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Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

C'era una volta il West (original title)
PG-13 | | Western | 4 July 1969 (USA)
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A mysterious stranger with a harmonica joins forces with a notorious desperado to protect a beautiful widow from a ruthless assassin working for the railroad.

Director:

Sergio Leone

Writers:

Sergio Donati (screenplay by), Sergio Leone (screenplay by) | 3 more credits »
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729 ( 379)
Top Rated Movies #36 | 4 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Claudia Cardinale ... Jill McBain
Henry Fonda ... Frank
Jason Robards ... Manuel 'Cheyenne' Gutiérrez
Charles Bronson ... Harmonica
Gabriele Ferzetti ... Morton - Railroad Baron
Paolo Stoppa Paolo Stoppa ... Sam
Woody Strode ... Stony - Member of Frank's Gang
Jack Elam ... Snaky - Member of Frank's Gang
Keenan Wynn ... Sheriff - Auctioneer
Frank Wolff ... Brett McBain
Lionel Stander ... Barman
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Storyline

Story of a young woman, Mrs. McBain, who moves from New Orleans to frontier Utah, on the very edge of the American West. She arrives to find her new husband and family slaughtered, but by whom? The prime suspect, coffee-lover Cheyenne, befriends her and offers to go after the real killer, assassin gang leader Frank, in her honor. He is accompanied by Harmonica, a man already on a quest to get even. Written by DrGoodBeat / edited by statmanjeff

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

There were three men in her life. One to take her... one to love her... and one to kill her.

Genres:

Western

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for western violence and brief sensuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Italy | USA

Language:

Italian | Spanish

Release Date:

4 July 1969 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

There Was Once the West See more »

Filming Locations:

Bavispe, Sonora, Mexico See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$5,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$5,321,508, 22 June 1984
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (extended) | (1970) | (theatrical)

Sound Mix:

Mono | Dolby (2003 DVD release)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Al Mulock, who played one of the three gunmen in the opening sequence, committed suicide by jumping from his hotel window in full costume after a day's shooting. Production Manager Claudio Mancini and Screenwriter Mickey Knox, who were sitting in a room in the hotel, witnessed Mulock's body pass by their window. Knox recalled in an interview that while Mancini put Mulock in his car to drive him to the hospital, Director Sergio Leone said to Mancini, "Get the costume! We need the costume!" Mulock, who had appeared as the one-armed bounty hunter in Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), was wearing the costume he wore in the movie when he made his fatal leap. See more »

Goofs

Mr Morton's train must have a driver and a fireman. Morton also needs a housekeeper. It is unbelievable that none of these people appear, whatever happens on the train. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Cattle Corner Station Agent: Hey. Hey-hey-hey-hey, if you want any tickets, you'll have to go around, eh, to, eh, the front of, eh, eh... oooh, well, I s'pose it'll be all right. The hell am *I* doin' around here if they walk in and can do as they damn please?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Lionel Stander receives on screen credit in the original U.S. theatre release prints even though his part was completely cut out of this shortened version. See more »

Alternate Versions

The original 1969 UK cinema release was rated 'A' (the equivalent of today's PG certificate) by the BBFC after editing the bed scene between Frank and Jill and removing his line "You also like feeling a man's hand all over your body, even if they're the hands of the man that killed your husband". The line was restored for all later releases. See more »

Connections

Spoofed in Straight to Hell (1987) See more »

Soundtracks

L'Orchestraccia
Composed By, Orchestrated and Conducted by Ennio Morricone
Published by Universal Music Publishing Ricordi srl
(P) 1969 Sergio Leone Productions
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

pure cinematic paradise
26 July 1999 | by Sadako-ToyboySee all my reviews

Thank god that I'm a Bronson fan. This was my first Leone movie, and dumb kid that I was, I actually watched it thinking I was in for a typical Bronson "vehicle"! Looking back I'm thankful, because if it wasn't for his involvement, I would never have discovered the beauty and majesty that is Once Upon a Time in the West.

I absolutely love this movie. It's probably my all time favourite, certainly one of the few that I can watch OVER and OVER again without losing interest. I love the way Leone creates intrigue and mystery around what is a relatively thin plot. He can make even the smallest twist of fate seem like an epic turn of events, with that amazing sense of revelation that he generates out of old hackneyed situations (something Argento has since picked up). Leone proves in this film that he could seemingly take anyone, even peripheral characters, and give them screen charisma without using dialogue as a crutch.

OUATITW features the most tense two man stand-offs ever, with some serious deja-vu in the direction of his "Dollars" trilogy. In fact, it does feel like those three movies were warm ups, practice sessions in the build up to OUATITW. Here though, he perfected everything; despite the long running time, it's all focused, and without a single irrelevant scene. For me, the two hours plus just fly by, I wish it would never end. Leone was without question at his artistic peak when he made this, that's not to say that he went downhill from then on, but I honestly don't think he ever did another film where everything came together so perfectly.

The cast is flawless. Fonda eclipsed every good guy he ever did in one fell swoop, truly chilling. Robards is a great comic character, the lovable rogue with an edge. And Cardinale is more than just (incredible) window dressing; she switches between passionate, angry, delicate and sentimental at all the right moments.

Which leaves the hero; I'm a huge Eastwood fan, but I honestly don't believe he could have done the role justice. His "man with no name" was a cool, sly character with hidden complexities. Eastwood always does these layered personalities, with some kind of mental baggage. Bronson, on the other hand, mostly does himself; simple, uncomplicated figures with only one state of mind, that's why he's put in so many revenge flicks. Plus, he looks like he's been seriously wronged at some point in his life, Eastwood doesn't have that quality. Bronson is the genuine hard-as-nails article. You can readily imagine that, had he been born decades earlier and been put in the same situation, he would resolve the problem in much the same way as his character in the movie (sometimes I affectionately refer to this movie as Deathwish part 0- could Harmonica be the great granddaddy of Paul Kersey?).

Of course the other great contribution is the music. I still think that the main theme is one of the most breathtaking pieces of music I have ever heard. It affects me deeply whenever I hear it, regardless of the mood I'm in. Maybe I should listen to more opera or something, I don't know, but that's the way I feel. And the individual character themes are just so well integrated into the film, it's unbelievable. Leone replaces words with music, and it conveys so much more in return. Bronson just plays that melancholy tune on the harmonica instead of answering people back, it consistently cracks me up.

High Noon, Naked Spur, Shane, The Searchers, etc. are all classics of the genre, but I really don't think it's possible to compare those "traditional" westerns with OUATITW. For me, it exists on a plane of it's own, it's the kind of film experience that you let wash over you, a waking dream. I recommend this movie to anyone, if you're on the right wavelength you'll be greatly rewarded.


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