Monday, February 26, 2007

Fine Specimens

It was probably 1966 or 1967 or thereabouts. We had been on vacation for a few days in eastern Tennessee and North Carolina. We were making our way slowly back toward Nashville and spent the night in a place that I believe was named Crossville. For some reason, we decided to see a movie at the drive in theater that night, since there wasn't much else to do in the little town. The movie was The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Two things stand out about that experience.

First, I had been a fan of the TV series "Rawhide" and was familiar with Clint Eastwood in the persona of Rowdy Yates. I had had a fondness for Rowdy, but I was a little young to have had a crush on him when "Rawhide" was in its heyday. It was with a great deal of surprise that I realized that ole Rowdy had become a hunk since I had seen him last. I can remember sitting in the back seat on that warm summer night, with the windows open, watching those blue eyes on that great big screen and thinking to myself, "He is soooo good looking!". (I've always had a thing for the scruffy, silent types.) I was in instant crush mode that lasted for several years.

Second, the music was different and arresting. I was enchanted by the odd instrument playing the signature phrase of the main theme. I later learned the instrument was an oboe. One of my recital pieces the next year was the theme from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I played it well, if I do say so for myself. It's been a piece of music that has stood the test of time.

Last night I watched the Oscars ceremony and a special Oscar was given to the composer of that unusual music. Ennio Morricone received his Oscar from Clint Eastwood. It was fitting, since all of the Clint Eastwood "spaghetti" westerns had been scored by Ennio Morricone. During the presentation, a montage of Morricone's work was presented and I realized that he had composed other themes that were familiar to me. He seemed to be genuinely touched by the honor of the special Oscar.

Earlier in the broadcast, ole Clint had played along with one of host Ellen Degeneres' comedy bits, as she drafted Steven Spielberg to take a picture of her with Clint to be posted on her MySpace website. He was a good sport and seemed to enjoy himself.

I found myself thinking that ole Clint has held up well and is still crush-worthy. And Ennio Morricone's music is still as arresting as it was on that summer night long ago.

Two fine specimens in the land of make believe.


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