9.04.2016

On Clint Eastwood's voice in "White Hunter, Black Heart"



Clint Eastwood’s White Hunter, Black Heart (1990) is a Hemingwayesque fantasia on the making of John Huston’s The African Queen in which an American film director (played by Eastwood) all but abandons the production of an adventure film he is supposed to be shooting in Uganda in favor of an elephant hunt.  Even if the details of the hunt are fictionalized the character of Wilson is clearly modeled on Huston: he has the same air of masculine entitlement that masks the same basic dignity.  (Initially attracted to the idea of shooting an elephant because it’s a “sin” against nature, Wilson eventually discovers he can’t go through with the act.)  Eastwood makes his voice, too, into something of a variation on Huston’s.  Huston’s iconic sound was whiskey-soaked, rough and smooth at the same time, like the purr of a lion.  As Wilson, Eastwood’s voice is smoother and plummier than it normally is, his cadence is more varied, and he articulates his words more clearly, rolling each one around inside his mouth and hanging on to his “r”s with the grip of a Midwesterner.  Eastwood can’t emulate Huston’s sound exactly (Daniel Day-Lewis would do a better job in There Will Be Blood, and even he sounds higher and thinner than Huston) but he doesn’t seem to be going for verisimilitude.  He makes a glancing attempt at it, in the same way that all of White Hunter, Black Heart glances off of real people and events.  Listen and compare below: 

 

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