The Evolution of Eastwood: PLAY MISTY FOR ME

PLAY MISTY FOR ME (1971)

“I hope Dave likes what he sees when he gets here. Because that’s what he’s taking to Hell with him.” — Evelyn

Eastwood’s second attempt in 1971 to move away from his stereotypical role was his boldest and most revolutionary career-wise: he stepped behind the camera to direct his first feature film.

He had spent more than 17 years in front of the camera (with nearly 8 of those years in feature films). He had actively learned the processes of production and scripting while leaning on the expertise of directors he admired (most prominently Don Siegel) and felt that he was finally ready to tackle the job himself.

As a first feature, Eastwood was very strategic. He did not want an ambitious war film or even a cop drama or western with their necessary attention to production design and detail. Instead, he chose a very simple domestic thriller, with only a handful of characters and familiar locations, and made Play Misty for Me, which is still regarded today as one of the greatest suspense thrillers of the 70s.

The story is of a radio DJ named Dave (Eastwood) who specializes in classic Jazz and receives a call every night from a fan named Evelyn requesting that he “Play ‘Misty’” for her. When Evelyn tracks him down at his favorite local night spot, the two of them have a one-night stand. The very next week, Dave reconnects with his ex-lover and wants to try to pursue something more serious, but Evelyn has become immediately and violently territorial about her affection for him and she will stop at literally nothing to ensure that Dave is hers and hers alone, even if it kills him.

As a suspense thriller, Play Misty for Me is outstanding. More iconic future entries like Fatal Attraction and even Misery owe a great deal to Play Misty for Me’s premise. Eastwood wisely allows the tension to steadily build rather than try to evoke danger from the onset. Evelyn (played to terrifying perfection by Jessica Walter of Arrested Development fame) begins almost endearingly, as though she were little more than a persistent eccentric. But suddenly – jarringly – she displays outbursts of rage or coercive manipulation. Her shifts in behavior and language are not merely shocking to Dave, they’re shocking to us as the audience, timed with a near perfect cadence for maximum effect. And with each new escalating tactic, the stakes and the threat grow ever more dangerous for Dave and for the people he cares about.

It may not have the cinematic flourishes of other thrillers, but for suspense-lovers, it is a triumph. Eastwood not only manages the directorial duties deftly (adopting techniques and style from his friend, Don Siegel, who plays a small role in the film), but he also delivers a highly compelling acting performance as well. He originally wanted the role to go to Steve McQueen, who it is rumored declined the role because of how much stronger Evelyn’s character was than Dave’s. Following McQueen’s decline, Eastwood decided to take on the role himself and he balances both jobs with the ease of a pro.

As with The Beguiled, Eastwood is again playing a rather vulnerable character, not crippled this time but undeniably trapped and held prisoner by a woman with a sadistic and relentlessly possessive mentality. Eastwood’s excellent balance of disgust, fury, and terror display some of his best range yet as a performer. But unlike The Beguiled, Play Misty for Me was a massive success, both financially and with audiences. It revealed that Eastwood was a director of effective economy: that he could handle the various elements of a film set while still delivering a compelling and effective story and an admirable performance. He would eventually handle much more ambitious material both narratively and thematically, but as a starting point for a directorial career, it’s hard not to be extremely impressed with how effective Play Misty for Me is and how well it holds up nearly 50 years later. It’s an exciting and rewarding entry for suspense fans, and a classic film for anyone else.


Reed Lackey is based in Los Angeles, where he writes and podcasts about film and faith. His primary work is featured on the More Than One Lesson website and podcast, as well as his primary podcast, The Fear of God (which examines the intersection between Christianity and the horror genre). Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook to receive updates on his reviews and editorials.

Feelin’ TV: October 30-November 5, 2017

I think that a mark of a good show is its re-watchability. Sometimes I’ll love something the first time, but when I have a chance to watch it over again, I have little to no interest. Some shows, like The Office, Parks and Recreation or 30 Rock for example, are shows that I can watch and enjoy, start to finish, over and over again. Then, there’s the rarest of rare shows that get better every time you watch. I’m talking about Arrested Development.

I watched AD for at least the 5th or 6th time this week and I’m still blown away by it. There are set ups in season one that aren’t paid off until season three. There are gags that run further than any other gags in television history. There are things that make me laugh that I can’t even tell if its intentional or not (is it weird to anyone else that they refer to jelly beans as “candy beans”?) In previous viewings, I’ve been blown away by the intricacy of the story, enamored with the ability of Will Arnett and Jessica Walter to take over every scene they’re in as Gob and Lucile, the awkward existence of Michael Cera as George Michael and the creepy energy of David Cross as Tobias. This time though, I couldn’t stop admiring the straight man, Jason Bateman’s Michael Bluth.

The Bluth’s are wildly un-relatable. They’re rich, oblivious, and as characters, they’re ridiculously broad. I love each and every one of them, but I don’t think I would have been able to put up with them for more than an episode or two without Michael Bluth there to keep the show grounded…sort of. Through 3 seasons and 53 episodes (the Netflix season doesn’t count), whenever the rest of the Bluths threatened to take the show too far over the line into Crazy Town, Michael was there with a look or a perfectly timed quip to bring us right back down to earth. One of the biggest failings in Netflix’s attempt to bring the show back for a season four in my opinion is that Michael was as nuts as the rest of his family, losing its tether to normal people altogether. In a show full of perfectly cast characters, there may have been no one more perfectly suited to the show than Jason Bateman. If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to give it a shot. If you have seen it, watch it again to rediscover its brilliance. Season five is coming in 2015 with a promise of episodes in the vein of seasons 1-3 and less season 4. Here’s hoping that’s the case. Arrested Development is available to stream on Netflix.

Channel Surfing:

  • The Arrowverse had a great week with a crazy fun episode of Supergirl involving Kara and Jonn flying a convertible to Mars, a Legends of Tomorrow that wrapped a tale about Ray Palmer’s childhood into an homage to ET and The Flash introduced Elongated Man into its universe. The best news this week though? MICHAEL EMERSON IS A BAD GUY ON ARROW! His character at this point seems to be the master of manipulation that we saw in Lost’s Ben Linus combined with the tech savy expertise of Person of Interest’s Mr. Finch. There may have been an audible squeal of glee in my living room when he showed up. This has been a stellar season all-around for the Arrowverse, and with Emerson around, it looks like it will continue trending up. The current season of Arrow, Supergirl, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow can be viewed on The CW app.
  • Thursday night NFL football is the worst. The games are always subpar because of the quick turnaround and the matchups are typically pretty lame. The worst part though, is that because of NBC’s commitment to Thursday Night Football, we don’t get to see any new episodes of The Good Place or Great News until the new year. Maybe it’s just sour grapes, but I hate TNF. Well, unless the Chiefs are playing. If you’re like me and you can see The Good Place withdrawals in your future, check out this video taken by Kristen Bell of the rest of the cast finding out about season one’s epic twist (spoilers, obvs).
  • I was remarking to a friend this week that out of all of my friends with kids, I don’t know anyone who has ever had a baby without making it to the hospital first (not counting my slightly crazy friends who have had their kids at home on purpose). But if my calculations are correct, roughly 90% of TV children are born that way. A This Is Us flashback added Randall’s oldest child to that statistic this week. It’s a pretty worn out trope, but overall, it was a strong episode that made me cry so I’ll forgive them for going to that well.
  • Oh, and The Walking Dead was awful. I’m going to need someone to spend some time in the Facebook group telling me why I should still be interested in this show.

That’s all for this week. As always, if there’s anything you’d like me to check out that we haven’t covered, let me know in the comments or in the Facebook group. Happy viewing!


Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. In addition watching as many movies as he can and writing reviews for Feelin’ Film, Jeremy consumes an unhealthy amount of television and writes about it weekly in his Feelin’ TV column.   Follow him on Facebook and Twitter  to be notified when new content is posted.