I came up later on and stayed there awhile. This
was in the ’40s. I always liked Seattle.
CC: In the 55-plus years you’ve worked in
the movie business, what have been the biggest changes you’ve witnessed?
CE: The business has changed a lot.
It’s become much more independent. That
started in the ’60s—people started doing
smaller independent productions. Big studios
were becoming releasing organizations. I grew
up in the ’40s watching Gary Cooper and
[Humphrey] Bogart and [James] Cagney and
Bette Davis, Rita Hayworth. They were all studio players at that time. The directors all made
a lot of movies. When I did a couple of movies
last year, everyone said, “How can you do two
movies in a year?” You know, in the old days,
everybody did that. They’d do two, three, four
sometimes. They didn’t play around; they did
them and moved on, came back and finished
CC: You were part of the studio contract-player system, but by the time you landed the
TV series Rawhide, hadn’t that all changed?
CE: It had changed quite a bit, and
Universal, who I was a contract player with in
the early ’50s, didn’t even allow television to be
thought about. MGM in those days would not
even allow a television set on the lot. Everybody
was kind of putting their heads in the sand. But
I got out and bounced around in television, and
got that series. That was a way to get going,
and the next thing was to transition into the-ater-exhibited films. There was sort of a prejudice against TV actors, but fortunately I got
those three [Sergio] Leone pictures. Those
[films] made the cross for me: I came in from
a different direction.
CC: I recall you didn’t earn much money
for your first spaghetti Western, A Fistful of
CE: It wasn’t bad. It was a job, and I had
never been to Europe before. I was a big fan of
[the Akira Kurosawa film] Yojimbo, and I recognized the material as being based on Yojimbo.
I’d never been to Italy or Spain or Germany, the
three producing countries.
CC: Were that movie and For a Few Dollars
More made while you were still doing the
CE: Yes, when we were on hiatus. We
would shut down in May and return to work in
September. I did the first film and came back to
work and forgot about it. Then, the next year, I
did For a Few Dollars More. For the third film,
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Rawhide had
ended, so I was free and clear.
CC: Your next move was to start your own
production company, Malpaso. What inspired
you to do that?
CE: I wasn’t tied in with anybody, and I had
the three Italian-made Westerns behind me.
People were coming around to get me to do
films ... United Artists and Universal. I just
thought I might as well form a company and
control this thing a little bit myself. That started
things off, and I signed a deal with Universal to
do so many pictures with them through the
end of the ’60s and into the ’70s, but not exclusively. I had no exclusive deals after that.
My attorney was one of the guys who took
over at Warner Bros. and he was trying to get me
to come over there. I did Dirty Harry (1971), which
was the transition to working at Warners and
Universal, and I finally moved over to Warners in
1976. It’s been a home ever since, but I’ve still
done pictures for other companies.
EVERETT COLLECTION WARNER BROTHERS/COURTESY EVERETT COLLECTION
CC: Was the first Malpaso production Hang
’Em High (1968)?
CE: Yes, we did that with United Artists.
They were just a releasing company; they didn’t
have any studio, but owned the distribution part
of it. They distributed a lot of little films that they
would buy after they had been completed, or
they’d finance a film like they did with Hang ’Em
High and Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), the
second film I did with them.
CC: For your directorial debut, Play Misty
for Me (1971), is it true that you directed that