There was no doubt about it - we liked our movies light in 1978. There were heavy hitters, to be sure: films like The Deer Hunter and Coming Home reminded us of the Vietnam War and did well at the Oscars
, but not at the box office. What we wanted was escapism, and if that meant musicals, fantasy and "low" humor, so be it.
Every Which Way But Loose, like other popular films of 1978, didn't pick up a single Academy Award nomination. But the statuette wasn't vital to this film's success. What the public wanted was beer, girls, and fist fights, and this movie had all three - with an average of one fight scene every ten minutes. This Warner Bros. release also featured a number of country and western tunes that were fashionable with the latent CB crowd, some of the songs becoming crossover hits on pop or middle-of the-road radio stations. Charlie Rich's "Behind Closed Doors" and two songs by Mel Tillis set toes tapping in movie theaters across the land. Every
Which Way But Loose made money every which way you turned.
There were two main attractions in the feature, one human, one not. Clint Eastwood
was the human star and his pairing with Clyde the Orangutan was the most talked-about human/ape pairing since Ronald Reagan
co-starred with a chimp in Bedtime for Bonzo (1951). According to Hollywood Anecdotes, when Eastwood was elected Mayor of Carmel, California. Reagan exclaimed, "Can you imagine that? What makes him think a middle-aged movie actor who's played with a chimp could have a future in politics?"
The movie soon became a favorite target of critics. Variety claimed: 'This film is way off the mark. If people line up for this one - and they probably will - they'll line up for any Clint Eastwood picture... for Eastwood fans, the essential elements are there. Lots of people get beat up." Newsweek's review was as subtle as King Kong
: “They say that if a million monkeys sat down at typewriters, one of them would eventually produce 'War and Peace.' Well, one of them - bearing the name of Jeremy Joe Kronsberg - seems to have written Every Which Way But Loose
, a Clint Eastwood 'comedy' that could not possibly have been created by human hands. The proof is that the only decent part is played by an orangutan.. .James Fargo directed every which way but well."
No one else had a fondness for the film either - no one else except the public. Moviegoers enjoyed the chemistry between the bizarre ménage a trois of Clint, Clyde, and Sondra Locke, Clint's love interest in the film and in real life. In 1989 however, that relationship ended and Sondra Locke brought a palimony suit against Eastwood after the couple had lived together for 13 years. Before separating, however, the pair managed a sequel film, Any Which Way You Can
and it did surprisingly well, unusual for most sequels.