EIGHINGER: Who will follow Duke and Dirty Harry?

Posted: Aug. 5, 2014 6:56 pm Updated: Oct. 28, 2014 10:15 pm

Anyone in my gray-haired age bracket has been lucky, particularly the guys. We've grown up together while not missing a beat when it comes to macho mayhem at the movies.

Think about it. When we were young, John Wayne was who we all admired and wanted to be. I loved Hondo Lane, the Ringo Kid and many of his other iconic heroes. When the Duke began to slow down and some of his on-screen characters became harder and harder to accept, along came Clint Eastwood and his familiar scowl and catch phrases. Dirty Harry and Josey Wales have been with us ever since.

Did you ever think about the similarity of these two actors? The strength of both men was built around their careers in westerns, although both enjoyed parallel successes. For Wayne, it came mostly as a soldier. For Eastwood, a detective.

Based on men's most memorable film lines, I would say Eastwood was a reincarnation of Wayne. Judge for yourself:

Clint Eastwood:

º "... You've got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?" -- "Dirty Harry," 1971.

º "Go ahead, make my day." -- "Sudden Impact," 1983.

º "It's a hell of a thing, killin' a man. You take away everything he's got, and all he's ever gonna have." -- "The Unforgiven," 1992.

º "If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster." -- "The Rookie," 1990.

º "Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn't have messed with? That's me." -- "Gran Torino," 2008.

John Wayne:

º "Well, there are some things a man just can't run away from." -- "Stagecoach," 1939.

º "Sorry don't get it done, Dude." -- "Rio Bravo," 1959.

º "Don't apologize -- it's a sign of weakness." – "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon." 1949.

º "Young fella, if you're looking for trouble I'll accommodate ya." -- "True Grit," 1969.

º "I wouldn't make it a habit of calling me that, son," -- "The Cowboys," 1972.

So who will fill the gap when Eastwood finally calls it a career? Is there an heir apparent?

Oldtimers like Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Denzel Washington, Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson are either past their prime or never really considered in the same breath as Eastwood and Wayne.

And if you're looking for the next Duke or Dirty Harry among today's stars, well ... good luck.

Daniel Craig, the latest James Bond, is great in the 007 action scenes but has zilch personality. Brad Pitt showed potential in "World War Z" and some earlier films, but he lacks the intimidating screen presence of a Wayne or Eastwood.

Tom Cruise? Leonardo DiCaprio? Johnny Depp?

Cruise, like Gibson, lost all credibility long ago because of his off-screen antics. That's a shame, too, because some of his recent roles, such as "Jack Reacher," had legitimate Eastwood-esque potential. But he's had too many box-office bombs in the past decade

DiCaprio isn't believable as an action hero.

Depp's best roles are mostly from the bizarre ("Edward Scissorhands") and hilarious ("Pirates of the Caribbean") nature.

So where does that leave us? Grateful for late-night reruns, classic movie networks, Netflix and DVD collections.

And the realization there may never be another Duke or Dirty Harry.


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