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Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

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A former Prohibition-era Jewish gangster returns to the Lower East Side of Manhattan over thirty years later, where he once again must confront the ghosts and regrets of his old life.

Director:

Sergio Leone

Writers:

Harry Grey (novel), Leonardo Benvenuti (screenplay) | 6 more credits »
Reviews
Popularity
463 ( 29)
Top Rated Movies #70 | Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Another 11 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert De Niro ... Noodles
James Woods ... Max
Elizabeth McGovern ... Deborah
Treat Williams ... Jimmy O'Donnell
Tuesday Weld ... Carol
Burt Young ... Joe
Joe Pesci ... Frankie
Danny Aiello ... Police Chief Aiello
William Forsythe ... Cockeye
James Hayden James Hayden ... Patsy
Darlanne Fluegel ... Eve (as Darlanne Fleugel)
Larry Rapp Larry Rapp ... Fat Moe
Dutch Miller Dutch Miller ... Van Linden
Robert Harper ... Sharkey
Richard Bright ... Chicken Joe
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Storyline

Epic tale of a group of Jewish gangsters in New York, from childhood, through their glory years during prohibition, and their meeting again 35 years later. Written by Andrew Welsh <andreww@bnr.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

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 »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violence, sexual content, language and some drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | Italy

Language:

English | Italian | French

Release Date:

1 June 1984 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Once Upon a Time in America See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,412,014, 3 June 1984, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$5,321,508
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (re-cut) | (extended cut)

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Sergio Leone had several meetings with ex-gangster and author Harry Grey, so that he could re-create America as seen through Grey's eyes (speakeasies, opium dens, and all). See more »

Goofs

When young Noodles holds young Peggy in the toilet and she says "You better stop squeezing me, or I'm gonna poop in my pants", the beginning of her line sounds twice, as if two different takes have been overlapped with a cross fade. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
[In 1933, two goons rudely question a young woman]
Beefy: Where is he? Where's he hiding?
Eve: I don't know... I've been looking for him since yesterday.
[second goon slaps her harshly; she falls onto the bed]
Beefy: I'm gonna ask you for the last time: Where is he?
Eve: I don't know... What are you gonna do to him?
[Two shots are heard]
Beefy: [to his partner] Stay here in case that rat shows up...
See more »

Crazy Credits

Joey Faye is credited as the "adorable old man." See more »

Alternate Versions

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 »

Connections

References A Clockwork Orange (1971) See more »

Soundtracks

La Gazza Ladra
Directed by Francesco Molinari Pradelli
from LP 894 103 "Rossini Overture"
P 1968 Distributed by Polygram Dischi S.p.A.
Music by Gioachino Rossini (uncredited)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
Last, butchered, unappreciated, work from one of the greatest...
6 November 2013 | by A_Different_DrummerSee all my reviews

... Directors of all time. Let's start with a story. Many years ago, when your grandfather was still a boy, a failed, beaten-down actor named Clint Eastwood packed up his horse and saddle (speaking metaphorically here), left Hollywood forever (or so he thought) and headed out to Europe to pick up cash wherever he could. He ended up doing a film in Italy for an almost-unknown director named Sergio Leone and an almost-unknown sound guy named Ennio Morricone. The film was (as history would later record) an "Italian Western," that is, as the iconic western drama was all but disappearing in the US, it was being "re-imagined" by Italian writers and directors, and then filmed in Italy, using mainly Italian actors. On the set, Eastwood spoke in English and everyone else spoke in Italian. (Dubbing later fixed all that). Filming now over, Eastwood took his cash and left. Weeks later, in a bar in another part of Europe, he overheard mention that a certain film was the leading box office attraction on the continent. The name sounded familiar but, frankly, during production, a final name for the film he'd just done had not even been selected. He investigated. Yes, this was the film he had just completed, now titled A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. The rest is history. Sort of. Two sequels were done with Eastwood playing the same character. Monster hits.

By this point the critics began to acknowledge not only Clint, but also the man behind the camera, Leone, who was one of the most promising directors of the era. HE DID THINGS WITH THE CAMERA THAT NO ONE HAS DONE BEFORE OR SINCE, especially his use of closeups, especially his ability to match powerful emotional orchestrals to key scenes. The fourth film in the series, done by Leone but by this time lacking Eastwood, was ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. (Eastwood meanwhile had returned to America as a major celebrity, formed his own production company, Malpaso, and over time became a director as well as the #1 box office star. Over the course of his career, Eastwood subtly voiced his distaste for Leone's work by scrupulously avoiding all Leone's trademark camera angles, even in his westerns!)

Back to Leone. While he lent his name to a handful of oddball productions, the last passionate work he left behind as his legacy was this film. OMG. What a film. Showcasing not only Leone's talent behind the camera, but also his musical magic as well as his ability to tell a complex tale like no one before him. It was by and large produced in obscure locations in NA, and the performances of the players, especially James Woods, and also de Niro, could possibly rank even today as the best they have ever given. (Also a performance from a young and charismatic Jennifer Connolly that by itself is worth the price of the ticket)

The film is magical. But here is the catch. Very few people have ever seen it. Even people who "think" they have seen it, really have not. The studio behind the film went berserk when they saw the length and, fearful of losing dollars when they could be changing reels and selling more tickets, they brought in a butcher to shorten it. Now maybe the new editor was not a butcher by trade, but he was sure one by disposition. The late Roger Ebert said that, in his career, this was the most abusive re-edit he had ever seen. The actual film, the one that Leone left, was not seen until years later when the director's version surfaced. It is astounding. It is magical. It is one of the best films ever made. It is a must see.


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