Why Was That Clint Eastwood Ad for Chrysler So Good?

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Feb. 7 2012 9:59 AM

That Clint Eastwood Ad Was David Gordon Green’s Best Work in Years

Clint Eastwood in "Halftime in America," an ad for Chrysler.

The political content of the Chrysler Super Bowl ad narrated by Clint Eastwood has been debated ad nauseam (even Karl Rove weighed in, saying he was “offended” by it), but its artistic merits seem more or less undisputed. The lanky Eastwood silhouette walking in the darkness, his great raspy voice giving character to the spot’s plain-spoken and eloquent script, the equal parts of hope and despair in the shots of people getting ready for their work days or looking out at various American horizons.

The artistic quality of of the ad is no accident: Over at the Los Angeles Times book blog Jacket Copy, Carolyn Kellogg points out that two of the ad’s copywriters are acclaimed literary writers: Matthew Dickman, a Portland-based poet (Weiden & Kennedy, the firm responsible for the ad, is also based in Portland, Kellogg notes), won no less than three prizes for his debut collection All-American Poem. And Smith Henderson just won a PEN award for his novel-in-progress.


A number of great writers have written ads over the years: Fitzgerald, Rushdie, DeLillo, Elmore Leonard. But the Chrysler commercial is well-directed, too, and for that we can apparently credit David Gordon Green, whose early work—George Washington and All the Real Girls especially—captivated critics, but whose recent forays into comedy have yielded diminishing returns, at least in my estimation. (I still haven’t seen The Sitter, and confess I don’t have immediate plans to do so.)

Like their literary counterparts, many excellent directors have dabbled in advertising work, but the cumulative artistic pedigree behind “Halftime in America” seems unusually impressive. Which is presumably why it’s so good. I think I’m going to watch it again now.

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.



The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers


Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.


The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
Dear Prudence
Oct. 23 2014 6:00 AM Monster Kids from poorer neighborhoods keep coming to trick-or-treat in mine. Do I have to give them candy?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.