Clint Eastwood’s comedic role in “Every Which Way but Loose” showcased his versatility and star power, leading to commercial success despite criticism from critics. The film attempted to have an emotional center through the antics of Clyde the Orangutan and two impactful scenes. Despite being a critical failure, the film became a box office hit, earning over $100 million. Eastwood’s decision to take on a comedic role was a risk that paid off, proving his enduring popularity with audiences. Collider reported
Clint Eastwood’s unexpected venture into comedy with Every Which Way but Loose highlighted his versatility and undeniable star power, ultimately leading to commercial success. Despite facing criticism from reviewers for its lack of depth and silly premise, the film resonated with audiences and became a box office hit. While the movie primarily aimed for comedic effect, it attempted to incorporate emotional elements through the endearing antics of Clyde the Orangutan and two impactful scenes that added depth to the otherwise lighthearted comedy.
In the realm of cinema history, there have been numerous bizarre occurrences, but Clint Eastwood riding alongside an orangutan named Clyde to achieve one of his greatest successes as an actor certainly stands out as one of the most outlandish. How could a man who epitomized the Spaghetti Western genre and embodied masculinity achieve such commercial triumph with a silly comedy? This is a testament to Eastwood’s immeasurable star power and James Fargo’s direction in Every Which Way but Loose, which showcased Eastwood’s ability to captivate audiences in any genre.
In Every Which Way but Loose, Eastwood portrays Philo Beddoe, a truck driver who moonlights as a prizefighter. Initially introduced as a tough and formidable character who will not hesitate to use force, Beddoe’s persona aligns with the typical Eastwood archetype. However, when he is paired with Clyde the Orangutan and his bumbling sidekick, Orville, the film unveils a humorous layer beneath Beddoe’s gruff exterior. Beddoe develops a unique partnership with the ape and exhibits immense patience for the comedic antics of his co-pilot and his nagging mother. Moreover, Beddoe becomes infatuated with Lynn Halsey-Taylor, a seductive country singer, despite her questionable loyalty. When she suddenly disappears, Beddoe embarks on a journey with Clyde and Orville to find her, encountering conflicts with a motorcycle gang and law enforcement along the way.
The film showcases a lighter and comedic side of Eastwood, which may have surprised fans accustomed to his more serious and macho roles. While the slapstick sequences may be considered basic, Eastwood’s willingness to embrace silliness and look foolish speaks volumes about his star power. One particular scene, where Eastwood imitates the primal call of an ape after humiliating two cops, exemplifies his commitment to the role. The reaction from his dedicated fanbase to this unexpected shift in his career trajectory remains ambiguous. Regardless, the film attracted a massive audience, grossing over $100 million at the box office and becoming the second-highest-grossing picture of 1978.
Despite its commercial success, Every Which Way but Loose faced severe criticism from reviewers who condemned its lack of depth and absurd premise. Even before its production, the script had been rejected by major production companies, and Eastwood himself was not the first choice for the lead role. However, Eastwood’s personal affinity for the script and his desire to challenge his established image as an actor propelled him to take on the project. Despite warnings from those around him, Eastwood defied expectations and seized the opportunity to showcase his comedic talents.
Although the film may not be regarded as a cinematic masterpiece, Every Which Way but Loose does attempt to imbue some emotional depth. Clyde the Orangutan’s endearing antics and human-like qualities generate affection from the audience. Additionally, two particular scenes stand out as emotional highlights in this otherwise lighthearted comedy. The climactic fight between Beddoe and Tank Murdoch demonstrates the film’s ethical undertone, as Beddoe showcases his compassion by choosing not to kick his opponent when he is down. This symbolic gesture reflects Beddoe’s transformation from a tough individual to a genuinely good-hearted man. Furthermore, the revelation that Lynn has been using men for personal gain evokes a powerful emotional response, particularly when Beddoe expresses his genuine feelings for her. Sondra Locke’s portrayal of Lynn in this scene is particularly moving, possibly reflecting her real-life relationship with Eastwood during this time.
Every Which Way but Loose may not be remembered as one of Eastwood’s standout films, but it remains a testament to his willingness to take risks and challenge himself as an actor. Despite critical reception, the film’s commercial success paved the way for a sequel, Any Which Way You Can, released in 1980, which received similar critical backlash. While flawed, Every Which Way but Loose serves as a lasting representation of an industry giant stepping out of his comfort zone. Eastwood’s decision to venture into comedy defied expectations and demonstrated the enduring appeal of his star power. Audiences continued to flock to his projects, regardless of the genre, proving that Eastwood’s charisma and talent transcended any preconceived notions..