WASHINGTON – Forever Dirty Harry,Clint Eastwood received with good humor the Smithsonian Bicentennial Medal Wednesday. The ceremony also marked the opening of the Warner Bros. Theater at the National Museum of American History.
“It’s very nice to be part of the Smithsonian,at least as a recipient of a medal,not necessarily in one of the cabinets,” Eastwood said.
The 81-year-old actor and director was the 69th recipient of the medal. French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss,musician Billy Joel and actor and director Robert Redford are among previous winners of the medal. It is given to people who have made “distinguished contributions to the advancement of areas of interest of the Smithsonian,” in Eastwood’s case,the film industry.
Marc Pachter,interim director of the museum,said Eastwood is a “cinematic renaissance man,” and Warner Bros. CEO Barry Meyer said Eastwood is “as close as you can get to a living,walking,breathing national treasure.”
Eastwood debuted in films in an unccredited role of a lab technician in the 1955 sci-fi film “Revenge of the Creature.” Since then,he has won four Academy Awards for best director and film – including “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby” – two of the eight Oscars for best picture Warner Bros. has ever won.
In a short acceptance speech,Eastwood dedicated most of his remarks to telling a joke about a woman who,stopped by a police officer for speeding,lists a long number of registered guns and ammunition she has with her. “What are you afraid of?” the police officer asks. “Freaking nothing,” she answers. “That sort of sums up my gun control [opinion],” Eastwood said.
The Carmichael Auditorium was renamed Warner Bros. Theater after the company donated $5 million dollars for renovations. The seats and the audio video systems were replaced. A new 32-feet screen has 3-D capability.
“We wanted a place to exhibit our industry’s films in a venue with the Smithsonian,which is really the iconic capital and showcase of American culture in the nation’s capital,” Meyer said.
To mark the inauguration,the museum will host a Warner Bros. Film Festival,beginning Friday with a three-day showing of Humphrey Bogart movies. From June 22 to June 24,the museum will showcase Eastwood’s western movies.
“I realize they’re opening with Humphrey Bogart films for the first run,” Eastwood said. “And I realize Mr. Bogart has been deceased for some years now,so I was kind of hoping it’d be a while before they ran Clint Eastwood movies. Barry told me differently.”
The museum also has an exhibit of Warner Bros.’ memorabilia,including costumes worn by Bogart,Ingrid Bergman,Eastwood and Daniel Radcliffe in one of the Harry Potter movies. Jack Warner’s address book is also on display. It is opened to the letter D,where visitors can see listings for the artist Salvador Dali,Walt Disney,Cecil B. De Mille and Bette Davis,along with a drugstore and a dance teacher.
Reach reporter Robin Siteneski at [email protected] or 202-326-9868. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.