Jump to: Spoilers (12)
Although the film received only mixed reviews, John Sturges got a rave from the one source that really mattered to him. After seeing the picture, Akira Kurosawa was so impressed, he sent the American director a ceremonial sword as a gift.
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Yul Brynner had a major say in casting decisions, including the decision to cast Steve McQueen. He specifically requested that McQueen be cast as Vin Tanner. Brynner later regretted the move since he and McQueen developed a disastrous relationship on set.
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The "bandit gang" hired for Calvera adopted Eli Wallach as one of their own. In the mornings before shooting started, but after Wallach was in costume, he and the group would go riding together for an hour. Additionally, members of the gang insisted on doing the final checks for Wallach's horse tack and prop gun before he was allowed to use either.
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In later years, Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen reconciled. McQueen, dying of cancer, called Brynner to thank him. "What for?" queried Brynner. "You coulda had me kicked off the movie when I rattled you," replied McQueen, "but you let me stay and that picture made me, so thanks". Brynner told him, "I am the king and you are the rebel prince: every bit as royal . . . and dangerous to cross." McQueen said, "I had to make it up with Yul 'cause without him I wouldn't have been in that picture."
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James Coburn was a big fan of "Seven Samurai (1954)" and his favorite role in that film was the character that he ended up playing in the Americanized version. He deliberately incorporated Seiji Miyaguchi's performance as Kyuzo into his performance.
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The oneupmanship between Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen spread to the other actors, and they all started pulling stunts of their own in order to get the audience's attention. While a lot of the attention-hogging did make it into the finished film, John Sturges was terrified by how quickly he lost control of his cast.
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According to Eli Wallach's autobiography, Yul Brynner had a major problem with what he perceived as Steve McQueen's trying to upstage him. According to Wallach, McQueen would do things when on screen with Brynner to draw attention to his character. Examples were his shaking of the shotgun shells and taking off his hat to check the sun during the hearse scene and leaning off his horse to dip his hat in the river when the Seven cross into Mexico. Brynner was supposedly so worried about McQueen stealing his limelight in scenes that he hired an assistant to count the number of times McQueen touched his own hat when he [Brynner] was speaking.
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It was Yul Brynner who approached producer Walter Mirisch with the idea of doing a Western adaptation of Akira Kurosawa's classic, "Seven Samurai (1954)."
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Yul Brynner (5'10") was concerned to make sure he always appeared substantially taller than Steve McQueen (5'9-1/2"), to the point of making a little mound of earth and standing on it in all their shots together. McQueen, for his part, casually kicked at the mound every time he passed by it.
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Composer John Williams was a member of the orchestra that recorded Elmer Bernstein's score; he played the piano.
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Mexican censors required the peasants to always be wearing clean clothes, despite being farmers. This caused a huge delay since it meant that dozens of intentionally dirty costumes had to be thoroughly cleaned before filming could commence.
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The horse that Yul Brynner was riding was Pie, the same one that James Stewart rode in all or most of his westerns. It was found while researching Stewart's horse.
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Eli Wallach wore a silk shirt and sported gold rings and teeth because he "wanted to show what the bandit did with his loot." He also used the silver-trimmed saddle that Marlon Brando had used in One-Eyed Jacks (1961).
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Pay close attention to Eli Wallach whenever he handles his gun. Whenever he puts the gun back into his holster, he always looks down at it. That was because Wallach wasn't used to drawing the weapon and didn't want to look foolish by missing the holster while putting his gun back, as Wallach would admit in the DVD Documentary.
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Steve McQueen wanted to act in this film but couldn't at first because the schedule of his TV series, Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958), wouldn't allow it. He crashed a car and while he was "out sick", he shot this film.
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When Vin takes off his hat before Chris starts the horses pulling the hearse, he is actually checking for the presence of wind and from what direction. Although at short distances a coach shotgun is effective, wind is less of a factor than it would be with weapons that had greater range; still, the move was a calculated one by Steve McQueen in his frequent efforts to steal the scene.
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Yul Brynner was married on the set; the celebration used many of the same props as the fiesta scene.
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Steve McQueen, James Coburn and Charles Bronson all appeared together again in John Sturges next film The Great Escape (1963). This film had just been released in Germany while the next film was filming, and it was a big hit, so they were all besieged on set by autograph hunters.
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Sterling Hayden was originally supposed to play the knife expert, Britt. Hayden dropped out for unknown reasons, so John Sturges sent out an extensive casting call. Robert Vaughn (Lee) recommended his old schoolmate and friend James Coburn for the role. Vaughn and Coburn helped each other get roles throughout the rest of Coburn's life.
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Steve McQueen tried to draw attention from Yul Brynner by taking off his hat to shade his eyes as he looks around just before they drive the hearse to the graveyard and bending down from his saddle to dip water with his hat as the whole crew crosses a stream. Finally Brynner said to him, "If you don't stop that I'm going to take off my hat, and then no one will look at you for the rest of the film."
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James Coburn (Britt) and Robert Vaughn (Lee) have only 11 and 16 lines in the entire film, respectively. Although they were close friends for almost 50 years, this is their only film together.
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Horst Buchholz (Chico) accidentally shot himself in the leg on set. Though his gun was loaded with blanks, the shot raised a welt.
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When filming began in Mexico, problems arose with the local censors, who demanded changes to the ways that the Mexican villagers would be portrayed. Walter Newman, who had written the screenplay, was asked to travel to the location to make the necessary script revisions, but refused. The changes written in by William Roberts were deemed significant enough to merit him a co-writing credit. Newman refused to share the credit, though, and had his name removed from the film entirely.
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The film was cast quickly to beat an actor's strike. The only chance of getting the movie made was to assemble the main cast before the strike began, so there was a furious rush to get seven actors together. The cast was just barely assembled in time.
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Chico's "bullfight" scene was improvised. Someone found a cow and the filmmakers decided to put it in a scene with Horst Buchholz to see if he would take it and run with it.
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The film was a box-office failure in the United States, but went on to be a smash hit in Europe, and ultimately turned a profit.
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Robert Vaughn (Lee) was the last surviving member of the Magnificent Seven. Vaughn died on November 11, 2016 at the age of 83.
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Elmer Bernstein, whose score for this movie is one of the best-known ever composed, also wrote the score for the parody of this film, Three Amigos! (1986).
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Eli Wallach recalled struggling to conceal his amusement while watching the filming of the funeral-procession scene where Chris and Vin first meet: Yul Brynner was furious at Steve McQueen's shotgun-round-shake, which effectively diverted the viewer's attention to McQueen. Brynner refused to draw his gun in the same scene with McQueen, not wanting his character outdrawn.
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The name of Charles Bronson's character, Bernardo O'Reilly, is a reference to Chilean independence leader Bernardo O'Higgins, who freed Chile from Spanish rule in the Chilean War of Independence (1810-26) and who was also part Hispanic and part Irish.
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Yul Brynner studied shooting and the quick-draw method with Rodd Redwing, a Native American actor (he played one of the Gurkha scouts in the Errol Flynn film Objective, Burma! (1945)) and firearms expert who had taught many other Hollywood actors, including co-star Steve McQueen.
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Filming took place in Mexico at a time when the country did not take kindly to Hollywood productions due to the controversy surrounding Vera Cruz (1954). It was agreed that they could shoot there as long as Mexican censors were allowed on set to dictate what could and couldn't be shown, so as to avoid another disaster.
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In the original script the seven gunfighters were much older and veterans of The Civil War. Spencer Tracy was suggested for the role of Chris.
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The movie appears to be set sometime in the mid- to late 1880s. However, all of the main characters wear low-slung, Buscadero-style holsters, which were basically unknown before the early 1900s. Actual belt guns in the "Wild West" era were worn at the belt line, usually in cross-draw holsters as they were both more comfortable to wear and easier to draw from while mounted on a horse.
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According to Robert Vaughan, Steve McQueen complained about the gun Yul Brynner was using in the film, a Colt Peacemaker with an ivory grip. "You didn't notice it?" McQueen asked. "It has a fuckin' pearl handle. He shouldn't have a gun like that. It's too fuckin' fancy. Nobody's gonna look at anything else with that goddamn gun in the picture". McQueen also complained about the size of Brynner's horse, mostly that it was the biggest. Vaughn replied that he--Vaughn--actually had the biggest horse. "I don't care about yours," McQueen told him. "It's Brynner's horse I'm worried about."
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When newspapers started reporting on the altercations on set between Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, Brynner issued a press statement, declaring, "I never feud with actors. I feud with studios."
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According to a John Sturges interview given in 1990 for the book "John Sturges, Stories of a Filmmaker" by Emmanuel Laborie, the music for the movie was to be composed by Dimitri Tiomkin. However, the director had a quarrel with his favorite composer because Sturges did not agree with a song during the opening credits, as he did in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957). Tiomkin was dismissed and replaced by Elmer Bernstein.
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James Coburn's friend Robert Vaughn recommended him to director John Sturges for the last remaining lead, the role of Britt. Sturges said he needed a Gary Cooper type of actor, and Vaughn said Coburn was the actor he needed.
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The theme song was used for many years for the Marlboro cigarette commercials.
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Screenwriter Walter Newman objected to how John Sturges filmed several of his scenes and became furious when Sturges gave some of Yul Brynner's carefully crafted, character-driven lines to Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson. Livid about it, Newman asked that his name be removed from the credits. However, just a few years later Newman and Sturges reteamed for The Great Escape (1963).
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George Peppard was first considered for the role of Vin. Gene Wilder also auditioned. Peppard would later star in the remake "Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)," and Wilder would play a disillusioned gunslinger in Mel Brooks' western satire "Blazing Saddles."
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Robert Vaughn played the role of Lee in the film. He later came back to star in the TV series The Magnificent Seven (1998) playing Judge Oren Travis.
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Walter Bernstein did the original adaptation of Akira Kurosawa's film (Seven Samurai (1954)) but it wasn't used. Walter Newman wrote the screenplay that is substantially what you see on screen.
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Chico is a combination of two characters from (Seven Samurai (1954), Katsushiro and Kikuchiyo.
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Many US Navy ships adopt a theme song based on their name or hull number. The song would be played when leaving port or when completing an underway replenishment. The guided missile destroyer USS Henry B. Wilson (DDG-7) adopted this movie's theme. In addition, she had a blue and gold flag that would be broken at the truck when playing the theme song. The flag said, "Magnificent 7."
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In Robert Vaughn's 2008 memoir, he confessed that the cast all had diarrhea while filming.
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According to the "Making Of" documentary from the Special Edition DVD version, associate producer Lou Morheim bought the rights to the screenplay for $250. In 2014 money, that is equivalent to less than $8,000.
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The script was often written at night for the shooting the next morning.
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The 1967 hit song "Sweet Soul Music," written by Arthur Conley and Otis Redding and first recorded by Conley, quotes a portion of Elmer Bernstein's score for The Magnificent Seven (1960) as its instrumental horn opening.
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Stephen King used the premise of this film as the basis for his fifth Dark Tower novel, "Wolves of the Calla". The unfortunate town is called Calla Bryn Sturgis, after this film's director, John Sturges.
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Althugh we sometimes think the Seven were a group of unknowns who became stars through this movie, it certainly isn't true. Brynner was of course a star in his own right, but McQueen was currently starring in Wanted:Dead or Alive on TV, Bronson had had his own TV show, Man With a Camera, in the 1950's, Bronson, Coburn, and Vaughn were well known through movie and TV westerns, and Dexter had pivotal roles in The Asphalt Jungle and Run Silent Run Deep. Only Buckholz should have been unfamiliar to American audiences.
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Among the seven actors who played the "Magnificent Seven" two of them were not American-born: Horst Buchholz (Germany) and Yul Brynner (Russia).
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The title of the movie in the Georgian language means the same as "Holy Week", so they used to air the movie in the week prior to Easter.
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Vin is the only member to aim and shoot his hand gun with two hands. During the final shootout he is seen several times steadying his shooting hand with his left hand while pulling the gun high to his face, instead of firing from the hip as the others do. McQueen was a gun fancier and likely practiced this way; it also makes his shooting more accurate.
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The first in the original series of four "Magnificent Seven" movies.
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The bandit chief's name Calvera resembles calavera, the Spanish word for skull.
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Amazingly, the iconic and enduring score for this film did not win the Oscar for Best Original Score. Instead it was won by Ernest Gold for "Exodus ".
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The first scene shot was the first part of the six gunfighters' journey to the Mexican village, prior to Chico being brought into the group.
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The original screenplay was written by Walter Bernstein, but it was later reworked almost beyond recognition by Walter Newman, and Newman's version is what was used for shooting. However, during shooting, rewrites were frequently required on set and Newman was unavailable, so William Roberts was brought in to take his place. When it was suggested that Roberts get a co-credit, Newman was so furious that he demanded that his name be removed from the project completely, so Roberts ended up getting full onscreen credit for a screenplay he only edited.
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In the original script, as in Seven Samurai (1954), the farmers leave the village to hire mercenaries. This was changed to appease the Mexican censors, who didn't want their country to appear weak or oppressed.
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Yul Brynner was married on the set during the production.
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Set reporter Erskine Johnson was convinced that Eli Wallach would upstage the other members of the cast, especially Yul Brynner, and saw him as a threat to their fame and popularity.
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It is a misconception that Brad Dexter got his role in the film due to saving Frank Sinatra from drowning and the fact Sinatra then used his influence with John Sturgess to get the role for Dexter. The Magnificent Seven was made in 1960 - the episode involving Dexter saving Sinatra took place in 1964.
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Although the printed cast list gives both Chris and Vin last names, the only characters in the movie given last names are Harry Luck and Bernardo O'Reilly. Harry plays cards and often talks about the "odds" during the fights, so the name Luck is appropriate. O'Reilly's Spanish sounding first name gives him an additional ties to the village and especially the three kids who "adopt" him.
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In 1984 producer Walter Mirisch announced a remake of the film as part of his production deal with Universal. Walter Hill was slated to direct and Hill hoped for Robert Duvall to play the role of Chris. However, the poor performance of Hill's Streets of Fire (1984) at the US box office led to the Universal brass cancelling the project.
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We never see who fires the shots that kill Harry, Lee, Britt, and O'Reilley, or the shot that wounds Vin. They are all loud reports., after which the character falls. Vin is shot through a window, but we don't see the shooter.
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The steam locomotive seen simmering in the background during the knife and gun contest is narrow-gauge (3 ft.) Ferrocarril Interocanico de Mexico (Interoceanic Railway of Mexico) G-023 class 2-8-0, No. 67, built by the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) in September 1899, with builder number 5210, which operated on a line between Mexico City and Cuautla, operating until at least 1967 - that line was standard-gauged in 1973. The engine survives, initially as a display at the Monument to the Revolution in Mexico City, and now at the Museo de los Ferrocarileros, in the old La Villa station north of Mexico City.
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Despite some credit listings, Natividad Vacío plays Miguel, not Tomas, and John A. Alonzo (billed as John Alonso) plays Tomas, not Miguel.
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The cup game Harry Luck (Dexter) shows to the villagers is actually impossible. Harry cheats when he shows them by having one cup already upright, whereas he makes the villagers try to do it with all three cups upside-down. Presumably, this was an intentional ploy to trick information about hidden treasure from the villagers.
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James Coburn makes "the greatest shot I've ever seen" (or "the worst" if you believe Britt), by shooting an escaping bad guy as he reaches the top of a ridge. He would make basically the same shot twenty-five years later in Bite the Bullett using a rifle and with Gene Hackman taking the same shot simultaneously.
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George Peppard was originally considered for the role of Vin played by Steve McQueen. Peppard later went on to play Col. John "Hannibal: Smith in the TV series "The A Team" (1983), the pilot episode of which was a modern-day retelling of this story. Later episodes also retold the story in varying ways and in fact part of the premise of the series was based on this film.
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The events in the film must have taken place in or after 1896. Steve McQueen mentions something as "Cracker Jack." Cracker Jack was created in 1896.
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Three members of the seven, James Coburn, Brad Dexter and Horst Buchholz, died less than four months after one another; Coburn on November 18, 2002, Dexter on December 12, 2002, followed by Buchholz on March 3, 2003.
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O'Reilley fires only one shot with a hand gun during the entire movie, his last shot, fired left handed as he had already been shot in the right shoulder. He uses a rifle exclusively up to that point.
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According to the DVD notes, both John Ireland and Sterling Hayden were approached for the role of Britt.
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As Chris and Vin drive the hearse to Boot Hill, they pass a storefront with the name P. Garrett over the door. Pat Garrett was the lawman who killed Billy the Kid.
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Included among the American Film Institute's 2001 list of the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies.
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Eli Wallach had a hand in how Calvera's death would be played out. "Make it simple", he thought. "Just let go, relax". And then it hit him: "Don't focus, just stare, and let your head role to one side." Sturges liked his idea.
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Body count: 55
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John Sturges faced a major problem during filming. The screenplay mentioned which of the Seven died, but in no order (the battle was not choreographed), and without being clear as to how. So Sturges came up with the idea to kill off the dying members of the seven in the order they had been cast, which went as follows: Lee (Robert Vaughn), Harry Luck (Brad Dexter), Bernardo O'Reilly (Charles Bronson), and Britt (James Coburn). Vaughn originally lobbied against dying first (because the character was especially created for him), so Sturges came up with a new solution, and the final death sequence which appears on film went as follows: Harry Luck (Dexter) is shot while riding back into town to join the seven who were holed up in the cantina, Lee (Vaughn) is shot after killing three bandits who were holding several villagers prisoner in a farmhouse, Britt (Coburn) is shot in the chest as he prepares to throw his knife and O'Reilly (Bronson) is wounded several times before this, but finally dies after being shot in the stomach while pushing the children to safety.
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Eli Wallach and Robert Vaughn's characters are both killed in this film. In real life, however, Wallach and Vaughn were the last surviving members of the main cast. Wallach (born in 1915) is a fine example of irony, for although he played the villain and was older than all the other leads (Brad Dexter was the oldest, born in 1917, and the others were born in 1920, 1921, 1928, 1930, 1932, and Horst Buchholz, the youngest, was born in 1933), he outlived them all, except for Vaughn,
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It's never clearly shown just how many people each member of the Seven killed. However, if one were to look at clear cases of onscreen killings, Vin (Steve McQueen) has the most, while Harry (Brad Dexter) has only one kill.
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O'Reilly (Charles Bronson) is the last of the seven to die. O'Reilly's counterpart in Seven Samurai (1954), Heihachi Hayashida, is the first of the seven to be killed.
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Ironically, though Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen's characters didn't die in the film, in real life they were the first two among the "Magnificent Seven" actors to pass away. McQueen died in 1980 while Brynner passed in 1985.
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Calvera refers to his 40 men--after the three scouts have been killed. During the first shootout at least 13 are seen to have been killed, with a further 24--including Calvera--during the final battle.
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Robert Vaugn's character was the last, among the seven, to be introduced in the film. Coincidentally, in real life, he was the last one among the seven actors who played the original "Magnificent Seven" to pass away.
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Steve McQueen, who played Vin, was the first of the Magnificent Seven to have died. By coincidence, the actor who played his counterpart, Shichiroji (Daisuke Katô), was the first of the Seven Samurai to pass. Both Vin and Shichiroji survive their movies.
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Although James Coburn and Charles Bronson are not among the three surviving gunfighters in the film, they are two of only three prison camp escapees in John Sturges' next film, The Great Escape (1963) (John Leyton, aka Willie the Tunnel King, is the third).
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Although Eli Wallach never got to play the Toshiro Mifune counterpart, his character Calvera was still killed in a similar manner to Kikuchiyo.
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