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Eastwood and the Land of Enchantment


The actor-director-movie star Clint Eastwood is always good for a quote.

Some of the famous ones are “You just gotta ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well do ya, punk?!” from 1971’s “Dirty Harry,” or “Go ahead, make my day!” from 1983’s “Sudden Impact,” or “Get off my lawn!” from 2009’s “Gran Torino.”

Some of my personal favorites include, “A man’s got to know his limitations,” from 1973’s “Magnum Force,” “It’s a helluva thing, killin’ a man. You take away everything he’s got and everything he’s gonna have,” from 1992’s Oscar-winning “Unforgiven” and, of course, the all-time greatest, from 1983’s “Sudden Impact,” “Nobody, I mean nobody, puts ketchup on a hot dog!”

Before any of those movies, in 1967, when he was still best known for playing ramrod Rowdy Yates on the TV cattle drive Western, “Rawhide,” Eastwood came to Las Cruces.

Fourteen years ago, when I first began working in Las Cruces, my friend Joe Enriquez, who grew up here, showed me one of the locations where Eastwood and crew filmed scenes from the movie “Hang ‘Em High.”

Fifty years after “Hang ‘Em High,” Eastwood returned to the Mesilla Valley to shoot several scenes for his 2018 movie, “The Mule.” The movie had mixed reviews, but I liked it a lot, and it was fun seeing all the recognizable locations, despite the fact they were identified as El Paso.

Eastwood is still directing and acting in movies at age 91, and he must have a favorable opinion of the Land of Enchantment, because he returned yet again.

His latest effort, “Cry Macho,” is out now, and this one was also filmed in New Mexico. Sierra County is as close as they got to Las Cruces this time. There are scenes in Socorro, Sandoval and Bernalillo counties as well.

And then there’s the movie that wasn’t shot in New Mexico, but should have been.

The first time I saw the 1966 Eastwood classic “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” a friend scoffed at the Civil War scenes taking place in the high desert, questioning the authenticity. This was way back when I was in college, and it wasn’t until many years later I learned that, indeed, there were several Civil War battles fought in the high desert, particularly in New Mexico.

Though “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” doesn’t say the name of the place or the battle in the film, most educated guessers believe it’s very loosely based on the Battle of Glorieta Pass, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of New Mexico, between Santa Fe and Pecos, in March 1862.

Those scenes were shot in Spain and directed by an Italian.

I’ve probably seen “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” a dozen times or more, but the most enjoyable was at a Saturday matinee at the Fountain Theatre a few years back. It’s certainly a “guy” film, and I went with some great guys, and we all enjoyed it immensely. When we walked out of the theater onto the Mesilla Plaza, it felt like a time warp, as some of the buildings there are almost as old as the setting of the film. In fact, the property where the Fountain Theatre stands was once Confederate headquarters for the Territory of Arizona.

In his incredibly long and productive career, Eastwood has explored a great variety of topics. The Westerns, of course, and the Dirty Harry films, are iconic. He’s also done films about jazz, stalkers, a punching orangutan, an aging Secret Service agent, an aging baseball scout, racism, World War II (from both a U.S. and Japanese perspective), immigration, a photographer of rural bridges and, basically, whatever he’s wanted.

“The Mule,” and now “Cry Macho,” both include sub-themes about the U.S.-Mexico border, part of the reason he came to New Mexico to film those movies. I have not seen “Cry Macho” yet, but it appears to focus less on border issues and more on the relationship between an old man and a young boy, often good fodder for a movie.

I look forward to watching it and suspect I’ll enjoy the film, as I have most of Eastwood’s work. The movie can also serve as an inspiration to keep doing what you love as long as you can.

You can catch “Cry Macho” at Allen Theatres, at both the Telshor 12 and the Cineport 10, here in Las Cruces through Sept. 30.

Richard Coltharp