Clint Eastwood Thinks He Knows Why The Beguiled Failed At The Box Office

Siegel had directed Eastwood to a non-Western hit in “Coogan’s Bluff” in 1968 for Universal, so the studio had good reason to keep the duo in-house. Was Thomas P. Cullinan’s “The Beguiled,” in which Eastwood’s wounded, caddish Union soldier romances a seminary full of young women, the obvious follow-up for Siegel and Eastwood? Not at all.

Eastwood was hot on the property initially but had to be talked into the production by Siegel. He’d just set up Malpaso Productions and understood that the audience for “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” might be disinclined to watch him play victimized men. He fretted about going forward with “The Beguiled,” but Siegel wisely told him he might never have the opportunity to take on a role like this if he became a big-screen icon. Siegel was right. While Eastwood didn’t completely shy away from difficult material in the years to come (see “Tightrope”), the one-two victimized punch of “The Beguiled” and “Play Misty for Me” (his directorial debut) didn’t go down well with his fans.

In a 1971 interview with Patrick McGilligan, Eastwood shrugged off his good critical notices, and lamented that Universal botched the marketing of “The Beguiled.” Per Eastwood:

“It was a disaster at the box office, very poorly distributed and very poorly advertised. That had a lot to do with its lack of success but the fact is they sold it to the Man with No Name audience — it would do good the first few days and then fade out terrifically. Because they never sold it to the audience who would like that kind of film.”

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