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Films to See Before You Die: #22 Once Upon a Time in the West


Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Director: Sergio Leone

Cast: Claudia Cardinale, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Charles Bronson

Synopsis: Brett McBain and his family live on a plot of land that is very valuable to certain men building the new railway through town but he won’t sell his land because he wants to build his portion of the railway. The men in charge of the railway hire a group of gunmen to kill the family so they can buy the land outright. When the only family member alive is the 5 year old son the leader of the gunmen is called out by name so without hesitation Frank (Henry Fonda), kills the boy. On the other side of town three other gunmen are waiting for a train to arrive with an important passenger on board. When the train arrives a lone man with a harmonica is the only one to get off this is the man they are waiting for after a short pause the man draws and kills the other three while being wounded in the arm Harmonica (Charles Bronson) is his name. Harmonica also has a past with Frank and has now come to get his revenge. A few days later a woman named Jill (Claudia Cardinale) arrives on a train and she is the new wife of Brett McBain, she arrives to the farm to find her new family dead with their murders being blamed on Cheyenne (Jason Robards) and his men. When Cheyenne finds out that he has been framed he and Harmonica reluctantly form and alliance in order to help make sure Jill is safe from Frank.

Trivia: Henry Fonda prepared for his role as the villain “Frank” by arriving in Italy with a pair of brown colored contact lenses and a grown mustache. When Sergio Leone saw them, he ordered them removed. Leone had planned an important close-up shot of Frank’s entrance and wanted the audience to instantly recognize Fonda with those blue eyes. Sergio Leone originally offered the role of Harmonica to Clint Eastwood, but he turned it down, so Leone hired Charles Bronson instead. James Coburn was also approached for the role Harmonica, but Coburn demanded too much money.

Why I think you should see this: I love Sergio Leone’s films they are so beautiful and this is one of his many masterpieces and is also my personal favourite of his work. Before seeing this film I never really thought much of Charlie Bronson but he is very underrated in my opinion getting locked into all those Death Wish films. Henry Fonda steals the show in this one as Frank and he is just so bad he’s good. Both Jason Robards and Claudia Cardinale are great in their roles too. This is an amazing western check it out sometime.

About Trevor

Hi my name is Trevor and this is my blog! Films are a passion of mine. I am a total film geek. I own over 700 films and the collection is ever growing. I studied Film Studies and Scriptwriting in College. What I have learned about films is mostly self taught.

7 responses to “Films to See Before You Die: #22 Once Upon a Time in the West

  1. Once Upon A Time In The West is My FAVE FAVE FAVE Western EVER!
    The Best Sergio Leone Film EVER, Also.
    Love It Love It!!!!

  2. Reblogged this on "You Jivin' Me, Turkey?" and commented:

  3. I’m with Brad, love this one too
    As a huge Charles Bronson fan, this is definitely some of his finest work

  4. Selfmanic

    Love Henry Fonda. My favorite is A Man called Nobody.

  5. jmount43 ⋅

    I finally got around to seeing this film about a year ago. Classic, without a doubt.

  6. I’ve heard it said that this is considered perhaps the best movie of “all time”. I’m keen to get my hands on the full, unedited version as it was “cut down” to a more manageable size apparently but in the process lost something, so I’ve read 😉 Kim*

  7. Great movie. Have you seen the South Korean Western homage, The Good, The Bad & The Weird?

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