charles bronson once upon a time in the west

Once Upon a Time in the West is a 1968 epic Spaghetti Western film directed by Sergio Leone, who co-wrote it with Sergio Donati based on a story by Dario. One of numerous 1960s revisionist Westerns, Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) turns a revenge story. Once Upon a Time in the West - Charles Bronson 18" x 18" is the size of the canvas. Black gloss floating frame adds 2 inches all around. From same film, two. charles bronson once upon a time in the west

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Once Upon a Time in the West (1/8) Movie CLIP - Two Horses Too Many (1968) HD

Once Upon A Time In The West—Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Jason Robards, Claudia Cardinale, Gabriele Ferzetti, Woody Strode, Jack Elam, Lionel Stander, Keenan Wynn (1968; Dir:Sergio Leone)


Leone takes his leisurely time getting into the movie.The lengthy introductory sequence and credits aren’t done until almost half an hour into the film.It’s interesting to watch as an exercise in filmmaking, and it’s very atmospheric, with little dialogue.

Some think that this spaghetti western may be Leone’s masterpiece and one of the ten greatest westerns ever.Leone had a bigger budget to work with than with any of his Clint Eastwood trilogy.Visually, it’s probably his best.There’s a shot where Harmonica (Charles Bronson as an Eastwood-esque mysterious stranger) looks out a doorway at people building the new town of Sweetwater, and the scene is beautifully composed.  It has a very good cast, with the exception of Cardinale, whose voice is dubbed to get rid of her accent.Frank (Henry Fonda, in a rare bad-guy role) is a killer-for-hire, now working for a ruthless crippled railroad baron (Gabriele Ferzetti).He disposes of Brett McBain, owner of a ranch with water that could delay the railroad, not fcb online banking login that McBain’s new wife Jill (Cardinale), a New Orleans prostitute, is about to arrive and will have to be dealt with as well.Harmonica and Cheyenne (Jason Robards) are more or less good guys—Harmonica of mysterious origins and Cheyenne as a local bandit chieftain falsely blamed for the McBain killings.Obviously all this will get sorted out, but it will take its time.


Henry Fonda as Frank the killer, in dark makeup to emphasize blue eyes.

Even if it’s very well done, this movie still has many of the weaknesses of its subgenre:Less emphasis on storytelling, more on insistent reaching for emotional reactions through visual images and close-ups; over-the-top violence, although not nearly as bad as in The Wild Bunch, which was in production at the same time; lingering close-ups on faces (frequently from below) and eyes.It’s a self-conscious epic, slow-moving and seemingly in love with the process of conceiving and making the movie rather than with the story it’s telling.That deprives it of narrative thrust, but may make it more attractive to auteurs.The dialogue is extremely sparse, even though the movie is 164 minutes long.Henry Fonda’s eyes seem abnormally blue, because he’s wearing lots of dark facial makeup; so is Charles Bronson.The gorgeous cinematography makes some of the best use of Monument Valley since John Ford.Some of the movie was filmed in Spain.A buggy ride taken by Cardinale and Paolo Stoppa starts in Spain and ends up in Monument Valley in the U.S.  The music is by Ennio Morricone, including some nice symphonic stretches but notable mostly for effective use of the harmonica, identified with Bronson’s character.Bernardo Bertolucci (director of Last Tango in Paris in the early 1970s) was one of the writers, along with Dario Argento, who became a one-man Italian horror film industry.


The voices are a bit of a problem, too, for a big-budget film.The Italian mode of filmmaking involved shooting film without recording any sound, leaving all sound and dialogue to be dubbed in later.That means there’s usually some form of disconnect with the film, especially when, as with Claudia Cardinale, the sound you hear when she speaks isn’t her own voice.In the lengthy opening sequence, with the creaking sound of the windmill and Jack Elam’s killer trying fitfully to get a fly off his face without using his hands, Elam has only a few words of dialogue, but it’s jarring that they’re not in his voice.(His mismatched eyes and rough features have never been so lovingly captured on film, though.)Bronson, Robards and Fonda, at least, are recognizable by their voices, but sometimes the modulation and ambient sound seem wrong.That’s true with the harmonica theme, too, when Bronson’s supposed to be playing it and the acoustics are wrong.


Harmonica (Charles Bronson) gets the drop on Frank (Henry Fonda).

Leone and his collaborators reportedly immersed themselves in watching the great westerns before making this, and there are lots of references from these films.Both Clint Eastwood and James Coburn are said to have turned down the role of Harmonica.Robert Ryan was to have played the sheriff (actually played by Keenan Wynn), but had to back out when his role in The Wild Bunchgot larger.John Landis is a stunt double.  This was Leone’s last western, unless you count Duck, You Sucker, a story set during the Mexican revolution for which Leone served as producer and perhaps director.

Debate as you may whether this is one of the ten best, or even one of the 55 greatest westerns.  What cannot be debated is that to have any kind of informed opinion you have to see this and Leone’s Man with No Name Trilogy.  They represent the very best of spaghetti westerns and a new approach that has influenced western movies ever since.

This entry was posted in Westerns Worth Watching and tagged Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Sergio Leone, Spaghetti Westerns, Trains on by Nicholas Chennault. Источник:

How Once Upon a Time in the West reflects the social anxiety of 1968

Earlier this year The Atlantic launched a series of articles entitled ‘1968 and the making of Modern America’. The aim of its writers is to identify that year as “a momentous year in American history,” and to make a case for 1968 being the starting point of the contemporary society in which we live today.

Such demarcation is of course largely arbitrary, but it’s true that exactly half a century ago the Western world – not just America – appeared to be on the cusp of a sea change. Workers’ strikes and student protests in cities from Paris to Prague, the emboldening of civil rights and feminist movements, and general anomie and disillusionment among the younger generations saw the emergence of a liberal countercultural force bringing with them sense that the old, mainly capitalist, status quo was on its way out.

It was during this year that Sergio Leone was making Once Upon a Time in the West. To what extent the director was explicitly influenced by this period sociopolitical upheaval is a matter of speculation, but the film is undoubtedly a product of its time. The original Italian title of this sweeping epic, C’era una volta il West, gives us a sense of what the film’s main concern is – “una volta” may literally mean “one time”, but a “volta”, especially in the context of writing or music, specifically refers to a “turning point”. In short, it is a film about change. And what Leone presents us with is a tale in which the past makes way for “modernity”.

Set in the Arizona desert of the 19th century, the plot revolves around the construction of a railway track being built across the plains to the pacific coast by transport mogul Mr Morton (Gabriele Ferzetti). Working for him is Frank (Henry Fonda), a sparkling-eyed killer who terrorises everyone opposed to his industrialist boss’ expansionist aims. In one scene transition the smoke from Frank’s freshly fired gun turns into the smoke billowing from atop a train charles bronson once upon a time in the west a visual metaphor used by the famously Marxist Leone to suggest that unbridled capitalist greed is tantamount to murder.

Resistance to these bygone, violent means of achieving ostensible progress comes in the form of Jill (Claudia Carindale). A one-time prostitute from New Orleans she arrives in Arizona to find that her husband (and his children) has been murdered by Frank for his valuable land. And while it may be a little revisionist to call her a feminist character, she is an unwaveringly strong figure, uncowed by bravado and intimidation. She symbolises a beautiful, civilised future in the middle of a dying, arid men’s world.

The decay of an old guard is as much part of the theme of change as the emergence of a new one. Leone’s film is shrouded by death, both actual and conceptual. The men from Frank, to Charles Bronson’s nameless, leather-faced, harmonica-playing gunman with a score to settle, and Jason Robards’ loveable rogue, Cheyenne, are all, as the former says near the end, part of “an ancient race”. A race populated charles bronson once upon a time in the west heroes and villains where each knows his role. They are all out on a last-hurrah here.

Frank knows that his attempt to take over Morton’s empire is insincere: he is an outlaw, not a modern businessman. Bronson, playing a mournful tune everywhere he goes knows that once he gets the revenge he craves he’ll have no place in the world. He and Fonda brandish self-aware smirks throughout the film; they are two men with nothing to lose, united by their impending irrelevance.

Once Upon a Time in the West was also a farewell of sorts from Leone to the genre by which he made his name (though he made one more western, Duck, You Sucker in 1971). By including numerous direct pastiches of classics from High Noon (the slow burning introduction sees three men waiting for a train) to The Last Sunset (the final duel), Leone suggests that the western has reached its apex. Like its characters, the genre, with its reliance on hyper-masculine characters, well-trodden conventions and histrionic levels of tension, didn’t have a place in the future of cinema in its current format.

But what better eulogy for the western could one imagine? Leone may have charles bronson once upon a time in the west the odd cliche – the spooked crickets foreshadowing danger, the creaking weather vane – but few can rival his mastery of the interplay of sound and silence, of inertia and crescendos of action, of humour and dread, of sweeping vistas and claustrophobic close-ups, all present in the astonishing opening scene alone. He also brings out some career-best performances from his all-star cast, especially from Henry Fonda, who despite having been one of Hollywood’s bankable heroes, is transformed so convincingly into one of cinema’s most truly malevolent figures. Elsewhere, Ennio Morricone’s haunting harmonica and guitar led score is a piece of art of its own accord.

Leone may have foreseen the end of the appeal of the western, but 50 years on, Once Upon a Time in the West still feels relevant. Maybe that’s because the world hasn’t really moved on from where it was in 1968. Despite obvious technological advancements we’re still in an age where we’re trying to enact real social progress and break down outdated practices, policies and beliefs. Watching Leone’s film today galvanises our belief that we’re on the cusp of change, but it also reminds us that we’ve been here for half a century.

Published 11 Mar 2018

Tags: Charles BronsonHenry FondaSergio Leone


Once Upon a Time in the West (Trailer)

bank of america com nycsdebitcard Directed by Sergio Leone, this epic Western re-established the genre, and still stands as one of the greatest, artistic films of all time. Henry Fonda stars as Frank, a ruthless murderous psychopath who feels no remorse, even after annihilating Mrs. McBain's (Claudia Cardinale) entire family. Charles Bronson plays The Man, a harmonica wielding loner who will never forget how his brother was savagely tortured. The Man joins forces with Cheyenne (Jason Robards), the man wrongfully accused of murdering Mrs. McBain's family, to put an end once and for all to Frank's reign of terror.

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One of the scenes most often singled out for special mention even in the briefest discussions of Once Upon a Time in the West, involves a fly and the legendary character actor Jack Elam, the wall-eyed heavy who was aptly described as:

grizzled and stringy-haired and one of his eyes always seemed to be trying to roll around so it could look behind his head. He was the sort of shifty character who might shoot the family dog or dunk a bawling baby in hot water just for kicks. [1]

In this film his character's name is "Snakey," which suitably evokes the reptilian quality of the part.

The extraordinary set-piece with the fly begins about six minutes into the opening credit sequence after the three gunmen, played by Elam, Woody Strode and Al Mulock, have taken over an isolated railroad station and are waiting for a train to arrive.

Elam is seated in a rocking chair on the porch of the station. His face looks chronically unwashed and is covered with beard stubble. Having just been annoyed by the ticker-tape noise of a nearby telegraph, he has reached over and ripped the wires out of the machine to silence it for good, and has now pulled his hat down over his eyes, trying to take a nap. Standing under a water tower and with his hat removed in order to fan himself with it, Woody Strode ("Stony") feels drops of water landing on his head, each drop making a loud splash as it hits his pate. He replaces the hat on his head, so that the drops that continue to fall now land just as audibly on his hat. And not far away, under the open sky, Al Mulock ("Knuckles") passes the time by cracking his knuckles as he waits for the train.

It is at this point that a fly lands on Elam's neck and Elam opens his eyes and tries unsuccessfully to blow the fly away, by directing his breath in its direction. After it has resettled near his lip, he finally shoos it off his face with a wave of his hand. He then turns to see where it has landed - on an adjacent wooden surface. With pistol now in hand, Elam slyly waits a moment, then rapidly turns and slamming the muzzle up against the wooden surface, captures the fly in the barrel of his gun. With an index finger blocking the muzzle so that the fly can't escape, Elam is visibly pleased with his exploit and holds the gun up to his ear, listening to the fly's desperate buzzing. He then looks down at the barrel of the gun with his one good eye, opening it exceptionally wide. And after holding the gun barrel to his ear once again to hear the buzzing of the imprisoned fly, he finally lets it go as the train approaches, by removing his finger from the muzzle and waving the gun in the air.

It is after this bit of action that the last of the opening credits appears on screen as the train pulls into the station, and "Snakey" soon has his often-quoted dialogue with Harmonica (Charles Bronson):

Harmonica: Where's Frank?
Snakey: Frank sent us.
Harmonica: Did you bring a horse for me?
Snakey (laughing): Looks like we� Looks like we're shy one horse.
Harmonica (shaking his head no): You brought two too many.

This is followed by the shootout that leaves all three gunmen dead and Harmonica slightly wounded.

In order to complete the contextualization of the fly scene, the events preceding it should also be briefly summarized. At the very start of the film, when Elam, Strode and Mulock appear at the railroad station wearing their long "duster" coats, Elam soon grabs the toothless old station agent by the neck and pushes him into what is presumably the w.c., making a "shhhh" gesture with index finger and mouth, then signaling to Mulock to close the door. As that door slams closed, the screen goes black and the first credit - A SERGIO LEONE FILM - appears. Many of the remaining credits appear as the three gunmen take up their respective positions while waiting for the train to arrive.

The entire opening sequence, which was clearly inspired by the start of High Noon as has often been pointed out, runs about 12 minutes up to the end of the gunfight, and was shot in Spain. The scene with Jack Elam and the fly was first attempted by placing a fake fly on the actor's face. When that didn't work, better results were achieved by smearing honey or jam on Elam's beard to attract flies kept in a jar just out of view and released one at a time. [2]

The origins of the fly scene
The treatment of Once Upon a Time in the West was written by Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci and Sergio Leone. However, the idea for the fly scene was not conceived until a later point and by Sergio Donati when he and Leone held brainstorming sessions prior to the writing of the screenplay. In response to my questions about the origins of the fly scene, Sergio Donati graciously replied:

forty years have now passed since Sergio and I, locked in a room, "told" each other images for the film. The fly episode was certainly born during those days and in effect, I believe it was my idea; Sergio had Jack Elam in mind, and the idea of those wall-eyes fixed upon the barrel of the gun with the fly imprisoned, appeared to me very ironically "Leonesque"! [3]

This recent statement is a perfect supplement to an earlier interview in which Sergio Donati is quoted as saying:

So I stayed with Sergio [Leone] for two weeks, together, to make the skeleton, the outline, to tell each other the scenes very clearly. [�] I never met Bertolucci and Argento at that time. The story they produced was not so gigantic. It was eighty pages. Then I wrote the whole script in twenty-five days, I think. Working like hell, scarcely getting up from my seat. And I had to rewrite just two things. If you read the shooting script, everything was shot exactly as in the script. Including the fly at the station.

And as the interviewer explains: "The reason Sergio Donati emphasizes 'the fly' is that Dario Argento subsequently claimed this aspect of the opening sequence as his idea." [4]

The fly scene in the screenplay
NB. The screenplay for Once Upon a Time in the West has never been published, and I am grateful to Sergio Donati for generously making the relevant pages (18-21) available to me for publication here. Though Charles bronson once upon a time in the west take full responsibility for the translation, I wish to thank Francesco Caviglia, Flemming Forsberg and Alexander Forsberg for their assistance, and Roberto Trapanese, Lars �lgaard and Filippo Ciampini for kindly facilitating contact with Sergio Donati.

Zzzz, a fly buzzes obstinately around the face of Snakey, who doesn't move but only follows the insect intently with his eyes.
The fly lands on the wooden panel near Snakey's head. And suddenly, flashing like the tongue of a chameleon, Snakey's right hand quickly grabs the pistol and presses it against the panel.
101 -
The opening of the barrel is resting on the wall, in ECU [extreme close-up], and Snakey puts his ear against [the barrel] and with him we hear
102 -
Snakey reveals his gapped teeth in a smile. Carefully, he removes the pistol from the wall, blocking the opening with a finger, and approaches the barrel to his ear, listening with amusement to the furious buzzing of the imprisoned fly.
103 -
Snakey's smile fades. His eyes focus in the distance, on the train tracks. He removes his finger from the barrel, the fly flies away.

Making sense of the scene
In an effort to find meaning in the fly scene, commentators have devised two main approaches.

One involves attributing to this scene a specific, definable purpose within the plot of the film. For example, after describing the interaction of Elam and the fly in some detail, one commentator writes:

At this moment, a train enters the station and Elam releases the fly. The object of the wait has arrived, and the victim of the dry run is no longer needed. The Man (Charles Bronson) appears behind the train and quickly guns down the three killers. Elam's gunman may have gotten the best of the fly, but in the real event he is unable to escape death. The intrusion of the fly serves to heighten the tension of the approaching showdown; the annoyance of the visitor foreshadows a much more dangerous encounter. [5]

While this is an admirable effort to make the fly scene meaningful in terms of plot, it could be argued that the scene tells us nothing about Snakey that we didn't already know from his treatment of the station agent, and nothing new that we need to know in order to understand and fully appreciate any subsequent event in the film, including the shoot-out with Harmonica.

The other and more common approach in the literature on the film is to link the buzzing of Snakey's fly to the drops of water splashing on Stony's head and hat, and the cracking of Knuckles' knuckles - this triad of the killers' sounds enmeshed within a broader sound montage which also includes a squeaking windmill, a slamming door, a quickly silenced telegraph, and the heavy chug of an approaching train. The fullest study of Once Upon a Time in the West characteristically deals with the fly scene primarily in a chapter devoted to "The Music of Sound and Dialogue," [6] and in one way or another, music often becomes a key concept in discussions of the fly scene, as in the following delightfully extravagant assertion:

Jack Elam suffers the loyal attention of one fly (I think we know this is an Italian fly) - such a fly, a Caruso of an insect - which he captures in the barrel of his pistol, where it sings the aria of a furious and neurotic bullet. [7]

And in another discussion, also with music as the central concept, the fly scene is taken as emblematic of Leone's filmmaking, even to the point of drawing a parallel between Elam and Leone:

Leone is like the wall-eyed villain Jack Elam, who catches a persistent and ordinary fly in the barrel of his colt, and who smiles at the music produced by the insect inside the gun. Nothing is ordinary. You just have to know how to metamorphose flies into musical instruments. [8]

Intriguing as these claims may be, particularly since no musical theme was used in the opening sequence in order to let the montage of heightened diegetic sounds entirely fill the soundtrack, I believe that the real importance of the fly scene can best be understood in an entirely different perspective, more in keeping with the screenwriter's original inspiration (already cited above): "the idea of those wall-eyes fixed upon the barrel of the gun with the fly imprisoned, appeared to me very ironically 'Leonesque'!"

In contrast to the plot-related and largely sound-based approaches mentioned above, I would like to suggest that having a fly buzz around Elam's face and inside the barrel of his gun, provided a perfect opportunity to have the actor perform a series of facial gestures, some of which emphasized his bad eye, and for the filmmaker to lavish cinematic attention on that notorious physiognomy in action. Providing a pretext for Elam to enact that measured succession of largely underplayed grimaces and grins without speaking a word and for Leone to film them in prolonged close-ups, is the most important function of the fly in this scene. And I would argue that for the approximately 100-second duration of this remarkable set-piece, Jack Elam's face becomes the story.

Both an homage to and a send-up of Elam's ominous screen presence, simultaneously celebrating and parodying his evil look, this scene, conceived by Sergio Donati, is unlike anything ever seen before in any Western. It is also a perfect illustration of Leone's characterization of himself as "a director of gestures and silences. And an orator of images." [9]

1 Ron Miller, "Born to be booed, yet three earned Oscars." The Columnists, 14 Aug 2006. A childhood fight left Elam blind in his left eye.

2 Cinematographer Tonino delli Colli's comments in the DVD bonus film The Wages of Sin, and those of Christopher Frayling on the audio commentary track of the Once Upon a Time in the West - Special Collector's Edition DVD (Paramount, 2004).

3 My translation of an email sent on May 27, 2007.

4 Christopher Frayling, Sergio Leone. Something To Do With Death (London: Faber & Faber, 2000), p. 265.

5 Best no fee business bank account Schenker, "Death, the Fly and Dickinson." The Cine File, 2 April 2007.

6 John Fawell, The Art of Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West. A Critical Appreciation (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2005).

7 David Thomson, "Leonesque." American Film, 14 (September 1989), p. 26.

8 Michel Mardore, "Vive le western!" Le Nouvel Observateur, 250 (25 August 1969), p. 35; my translation from the French.

9 Sergio Leone, "I'm a director of gestures and silences." American Film, 14 (September 1989), p. 31.


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Ebert, Roger. "Once Upon a Time in the West." Chicago Sun-Times, 6 June 1969.

Fagen, Herb. The Encyclopedia of Westerns. New York: Facts on File, 2003.

Fawell, John. The Art of Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West. A Critical Appreciation. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2005.

Frayling, Christopher. Sergio Leone. Something To Do With Death. London: Faber and Faber, 2000.

Frayling, Christopher. Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans from Karl May to Sergio Leone. London: I. B. Tauris, 2006.

Hughes, Howard. The Pocket Essential Spaghetti Westerns. Harpenden: Pocket Essentials, 2001.

Hughes, Howard. Once Upon a Time in the Italian West: The Filmgoer's Guide to Spaghetti Westerns. London: I. B. Taurus, 2005.

Laprevotte, Gilles. "Le western europ�en." 21e Festival International du Film d'Amiens.

Leone, Sergio. "I'm a director of gestures and silences." American Film, no. 14 (September 1989), p. 31.

Lomenzo, Elaine. "A fable for adults." Film Comment (1984).

Mardore, Michel. "Vive le western!" Le Nouvel Observateur, No. 250 (25 August 1969), pp. 34-35.

Miller, Ron. "Born to be booed, yet three earned Oscars." The Columnists, 14 August 2006.

Nicholls, David. "Once Upon a Time in Italy." Sight and Sound 50 (1980-1981), pp. 46-49.

Parish, James Robert and Michael R. Pitts, The Great Western Pictures. Metuchen, N. J.: Scarecrow Press, 1976.

PT, "Once Upon a Time in the West." Time Out, n.d.;

Schenker, Andrew. "Death, the Fly and Dickensen." The Cine File. 2 April 2007;

Smith, Derek. "Once Upon a Time in the West." Cinematic Reflections, 5 Sept. 2004;

Stevens, Chuck. "Once Upon a Time in the West." The Village Voice, 27 Sept. 2005;

Thomson, David. "Leonesque." American Film 14 (Sept. 1989), pp. 26-30, 56.

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Once Upon a Time in the West - Special Collector's Edition DVD. Paramount, 2004.


Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on June 6, 2016 @

Is Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) the best western of all time?

It could be.

When it was first released many viewers thought it was self-indulgent, tedious, and overlong. The truncated release - more than 20 minutes were trimmed from the original European release - bombed at the box office in the USA. But the passage of time allows us to realize its depths - if we want to. People don't like what they don't understand, but the passage of time can bring potential for consideration - and reconsideration. In the 48 years since its release, Once Upon a Time in the West has ascended to a vaunted place of style, creativity - and content. It is rich in symbolism and lore.

Once Upon a Time in the West may be the most mythical of westerns. It's about a passing time, and an approaching one. But that passage is not just conventional; it has artistic vision.

At the end, the "hero" Harmonica (Charles Bronson) is riding away from the coming crowd of civilization as the railroad is being built, assuring that the town of Sweetwater will burgeon and expand. We hear the sounds of hammering steel and see the mobs of workers installing the rails, and see the train with men. That in itself is a mythic moment.

But then Leone adds another. He has a lone woman (Claudia Cardinale) take water down to the huge crowd of men. She strides with purpose and command.

Leone is showing that the matriarchy is coming to the west. For good or bad, it's only a matter of time. It's a remarkable sequence. It deserves recognition.

In Once Upon a Time in the West, Leone turns the western askew. All the fundamentals are up for grabs. When you have a character Frank, played by 63-year old Henry Fonda, shoot and kill a young boy, you are in shocking territory. Shane would never do this, although Wilson (Jack Palance) might have in Leone's universe.

Like Hitchcock, Leone liked to manipulate his audience. Surprise and shock were among their shared methods.

After Henry Fonda finally agreed to be in Once Upon a Time in the West, he began to prepare for the role of the vicious villain Frank. He had an optometrist give him brown contact lens to cover his bright baby blues, and he grew a beard like Lincoln-killer John Wilkes Booth.

Leone was aghast when he saw Fonda and rejected the changes. He wanted the actor the audience liked and admired. In Once Upon a Time in the West, when Frank and his four partners approach the McBain farmhouse, only the boy is alive, standing stock still. We haven't yet seen the faces of the men. The camera swings around to reveal Fonda's face.

Fonda explained, "Sergio Leone had cast me because he could imagine at this time, the audience saying, "'Jesus Christ, it's Henry Fonda!'"

Fonda was the second leading actor for John Ford. He appeared in 7 Ford films.

Leone goes into Ford country with whiplash sensibility. You don't know where he's going to go next, but you know he's going to draw blood.

But Leone is not mean-spirited. In fact, he is a romantic with a very realistic sensibility. Romance fails, but it goes down with style. And Leone pokes at traditions and images. He is a sly iconoclast.

After McBain and his three children are shot by Frank and his four partners, Jill (Cardinale) comes to the ramshackle area of Sweetwater. She is a former whore, who married McBain in New Orleans and now is coming to join her new husband and his three children. She does not know that her new family has been assassinated on orders by crippled railroad-tycoon Morton who wants McBain's property because the railroad is going to go through it, and he can reap great profits by gaining ownership of the land. He's a businessman.

Frank is hired to get rid of people who could get in Morton's way. Harmonica and Cheyenne (Jason Robards, Jr.) try to protect the vulnerable Jill, who has a right to the land. Harmonica also is on a quest for vengeance.

Once Upon a Time in the West has many of the staples of the western: revenge, alienation, frontier justice, the battle for power, and the closing of an era. Leone uses many conventions, but he gives them a new and different rhythm. He winks as he punches. In the opening scene, Leone parodies High Noon, but he also goes beyond parody into myth and imagination. The scene works on several levels.

Leone knew the evolution of the western. He knew John Ford and Ford's values. He filmed some of Once Upon a Time in the West in Monument Valley, which is Ford Country. The Hanging Arch (at least the base of it) - which is the scene of a crucial flashback near the end - is in Monument Valley.

For years, the top-rated western ever made has been Ford's The Searchers (1956). Its reach and influences have endured. Paul Schrader, writer of Marty Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976), sent me a letter for publication in Film Heritage, the international film journal I founded and edited. Is it ironic that the letter appeared on the last page of the 47th and final issue of the magazine?

Schrader wrote, "Scorsese and I agree that The Searchers is the best American film, a fact that must have influenced Taxi Driver. Scorsese and I referred to the scene between Sport and Iris (Harvey Keitel and Jody Foster) as the 'Scar scene.'"

Since that time the Duke and Ford have been challenged by shifting values. When I tried to get an interview with Clint Eastwood, on the phone I told his assistant about my successful interview with John Wayne.

The assistant responded, "Clint Eastwood hates John Wayne."

The Man With No Name - with the help of director Sergio Leone in three "spaghetti westerns" - saw to that. Eastwood did not stand in the shadow of the Duke. The anti-hero was now king. With Unforgiven (1992), Eastwood as actor and director laid the legend to rest.

My favorite Eastwood "western" is Don Siegel's Dirty Harry (1971). It's about a detective in San Francisco, but he has old-time western values. Times have changed. The end of Dirty Harry is shot at an old rock quarry, but in the far distance is modern traffic. Harry throws his badge - #2211 - into a lake. He's discarding the sign of his doppelganger, since he has shot and killed Scorpio. It's like a frontier sheriff, who can't be a lawman in contemporary society.

Also, in the elegiac evolution of the western we can't forget director Sam Peckinpah. With Leone, Peckinpah stylized violence in the western with a revitalized impact.

One of my favorite westerns is The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970). It starred Jason Robards, Jr. and Stella Stevens. Although Robards - who has achieved greatness on the Broadway stage - may not seem like an actor who can play a cowboy, he also stars in Once Upon a Time in the West.

At one time I listed The Ballad of Cable Hogue in a Sight & Sound decadal poll, as one of the best films of all-time. A Japanese critic and I were the only two to exalt it.

The casting in Once Upon a Time in the West is remarkable. The good, bad, and the ugly relive. Bronson is the good, Fonda is the bad, and Robards is the ugly. Claudia Cardinale - although Sophia Loren was Leone's first choice - has an earthy beauty and vibrant alertness that give her key character a special humanity. All four actors are able to exhibit a hint of a smile on occasion. Leone loves close-ups of faces, and they may seem wooden, but they're not. Leone includes some subtlety. Leone likes strong effects, but the time and space he gives faces gives them an epical quality. The only time Leone give into caricature with his leading actors is in a flashback in which Fonda exhibits a wolfish expression. Otherwise humanity prevails.

As a boy, I loved Shane and Alan Ladd - his voice and personality. At that time I hadn't figured out that Shane was a Christ figure, at the end riding off, slumped, going to his death, leaving behind Joseph, Mary, and their son. Of course, I hadn't figured any of that out. I just liked Alan Ladd. I didn't realize until much later that he was dying. It takes time and distance.

But Shane still is a sweet childhood memory.

What may most elevate Once Upon a Time in the West to the very top is the score by composer Ennio Morricone. His music is eerie, romantic, and haunting. It has great dramatic effect. Great personality. It - like Monument Valley - is a star of the film. In the films of Leone, music is meaning. [A character is even named Harmonica.]

Morricone provided the evocative score of one of the best coming-of-age films, Cinema Paradiso (1988). Although Morricone may be best known for his work on westerns, he says that only 30 out of 100s he's done are westerns. Morricone's music is often sublime.

Leone died in 1989, but Morricone still is composing. A fractured femur made the 87-year old Morricone cancel an appearance in Los Angeles in 2015. But Quentin Tarantino convinced Morricone to do the score for The Hateful Eight (2015). To The Hateful Eight, Morricone contributed the unused score he had composed for John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) plus 25 minutes of new music. Morricone won the Oscar for his score.

In 2014 in homage to Morricone, Eastwood gives him credit for The Funeral music at the end of American Sniper.

What Leone and Morricone capture together is a multi-layered expression of truths and questions about them. It echoes with ambivalence. Is the train bringing civilization, good or bad? Is the gun, good or bad? Is isolation, good or bad? Is community, good or bad? Is business, good or bad.

Is the approaching matriarchy, good or bad?

Leone has his beliefs, but he leaves it up to us.

Once Upon a Time in the West exhibits his canny artistry. How special is that?

© 2000-2021 Tony Macklin


Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Once Upon a Time in the West (Italian: C'era una volta il West) is a 1968 epic Spaghetti Western film directed by Sergio Leone. It stars Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale and Jason Robards. The acclaimed film is by Ennio Morricone.

The film portrays two conflicts that take place around Flagstone, a fictional town in the American Old West: a land battle related to the construction of a railroad, and a mission of vengeance against a cold-blooded killer. A struggle exists for Sweetwater, a piece of land in the desert outside Flagstone which contains the region's only other water source. The land was bought by Brett McBain (Frank Wolff), who foresaw that the railroad would have to pass through that area to provide water for the steam locomotives. When crippled railroad tycoon Morton (Gabriele Ferzetti) learns of this, he sends his hired gun Frank (Henry Fonda) to intimidate McBain to move off the land, but Frank instead kills McBain and his three children, planting evidence to frame the bandit Cheyenne (Jason Robards). Meanwhile, former prostitute Jill (Claudia Cardinale) arrives at Flagstone from New Orleans, revealing that she is McBain's new wife and therefore the owner of the land.

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Once Upon a Time in the West (Italian: C'era una volta il West) is a 1968 epic Spaghetti Western film directed by Sergio Leone. It stars Henry Fonda cast against type as the villain, Charles Bronson as his nemesis, Claudia Cardinale as a newly widowed homesteader, and Jason Robards as a bandit. The screenplay was written by Sergio Donati and Leone, from a story by Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci and Leone. The widescreen cinematography was by Tonino Delli Colli, and the acclaimed film score was by Ennio Morricone.

After directing The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Leone decided to retire from Westerns and desired to produce his film based on The Hoods, which eventually became Once Upon a Time in America. However, Leone accepted an offer from Paramount Pictures to provide access to Henry Fonda and to use a budget to produce another Western film. He recruited Bertolucci and Argento to devise the plot of the film in 1966, researching other Western films in the process. After Clint Eastwood turned down an offer to play the movie's protagonist, Bronson was offered the role. During production, Leone recruited Donati to rewrite the script due to concerns over time limitations.

The original version by the director was 166 minutes (2 hours and 46 minutes) when it was first released on December 21, 1968. This was the version that was to be shown in European cinemas and was a box office success. For the US release on May 28, 1969, Once Upon a Time in the West was edited down to 145 minutes (2 hours and 25 minutes) by Paramount and was a financial flop. The film is considered by some to be the first installment in Leone's Once Upon a Time Trilogy, followed by Duck, You Sucker!, called Once Upon a Time. the Revolution in parts of Europe, and Once Upon a Time eastern michigan university niche America, though the films do not share any characters in common.

The film is now generally acknowledged as a masterpiece and one of the greatest films ever made.[3][4] In 2009, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congressas being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”.[5]


The film portrays two conflicts that take place around Flagstone, a fictional town in the American Old West: a land battle related to construction of a railroad, and a mission of vengeance against a cold-blooded killer. A struggle exists for Sweetwater, a piece of land near Flagstone containing the region's only water source. The land was bought by Brett McBain (Frank Wolff), who foresaw that the railroad would have to pass through that area to provide water for the steam locomotives. When railroad tycoon Morton (Gabriele Ferzetti) learns of this, he sends his hired gun Frank (Henry Fonda) to simply intimidate McBain to move off the land, but Frank instead kills McBain and his three children, planting evidence to frame the bandit Cheyenne (Jason Robards). It appears the land has no owner; however, a former prostitute (Claudia Cardinale) arrives from New Orleans, revealing she is Jill McBain, Brett's new wife and the owner of the land.

Meanwhile, a mysterious harmonica-playing gunman (Charles Bronson), whom Cheyenne later dubs "Harmonica", pursues Frank. In the film's opening scene, Harmonica kills three men sent by Frank to kill him. In a roadhouse on the way to Sweetwater, he informs Cheyenne that the three gunfighters appeared to be posing as Cheyenne's men.

Back at Sweetwater, construction materials are delivered to build a railroad station and a small town. Harmonica explains that Jill will lose Sweetwater unless the station is built by the time the track's construction crews reach that point, so Cheyenne puts his men to work building it.

Frank turns against Morton, who wanted to make a deal with Jill. Morton is crippled and unable to fight back. After having sex with Jill, Frank forces her to sell the property in an auction. He tries to buy the farm cheaply by intimidating the other bidders, but Harmonica arrives, holding Cheyenne at gunpoint, and makes a much higher bid based on his reward money for delivering Cheyenne to the authorities. Harmonica rebuffs an offer by Frank to buy the farm from him for one dollar more than he paid at the auction. As Cheyenne is placed on a train bound for the Yuma prison, two members of his gang purchase one-way tickets for the train, intending to help him escape.

Frank's men betray and ambush him, having been paid by Morton to turn against him, but — much to Jill's outrage — Harmonica helps Frank kill them, in order to save that privilege for himself.

Morton and the rest of Frank's men are killed in a battle with Cheyenne's gang. Frank then goes to Sweetwater to confront Harmonica. On two occasions, Frank has asked Harmonica who he is, but both times Harmonica refused to answer him. Instead, he mysteriously quoted names of men Frank has murdered. This time, Harmonica says he will reveal who he is "only at the point of dying." The two men position themselves for a duel, at which point Harmonica's motive for revenge is revealed in a flashback:

A younger Frank, already a cruel bandit, is forcing a boy to support on his shoulders his adult brother, whose neck is tied in a noose. As the boy struggles to hold his brother's weight, Frank stuffs a harmonica into the boy's mouth and tells him to play. The boy's labored breathing in and out of a harmonica would become the character's theme throughout the film. The older brother kicks him away and is hanged on the village bell.

Harmonica draws first and shoots Frank. As he lies dying, Frank again asks who he is, whereupon the harmonica is placed in Frank's mouth. Frank nods weakly in recognition and dies. Harmonica and Cheyenne say goodbye to Jill, who is supervising construction of the railway station as the track-laying crews reach Sweetwater. Cheyenne collapses, revealing that he had been fatally shot during the fight with Frank's gang by tycoon Morton. The work train arrives, Jill carrying water to the rail workers, while Harmonica rides away with Cheyenne's body.




After making his American Civil War epic The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Leone had intended to retire from making Westerns, believing he had said all he wanted to say. He had come across the novel The Hoods by the pseudonymous "Harry Grey", an autobiographical book based on the author's own experiences as a Jewish hood during Prohibition, and planned to adapt it into a film (this would eventually, atm withdrawal limit years later, become his final film, Once Upon a Time in America). Leone though was offered only Westerns by the Hollywood studios. United Artists (who had produced the Dollars Trilogy) offered him the opportunity to make a film starring Charlton Heston, Kirk Douglas and Rock Hudson, but Leone refused. However, when Paramount offered Leone a generous budget along with access to Henry Fonda — his favorite actor, and one whom he had wanted to work with for virtually all of hisCAREER — Leone accepted the offer.

Leone commissioned Bernardo Bertolucci and Dario Argento—both of whom were film critics before becoming directors—to help him develop the film in late 1966. The men spent much of the following year watching and discussing numerous classic Westerns such as High NoonThe Iron HorseThe Comancheros, and The Searchers at Leone's house, and constructed a story made up almost entirely of "references" to American Westerns.

Ever since The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which originally ran for three hours, Leone's films were usually cut (often quite dramatically) for box charles bronson once upon a time in the west release. Leone was very conscious of the length of Once Upon a Time in the West during filming and later commissioned Sergio Donati, who had worked on several of Leone's other films, to help him refine the screenplay, largely to curb the length of the film towards the end of production. Many of the film's most memorable lines of dialogue came from Donati, or from the film's English dialogue adapter, expatriate American actor Mickey Knox.[6]

Style and pacing[]

For Once Upon a Time in the West, Leone changed his approach over his earlier westerns. Whereas the "Dollars" films were quirky and up-tempo, a celebratory yet tongue-in-cheek parody of the icons of the wild west, this film is much slower in pace and sombre in theme. Leone's distinctive style, which is very different from, but very much influenced by, Akira Kurosawa's Sanshiro Sugata (1943), is still present but has been modified for the beginning of Leone's second trilogy, the so-called Once Upon a Time Trilogy. The characters in this film are also beginning to change markedly over their predecessors in the Dollars Trilogy. They are not quite as defined and, unusual for Leone characters up to this point, they begin to change (or at least attempt to) over the course of the story. This signals the start of the second phase of Leone's style, which would be further developed in Duck, You Sucker! and Once Upon a Time in America.

The film features long, slow scenes in which there is very little dialogue and little happens, broken by brief and sudden violence. Leone was far more interested in the rituals preceding violence than in the violence itself. The tone of the film is consistent with the arid semi-desert in which the story unfolds, and imbues it with a feeling of realism that contrasts with the elaborately choreographed gunplay.


The brick arch where Bronson's character flashbacks to his youth and the original lynching incident was built near a small airport fifteen miles north ofMonument Valley, in Utah and two miles from Highway 163 (which links Gouldings Lodge and Mexican Hat). The famous opening sequence with the three gunmen meeting the train was the last sequence filmed in Spain. Shooting at Cattle Corner Station, as the location was called in the story, was scheduled for four days and was filmed along the railway line near Estación de Calahorra, outside Guadix, Spain.[7]


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FONDAdid not accept Leone's first offer to play Frank, so Leone flew to New York to convince him, telling him: "Picture this: the camera shows a gunman from the waist down pulling his gun and shooting a running child. The camera tilts up to the gunman's face's HenryFONDA." After meeting with Leone,FONDA called his friend Eli Wallach, who had co-starred in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Wallach advised Fonda to do the film, telling him "You will have the time of your life."

When he accepted the role, Fonda came to the set with brown contacts and facial hair. Fonda felt having dark eyes and facial hair would blend well with his character's evil and also help the audience to accept this "new" Fonda as the bad guy, but Leone immediately told him to remove the contacts and facial hair. Leone felt that Fonda's blue eyes best reflected the cold, icy nature of the killer. It was one of the first times in a western film where the villain would be played by the lead actor.

Leone originally offered the role of Harmonica to Clint Eastwood; when he turned it down, Leone hired Charles Bronson who had originally been offered and turned down the part of the Man with No Name in A Fistful of Dollars. James Coburn was also approached for Harmonica but demanded too muchMONEY.

Robert Ryan was offered the role of the Sheriff played by Keenan Wynn. Ryan initially accepted but backed out after being given a larger role in Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch.

Enrico Maria Salerno and Robert Hossein were both offered the role of Morton before Gabriele Ferzetti was cast; Hossein had accepted but had to drop out for a theatre commitment. Ferzetti, who considers it one of his best roles, referred to his casting as "Fate, Destiny" in an interview for the DVD release.

Actor Al Mulock (featured as Knuckles in the opening train sequence as well as in Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly) committed suicide during shooting of the charles bronson once upon a time in the west by leaping from his Guadix hotel room in full costume. Frank Wolff, the actor who plays McBain, also committed suicide in a Rome hotel in 1971.

Following the film's completion, Once Upon a Time in the West was dubbed into several languages, including Italian, French, German, Spanish and English. For the English dub, the voices of much of the American cast, including Fonda, Bronson, Jason Robards, Jack Elam, Wynn, Wolff and Lionel Stander, were used. However, the rest of the cast had to be dubbed by other actors, including Ferzetti, who was dubbed by actor Bernard Grant (who is believed to have voiced Gian Maria Volonté and Aldo Giuffrè in the Dollars Trilogy), and Claudia Cardinale, who was voiced by Grant's wife, Joyce Gordon.[8]


The music was written by composer Ennio Morricone, Leone's regular collaborator, who wrote the score under Leone's direction before filming began. As inThe Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the haunting music contributes to the film's grandeur and, like the music for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, is considered one of Morricone's greatest compositions.

The film features leitmotifs that relate to each of the main characters (each with their own theme music) as well as to the spirit of the American West.[9]Especially compelling are the wordless vocals by Italian singer Edda Dell'Orso during the theme music for the Claudia Cardinale character. It was Leone's desire to have the music available and played during filming. Leone had Morricone compose the score before shooting started and would play the music in the background for the actors on set.[9]

Except for about a minute of the "Judgment" motif, before Harmonica kills the three outlaws, no soundtrack music is played until at the end of the second scene, when Henry Fonda makes his first entry. This may perhaps not seem particularly strange, even though Morricone's music is usually considered to be a vital part of Sergio Leone's western films. During the beginning of the film, Leone instead uses a number of natural sounds, for instance a turning wheel in the wind, sound of a train, grasshoppers, shotguns while hunting, wings of pigeons, etc., in addition to the harmonica played by Bronson's character, since that sound is "explained" by the fact that the sound of the harmonica is diegetic rather than a true soundtrack.


Though less popular in the US than the earlier Dollars TrilogyOnce Upon a Time in the West has gained an ardent cult following around the world, particularly among cineastes and filmmakers. In the late 1960s and 1970s, it was re-evaluated by young filmmakers and critics, many of whom called it a masterpiece. Directors including Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, John Carpenter, and John Boorman have spoken about the influence that the film had on them. It is now considered one of the greatest films ever made and some critics consider it to be the finest Western and Sergio Leone's finest accomplishment as a director. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes retrospectively collected reviews from 52 critics and gave the film a score of 98%.[10] Once Upon a Time in the West can be found on numerous film polls and 'best of' lists.


  • Time named Once Upon a Time in the West as one of the 100 greatest films of the 20th century.[11]
  • In They Shoot Pictures, Don't They's list of the 1000 Greatest Films, Once Upon a Time in the West is placed at number 62.[12]
  • Total Film magazine placed Once Upon a Time in the West in their special edition issue of the 100 Greatest Movies.[13]
  • In 2008, Empire held a poll of "The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time", taking votes from 10,000 readers, 150 filmmakers and 50 film critics. "Once Upon a Time in the West" was voted in at number 14, the highest Western on the list.[14]
  • In 2014, Time Out polled several film critics, directors, actors and stunt actors to list their top action films.[15] Once Upon A Time In The West placed 30th on their list.[16]


European Release[]

The movie was a massive hit in France.[2] It was easily the most successful film released there in 1969.[17]

American releases[]

In the US, Paramount edited the film to about 145 minutes for the wide release, but the film underperformed at the box office, earning $2.1M in rentals in North America.[18]

The following scenes were cut for the American release:

  • The entire scene at Lionel Stander's trading post. Cheyenne (Robards) was not introduced in the American release until his arrival at the McBain ranch later in the film. Stander remained in the credits, even though he did not appear in this version at all.
  • The scene in which Morton and Frank discuss what to do with Jill at the Navajo Cliffs.
  • Morton's death scene was reduced considerably.
  • Cheyenne's death scene was completely excised.

Otherwise, one scene was slightly longer in the US version than in the international film release: Following the opening duel (where all four gunmen fire and fall), Charles Bronson's character stands up again showing that he had only been shot in the arm. This part of the scene had been originally cut by director Sergio Leone for the worldwide theatrical release. It was added again for the U.S. market because the American distributors feared American viewers would not understand the story otherwise, especially since Harmonica's arm wound is originally shown for the first time in the scene at theTRADING post which was cut for the shorter U.S. version.

The English-language version wasRESTORED to approximately 165 minutes for a re-release in 1984, and for its video release the following year.

Director's cut[]

In Italy exists a 175-minute director's cut which features several scenes augmented with additional material, and has a yellow color filter. This director's cut has been released in home video until the early 2000s, and still airs on TV, but more recent home video releases have used the international cut.

Home video releases[]

After years of public requests, Paramount released a 2-Disc "Special Collector's Edition" of Once Upon a Time in the West on November 18, 2003, with a running time of 165 minutes (158 minutes in some regions).[nb 1] This release is the color 2.35:1 aspect ratio version in anamorphic wide-screen, closed captioned and Dolby. Commentary is also provided by film experts and historians including John Carpenter, John Milius, Alex Cox, film historian and Leone biographer Sir Christopher Frayling, Dr. Sheldon Hall, as well as actors Claudia Cardinale and Gabriele Ferzetti, and director Bernardo Bertolucci, a co-writer of the film.

The second disc has special features, including three recent documentaries on several aspects of the film:

  • An Opera of Violence
  • The Wages of Sin
  • Something to Do with Death

The film was released on Blu-ray on May 31, 2011.

Film references[]

Leone's intent charles bronson once upon a time in the west to takeTHE STOCK conventions of the American Westerns of John Ford, Howard Hawks and others, and rework them in an ironic fashion, essentially reversing their intended meaning in their original sources to create a darker connotation.[19] The most obvious example of this is the casting of veteran online t shirt design website good guy HenryFONDA as the villainous Frank, but there are also many other, more subtle reversals throughout the film. According to film critic and historian Christopher Frayling, the film quotes from as many as 30 classic American Westerns.

The major films referenced include:

  • High Noon (1952): The opening sequence is similar to the opening of High Noon, in which three bad guys (Lee Van Cleef, Sheb Wooley and Robert J. Wilke) are shown waiting for the arrival of their leader (named Frank, played by Ian MacDonald) on the noon train. In the opening of Once Upon a Time in the West, three bad guys (Jack Elam, who appeared in a small part in High Noon, Woody Strode, and Al Mulock) take over and wait at a train station. However, the period of waiting is depicted in a lengthy ten-minute sequence, the train arrives several hours after noon, and its passenger is one of the film's heroes (Charles Bronson) rather than its villain. The scene is famous for its use of natural sounds: a squeaky windmill, knuckles cracking, and Jack Elam's character trying to shoo off a fly. According to rumor, Leone offered the parts of the three gunmen to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly stars Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach.[20]
  • 3:10 to Yuma (1957): This cult Western by Delmer Daves may have had considerable influence on the film. The most obvious reference is a brief exchange between Keenan Wynn's Sheriff and Cheyenne, in which they discuss sending the latter to Yuma prison. In addition, as in West the main villain is played by an actor (Glenn Jose andres wife who normally played good guys. The film also features diegetic music (Ford at one point whistles the film's theme song just as Harmonica provides music in West). And the scene in which Van Heflin's character escorts Ford to the railroad station while avoiding an ambush by his gang may have inspired the ambush of Frank by his own men in Leone's film.
  • The Comancheros (1961): The names "McBain" and "Sweetwater" may come from this film. (Contrary to popular belief, the name of the town "Sweetwater" was not taken from Victor Sjöström's silent epic drama The Wind. Bernardo Bertolucci has stated that he looked at a map of the southwestern United States, found the name of the town in Arizona, and decided to incorporate it into the film. However, both "Sweetwater" and a character named "McBain" appeared in The Comancheros, which Leone admired.[21])
  • Johnny Guitar (1954): Jill and Vienna have similar backstories (both are former prostitutes who become saloonkeepers), and Harmonica, like Sterling Hayden's title character, is a mysterious, gunslinging outsider known by his musical nickname. Some of West's central plot (Western settlers vs. the railroad company) may be recycled from Nicholas Ray's film.[21]
  • The Iron Horse (1924): West may contain several subtle references to this film, including a low angle shot of a shrieking train rushing towards the screen in the opening scene, and the shot of the train pulling into the Sweetwater station at the end.[21]
  • Shane (1953): The massacre scene in West features young Timmy McBain out hunting with his father, just as Joey does in this movie. The funeral of the McBains is borrowed almost shot-for-shot from Shane.[21]
  • Vera Cruz (1954): In both films, Charles Bronson's character plays a harmonica and is known only by a nickname.
  • The Searchers (1956): Leone admitted that the rustling bushes, charles bronson once upon a time in the west silencing of cicada chirps, and the fluttering pheasants that suggest a menace approaching the farmhouse when the McBain family is massacred were all taken from The Searchers. The ending of the film — where Western nomads Harmonica and Cheyenne move on rather than join modern society — also echoes the famous ending of Ford's film.[21]
  • Warlock (1959): At the end of this film, HenryFONDA'S character wears clothing very similar to his costume throughout West. In addition, Warlockfeatures a discussion about mothers betweenFONDA and Dorothy Malone that is similar to those between Cheyenne and Jill in West. Finally, Warlockcontains a sequence in whichFONDA'S character kicks a crippled man off his crutches, as he does to Mr. Morton in West.
  • The Magnificent Seven (1960): In this film, Charles Bronson's character whittles a piece of wood. In West, he does the same, although in a different context. The Magnificent Seven was based on Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa, whose film Yojimbo ("The Bodyguard") was the inspiration (and later, litigation) behind Leone's A Fistful of Dollars.
  • Winchester '73 (1950): It has been claimed that the scenes in West at theTRADING post are based on those in Winchester '73, but the resemblance is slight.[21]
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962): The dusters (long coats) worn by Cheyenne and his gang (and by Frank and his men while impersonating them) resemble those worn by Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) and his henchmen when they are introduced in this film. In addition, the auction scene xp pro corp key intended to recall the election scene in Liberty Valance.[21]
  • The Last Sunset (1961): The final duel between Frank and Harmonica is shot almost identically to the duel between Kirk Douglas and Rock Hudson in this film.[21]
  • Duel in the Sun (1946): The character of Morton, the crippled railroad baron in West, was based on the character played by Lionel Barrymore in this film.[21]
  • Sergeant Rutledge (1960): This John Ford Western, featuring Woody Strode as the title character, has a scene in which Constance Towers falls asleep in a chair with a rifle in her lap, just as Jill McBain does in Leone's film.
  • My Darling Clementine (1946): In theTRADING post scene, Cheyenne slides Harmonica's gun down the bar to him, challenging him to shoot – much likeMorgan Earp (Ward Bond) sliding his weapon to brother Wyatt (Henry Fonda) in the Ford film when the Earps meet Doc Holliday (Victor Mature) for the first time. Also, a deleted scene in West featured Frank getting a shave with perfume in a barber's shop, much likeFONDA's Wyatt.

Once Upon a Time in the West was itself explicitly referenced in The Quick and the Dead, when John Herod (Gene Hackman), faces Ellen (Sharon Stone), better known as "The Lady," in a climactic gunfight. Ellen's identity is a mystery until the end, when the audience sees Ellen's flashback to Herod lynching her father, a sheriff. The sadistic Herod gives Ellen (then only a little girl) a chance to save her father by shooting through and breaking the rope wrapped around his neck, but Ellen accidentally kills her father by shooting him in the forehead. As with Frank, Herod yells "Who are you?", and the only response he receives is an artifact from the earlier lynching — in this case, the sheriff's badge that Ellen has kept all these years. The Quick and the Dead has another connection to Once Upon a Time in the West: It was the final film for Woody Strode, who died before it could be released.

Many other films have paid tribute to Once Upon a Time in the West over the years: Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds opens with a lengthy sequence entitled Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France (a phrase also used as a tagline for the 2009 film) which introduces the film's primary villain and features the mass shooting of a family at a farmhouse; Tarantino's Kill Bill films utilize snatches of Morricone's harmonica and guitar soundtrack; Back to the Future Part III recreates the station rooftop scene from Once Upon a Time in the West; Baz Luhrmann's Australia features several nods to Leone's film, including a homestead with a squeaky windmill, an almost-identical funeral scene, and an antagonistic relationship between the film's villains; and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End features a parody of the "Man With a Harmonica" theme on the soundtrack, as the film's protagonists parley on a sandbar before the final battle.


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