Sondra Locke 05/28/1944-11/03/2018

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Any Which Way You Can SL.jpgRosie.jpgSudden Impact.jpgRatboy.jpgImpulse.jpgDeath in Small Doses.jpgTrading Favors 1997.jpgClean and Narrow.jpgThe Prophets Game.jpgRay Meets Helen.jpgSondra Locke memoir.jpgSondra Locke.jpg

The death has been announced of the actress Sondra Locke, who is forever associated with long-time boyfriend Clint Eastwood, a relationship that complicated her life legally and professionally. When it ended she had a sham development deal at Warners supposedly orchestrated by Eastwood which yielded no work, a catastrophic situation sympathetically described by Patrick McGilligan in his biography of Eastwood. The ensuing lawsuits became ‘good faith’ case law precedents. As well as being a talented and charismatic actor she became a serious and distinctive director, most successfully with her debut, Ratboy (1986), then with Theresa Russell in the thriller Impulse (1990). May she rest in peace.

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Any Which Way You Can (1980)

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You’re fast and you like pain. You eat it like candy. I’ve seen a few cases like that in my time. The more they get hurt, the more dangerous they become. But you got to be durable, too. Real durable. Most ain’t.  Trucker turned underground bare-knuckle prize fighter Philo Beddoe (Clint Eastwood) is about to retire but he is asked by the Mafia to fight East Coast champion Jack Wilson (cult baddie William Smith), who has been crippling opponents in his victories. To get Philo to agree to fight, the Mafia kidnaps his old love, Lynn Halsey-Taylor (Sondra Locke). When Jack finds out, he agrees to help Philo rescue Lynn. Afterward, Philo and Jack decide to fight anyway to settle who is the better brawler… This mix of fighters and singers and mobsters and mothers and monkeys (Clyde the orangutan is back) proves that for Warner Brothers in the Eighties, Eastwood was the moneymaker who could do anything he wanted howsoever he chose. With Ruth Gordon as his mom, Geoffrey Lewis as his brother and a bunch of bikers back from their previous road trip, this either hits your funny bone or it doesn’t. The terrific country songs don’t hurt and Glen Campbell even performs some of them in the best bar ever. Written by Stanford Sherman developing the characters from Every Which Way But Loose by Jeffrey Joe Kronsberg and directed by Buddy Van Horn who used to choreograph Clint’s stunts. And that’s not a euphemism.

Impulse (1990)

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Two of my three favourite actresses (Natalie Wood, Romy Schneider) died aged 43 within 6 months of each other so I was glad Theresa Russell, the third in that triumvirate, made it through 2000 without a scratch. Most of her career to date is renowned for her collaborations with (now ex-) husband Nicolas Roeg, but she also carved out a more mainstream body of work in Hollywood, where she started aged just 17 in The Last Tycoon. Made between Physical Evidence and Whore, she’s Lottie, an undercover vice cop whose streetwalking role leads her into further trouble after a shooting episode and an issue of harassment involving her colleague George Dzundza – which means regular visits to a therapist. She’s falling for DA Jeff Fahey but while undercover trying to entrap a drug smuggler goes to the home of a mob boss who gets shot. She goes from investigator to suspect. Has she been set up? What a rarity this was in 1990 – a film about a woman cop, made by a woman (weirdly, Blue Steel was another one that year). The story by John DeMarco was turned into a screenplay with the action adventure specialist Leigh Chapman (one of those terrific women we hear so little of) and was the second outing as director by Sondra Locke whose longterm relationship with Clint Eastwood hit the skids during production. (Fahey and Dzundza also featured that year in Eastwood’s White Hunter Black Heart, released 6 months later). She and producer Albert S. Ruddy rewrote part of the script. Los Angeles is seen by night and shot by Dean Semler as a neo-noir, amplified in the piano-based score by Michel Colombier. There is notable costume design by Deborah Hopper who has since become Eastwood’s go-to collaborator.  It was practically buried by Warner Bros in their sleazy collusion with Eastwood to destroy Locke’s career. There were two resulting lawsuits  which became mandatory reading for students. You can learn more about that if you must in Patrick McGilligan’s biography of Eastwood but you’ll have to take a shower afterwards. Meanwhile, this is a necessary outing for Theresa completionists and never mind the naysayers.