The film is largely based on gangster Harry Grey's semi-autobiographic novel "The Hoods", but draws its inspiration from two other literary sources: Jack London's novel "Martin Eden", about a man who becomes disillusioned with his world (the book actually appears in the film); and F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel "The Great Gatsby", about a man who becomes wealthy and powerful to become worthy of the woman he loves. See more »
Early, when the guy is being beaten, the thugs shoot the punching bag next to his head to scare him - the shot is fired with a semiautomatic pistol with a silencer. The thug then puts the silencer in the guy's mouth and cocks the hammer of the pistol - since it is a semiautomatic, the hammer should have already been cocked. See more »
[In 1933, three goons question a young woman about Noodles]
Where is he? Where's he hiding?
I don't know... I've been looking for him since yesterday.
[second goon slaps her harshly; she falls onto the bed]
I'm gonna ask you for the last time: where is he?
I don't know... what are you gonna do to him?
[second goon shoots her dead]
[to third goon]
Stay here in case that rat shows up.
One of Beefy's Thugs:
[...] See more »
A network television version of three hours (without commercials) was briefly available in the early-to-mid-1990s, which retained the film's non-chronological order but still left out several key scenes. This version has recently turned up in viewings of the film for the AMC TV channel. See more »
This has to be the most boring gangster film I've ever seen. Basically it's about Robert DeNiro and James Wood's friendship over fifty years or so as they rise and fall in the gang world. It's interesting to do it about Jewish gangsters, because most films center on Italian gangsters, but their being Jewish didn't seem to make much difference in the film. DeNiro and Woods were subdued, and I didn't buy for a second that they actually might care about one another. The female lead and DeNiro had no chemistry. Leone centered more on cinemetography than story, and the little story there was was painfully streched out to almost three and a half hours. Speaking of the cinemetography- sure there were some very nice images, but basically they were going for the same look as "The Godfather" only maybe with a little more of a golden nostolgia feel for it. I don't mind slowly paced films, but that deliberate pace must be used to draw the viewer into the film, the pace of "Once Upon a Time," just makes the viewer wish that he had commited suicide instead of having to watch it. I'm not a big gangster film fan, but this one ranks low among gangster films. It lacks the visual pop of "Goodfella's," the emotional intensity of "Miller's Crossing," the cultural/historic significance of "Godfather," the moralistic elements of "Angels with Dirty Faces," or the acting prowess of "White Heat." And it is certainly a lot more boring than any of the above films listed.
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