The Untold Truth Of Clint Eastwood's Parents

Nowadays, Clint Eastwood might be best known as an Oscar-winning director whose libertarian political views have, at times, moved him to speak onstage to empty chairs, but before the days of American Sniper and Gran Torino, he was best known for his days as a gunslinger in Spaghetti Westerns like A Fistful of Dollars, or as a detective-turned-vigilante in the Dirty Harry franchise. 

Over the course of Eastwood's decades-long career, a recurring bit of apocrypha has stood the test of time. We're talking about the rumor that the action star and film auteur is secretly the son of one of Hollywood's greatest comic actors, Stan Laurel. While some might insist that the rumors behind Eastwood's parentage have been around since his big break as a side-grinning cowboy on the television show Rawhide, it's time to separate fact from fiction and get to the bottom of the urban legend. 

That's right: we're going to figure out once and for all if Eastwood is the son of the Hollywood comic. 

Were Clint Eastwood's parents really his parents?

According to most of the many biographies written about the actor, Clint Eastwood was born on May 31, 1930 in San Francisco to parents Clinton Eastwood Sr., a salesman (who, in a strange foreshadowing of his son's turn in Dirty Harry decades later, briefly worked as a detective), and Ruth Eastwood (née Runner).

Though Eastwood tended to categorize his family as low-income — hinting at hardships during his upbringing brought on by the Great Depression — his longtime love, the late actress Sondra Locke, contended in her book, The Good, the Bad & the Very Uglythat Eastwood's childhood was anything but.

"Actually they were never poor, they lived in a very wealthy part of town, had a swimming pool, belonged to the country club, and each drove his own car," Locke asserted in her 1997 memoir. While Eastwood's career blossomed during an era in Hollywood where made-up biographies (and even names) for contract stars were the rule rather than the exception, Eastwood's penchant for playing fast and loose with his autobiography could feasibly have set the stage for rumors around his parentage to bubble and roil.

So who were Eastwood's real parents — or more specifically, his real father, according to the rumors — and where did said rumors originate? While misinformation on the part of Eastwood certainly didn't help matters, a joke made by a newspaper in Italy seems to be the real culprit here.

Clint Eastwood paternity rumors turned out to be nothing but a hair-raising tale

According to Snopes, it turns out rumors surrounding Clint Eastwood's father stemmed from a joke made by an Italian newspaper. As per the website, "the source of the myth was an Italian newspaper from the days that Clint Eastwood was making spaghetti westerns in Italy" in an article that pointed out the similarities between comic Stan Laurel and Eastwood, noting a resemblance in the way both of them smiled.

Despite being made in jest, other publications apparently picked up the story and ran from there — including a British comic for children, which took it a step further by noting both had hair which tended to stand on end, per Snopes. Unfortunately for gossip hounds and Hollywood historians alike, Eastwood put a kibosh on the rumors once and for all almost a decade ago.

"It's because my hair stands up," the actor-turned-director told British tabloid the Sun in 2009 (via The Guardian), explaining how the rumors over Laurel and his possible paternity took root in the first place. Unfortunately, certain members of the Eastwood family found the gossip to be more distressing than others. "My mother was hysterical [about the rumor]," Eastwood recalled. "She said, 'I always admired the man, but I never met him let alone had his child.'"

Well, there you have it folks!