Director Clint Eastwood is headed to this year’s Academy Awards with six nominations for the well-reviewed but nonetheless controversial film, American Sniper. Thanks to his distinguished career as both an actor and director, even Eastwood’s most ardent detractors have likely forgotten that in 1978, he shared big-screen time with an orangutan named Clyde in a cinematic stinker called Every Which Way But Loose. This “plotless junk heap” (according to Newsweek), which Eastwood didn’t direct, still managed to rank among 1978’s biggest box office hits. The film’s soundtrack also spawned a hit in the title song, which was recorded by Eddie Rabbitt. On February 10th, 1979, the tune, penned by Steve Dorff and Milton Brown, with Snuff Garrett (who produced the record), logged the first of three weeks atop Billboard’s country chart. It was Rabbitt’s only Number One hit to spend more than a single week at the chart summit.
The rest of the film’s soundtrack relied heavily upon country music, with songs from Mel Tillis, Charlie Rich, Hank Thompson and Eastwood’s then-girlfriend and co-star in the film, Sondra Locke, featured on a couple of tracks. Rabbitt’s hit also established a chart record that stood unchallenged for nearly 25 years. In its first week on the Hot Country Songs chart, the tune debuted at Number 18. It wasn’t until Garth Brooks’ comeback hit, “Good Ride Cowboy,” that another single entered the chart in that same position, although the record has been beaten several times since then.
The film sequel to Every Which Way But Loose was released in December 1980 and like the original, Any Which Way You Can inspired terrible reviews but managed to spawn a country hit, just not one for Eddie Rabbitt. The singer not only declined the opportunity to record that film’s title track, he also turned down a role in the film, paving the way for Glen Campbell to score a Number Ten hit on the country chart. In 1982, Eastwood would explore the life of an ailing country singer with the well-reviewed Honkytonk Man, for which he would star and direct. It marked the last-ever film appearance of country legend Marty Robbins. Eddie Rabbitt, who would go on to have 13 more Number One country hits, died of cancer in 1998.