Remember Which Country Legend Saved the Day in a Clint Eastwood Movie?
Clint Eastwood's probably best known for his tough-guy role in the Dirty Harry movies, but he had to have a country singer come to his rescue in an unusual film role from 1982.
Eastwood starred as an aspiring country singer in 1982's Honkytonk Man, which he also produced and directed. He plays Red Stovall, an itinerant singer during the Depression era who is suffering from tuberculosis. He's been given a chance to make it big by auditioning for the Grand Ole Opry, and he sets off on a cross-country car trip to Nashville accompanied by his nephew, Whit — played by Eastwood's real-life son, Kyle.
Eastwood's character blows his Opry audition when he dissolves into a coughing fit, but talent scouts for a label decide to arrange a recording session for his song, "Honkytonk Man," realizing that he is dying and does not have long. His tuberculosis threatens to ruin the live recording session, too, until a side guitarist named Smokey steps up to the microphone to fill in Red's lines.
Smokey was played by legendary country singer Marty Robbins, who made his final public appearance in the scene above. Ironically, though Eastwood's character dies at the end of the film, it was Robbins who did not live to see the completed product. The Country Music Hall of Famer had a history of cardiovascular disease, and he suffered his third heart attack on Dec. 2, 1982, and died on Dec, 8, 1982, at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, six days after undergoing a quadruple bypass. He was 57 years old.
Honkytonk Man opened in theaters exactly one week to the day later on Dec. 15, 1982. Robbins scored his final Top 10 hit with his studio rendition of the title song.
Eastwood has had many other ties to country music over the course of his career. He released several singles in the '60s while he was starring on the TV Western Rawhide. Mel Tillis and Eddie Rabbitt scored No. 1 hits from his 1978 movie Every Which Way But Loose with "Coca-Cola Cowboy" and the title song, and in 1980 David Frizzell and Shelly West hit No. 1 when they recorded "You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma" for the Any Which Way You Can soundtrack.
That was the same year he landed his own country hit with Merle Haggard on "Bar Room Buddies," from the soundtrack to Bronco Billy. That song reached No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart in July.
Eastwood also recorded with Ray Charles on a duet titled "Beers to You" from Any Which Way You Can, which reached No. 55 on the Hot Country Songs chart, and he guested on T.G. Sheppard's "Make My Day," which was written around a saying popularized by the actor's "Dirty" Harry Callahan character. He also sang with Randy Travis on "Smokin' the Hive," from Travis' 1990 album Heroes & Friends. Most recently, Toby Keith wrote a new song titled "Don't Let the Old Man In" for Eastwood's newest film, The Mule, which opened on Friday (Dec. 14).
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