This crime thriller forever solidified the image of a cop on a mission thanks to its star Clint Eastwood who played Dirty Harry.
Directed by Don Siegel, Dirty Harry is about Harry Callahan, a tough police homicide inspector in San Francisco who has to contend with a psychopath in his city.
Originally written for John Wayne, he turned down the role because he felt the character was a rogue cop and someone who went outside the law. The lead was offered to Frank Sinatra, who was attached to the project, but when the studio changed and the director changed, Sinatra took himself out of the running.
Robert Mitchum, Steve McQueen and Burt Lancaster all turned down the role for different reasons, while when Paul Newman was offered the role he suggested Clint Eastwood. The original character was supposed to be in his mid 50s and the location was NYC, then Seattle, but in the end they rewrote to make it closer to Eastwood’s age of 41 and moved the location to San Francisco after his request.
Eastwood was involved in the final screenplay and pushed for the more aggressive and violent character, feeling it was more true to the original story and what the director Don Siegel wanted.
The film’s story centers around Callahan, who is tracking Scorpio, a psychopath who promises to keep killing people if they don’t pay him. He murders several people and even attacks Callahan and his young partner, but Callahan doesn’t give up and continues to pursue Scorpio through San Francisco.
Made for $4 million, the film debuted in December 1971, and made $36 million at the box office, the fourth most popular film of the year. Eastwood and film came under fire despite good reviews from many critics, for its glorification of violence, victims rights, police brutality and representing an extreme right wing view of the world.
Eastwood’s portrayal of Harry Callahan established the loose canon cop genre – and despite his dedication to doing it his way no matter what, Callahan’s actions drew continued favor from fans, who count this as one of the best cop movies of all time.
My Father was a fan of this film and I remember seeing it with him on video years after release along with the sequels, which were definitely violent almost vigilante style of being a police officer.
Sequels Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact and The Dead Pool were all successes – all thanks to Eastwood and his 44 Magnum.