"

Mr. EZIO PINZA: (Singing) "Fools give you reasons, wise men never try. Some
enchanted evening when you find your true love when you see her call you
across a crowded room. Then fly to her side and make her your own or all
through your life you will dream all alone."

Ms. MARTIN: (Singing) "Once you have found him never let him go."

Mr. PINZA: (Singing) "Once you have found her never let her go."

(Soundbite of applause)

(End of soundbite)

Mr. SCHWARTZ: These Broadway stars have such personality and charm, such
alertness to inflections, the way the music actually embodies what the words
mean. They really make you care about what they're singing. Watching these
clips, more than their generic Hollywood imitations, you really understand why
these shows won America's heart.

GROSS: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of the Boston Phoenix. He
reviewed a new 12-disc box set of Rodgers & Hammerstein films musicals.

(Soundbite of music)


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?


Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR


Daughter of Warhol star looks back on a bohemian childhood in the Chelsea Hotel

Alexandra Auder's mother, Viva, was one of Andy Warhol's muses. Growing up in Warhol's orbit meant Auder's childhood was an unusual one. For several years, Viva, Auder and Auder's younger half-sister, Gaby Hoffmann, lived in the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan. It was was famous for having been home to Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas, Virgil Thomson, and Bob Dylan, among others.


This fake 'Jury Duty' really put James Marsden's improv chops on trial

In the series Jury Duty, a solar contractor named Ronald Gladden has agreed to participate in what he believes is a documentary about the experience of being a juror--but what Ronald doesn't know is that the whole thing is fake.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.
Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue