Sondra Locke: One Final Insult

As we learned yesterday that actress Sondra Locke had died in November at the age of 74, The Hollywood Reporter decided to send her off with the following headline: “Actress Sondra Locke, Embittered Ex of Clint Eastwood, Dies at 74”. An infuriating way to describe a talent that had just passed away, it was also jaw-droppingly misogynistic in the age of #metoo. The industry magazine changed the headline, but it was one final insult against a woman who had been treated poorly by Clint Eastwood for many years. The clip above shows one of their most famous collaborations from a time when things were better between them, Every Which Way but Loose (1978).

Growing up in Shelbyville, Tennessee, Sondra Locke did some modeling and theater work before winning a talent search that landed her a part in the movie The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968). It was an instant breakthrough, earning her an Oscar nomination; in the clip above, she tries to explain music to a deaf-and-mute Alan Arkin. 

Locke’s first film with Clint Eastwood was The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), where she had a supporting role. That was the beginning of an onscreen relationship that lasted until 1983; their love affair went on for a few more years, but Sudden Impact was their last movie together. Theirs was a mostly lucrative collaboration; Every Which Way but Loose was one of 1978’s biggest hits. Audiences apparently enjoyed their rapport. But the romance ended badly, with Locke dragging both Eastwood and Warner to court for failing to honor previous agreements, including one where she had been guaranteed a deal to direct movies. Instead, she was reportedly kept out of work; the fact that Eastwood and Warner chose to settle the lawsuits out of court suggests that they couldn’t win. 

Locke did get a few movies directed, including her much maligned debut Ratboy (1986) and the thriller Impulse (1990; watch the trailer above), but it’s safe to say that her career never recovered post Eastwood. Evidently, some chose to see her as washed-up and bitter. Others saw a woman being brutally held back by one of the most powerful men in the industry.

Evan Rachel Wood and Frances Fisher (who also dated Eastwood) were two of the Hollywood figures who remembered Sondra Locke on Twitter:

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