A tale of greed, deception, money, power, and murder occur between two best friends: a mafia enforcer and a casino executive, compete against each other over a gambling empire, and over a fast living and fast loving socialite.
A mentally unstable veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City, where the perceived decadence and sleaze fuels his urge for violent action by attempting to liberate a presidential campaign worker and an underage prostitute.
Robert De Niro,
As boys, they made a pact to share their fortunes, their loves, their lives. As men, they shared a dream to rise from poverty to power. Forging an empire built on greed, violence and betrayal, their dream would end as a mystery that refuse to die. See more »
In the original script, Deborah Gelly was fifteen-years-old, but Elizabeth McGovern was twenty-years-old when shooting began, twenty-one-years-old when it ended, and twenty-two-years-old when the movie premiered. See more »
When Deborah's train leaves for Hollywood, a French railroad car (SNCF) is on a track in the background. Above the French car, a sign can be seen saying "Voie 13", which is French for Track 13, indicating this scene was shot at a French railway station. See more »
[In 1933, two goons rudely question a young woman]
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?
[Two shots are heard]
[to his partner]
Stay here in case that rat shows up...
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The infamous 139 minute American version was the version given wide release in America. Heavily cut by the Ladd Company against Leone's wishes, the film's story was rearranged in chronological order, which had the effect of making it even more difficult to follow. Most of the major cuts involved the childhood sequences, making the 1933 sections the most prominent part of the film. All of the scenes in 1968 with Deborah were excised, and the scene with "Secretary Bailey" ended with him shooting himself (albeit off-screen), rather than the famous garbage truck conclusion of the 229-minute version. The shortened version, while briefly on VHS in the 1980s, is in little demand and almost impossible to find. See more »
Mesmerizing and haunting tale of love, greed, regret, betrayal and revenge
This is, for me, one of the finest examples of cinematic art. It isn't a simple, cut-n-dried 90 minute little package that gets wrapped up with a pretty bow at the end. You get pulled in by the enigmatic opening that unwinds the threads of the story to be found later. For many people having half an hour of purely visual story telling, of stories that are only mysteries at that point, before anything becomes truly linear is difficult to follow and discourages to many people. Our own memories are only snippets that only become linear as we concentrate on scenes from our lives. Once Upon a Time in America is like that as we follow Noodles through the `significant' part of his life - the times that formed him. When the story actually starts, we meet the girl that he always loved but could never have.
David `Noodles' Aaronson (DeNiro) was a kid on the very mean streets of Brooklyn when organized crime was born in America and he grew into and out of it. That's the simplest synopsis of the plot. The reality is that this isn't a movie about gangsters. Being a gangster is the easiest way for Noodles to survive and get ahead, but it also alienates and ruins his one love. Whenever he is close to giving himself to Deborah he always gets pulled back into the gang, in some form or another.
DeNiro's portrayal is of a gangster, through and through, who also has a conscience that, while not preventing him from being a ruthless killer, rules his life with regret, remorse and guilt. Leone takes a bit of poet/historic license by showing the Brooklyn Bridge being built in the background (the bridge had been built 40 years before), but it symbolizes Noodles' own growth. When the bridge is just pilings and incomplete towers, Noodles is just forming his future. By the time the bridge is complete, Noodles is nothing but a gangster and the bridge is majestic. When he returns 35 years later our view of the bridge is from under a freeway -- the world has moved along, but the bridge and Noodles are just as they were.
The length: If you're looking for a brief distraction that you'll barely remember 30 minutes later, this isn't the movie for you. However, if you are prepared and able to be undistributed for the nearly 4 hours that this film uses to compress a lifetime -- you will be rewarded with many facets of thought and examination.
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