Sergio Leone (1929 — 1989)
4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking.
91 years ago today, Sergio Leone was born in Rome. He went to school with future composer and collaborator, Ennio Morricone. He saw, first hand, the horrors of living under an authoritarian regime and, though it wasn’t always appreciated at the time, all of his film had an anti-fascist political subtext that was informed by growing up under Mussolini. He went to college to be a lawyer but quickly dropped out and instead, at the age of 18, started a long apprenticeship in the Italian film industry. He started his career by working as an assistant to Vittorio De Sica on Bicycle Thieves, which is a pretty good way to start things. Eventually, he went on to become one of the most influential directors of all time.
Taking into mind just how influential his work would be, it’s can be easy to forget that Leone is only credited with having directed 7 films and the majority of those films were not immediately embraced. (Though it’s generally agreed that Leone was, for all intents and purposes, the co-director of My Name Is Nobody, he was only officially credited with coming up with the film’s story.) In the 60s, highbrow critics turned their noses up at his spaghetti westerns, even while audiences ate them up and made Clint Eastwood into a film star. (Eastwood would later dedicate his Oscar-winning Unforgiven to Sergio Leone and Don Siegel.) The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly and Once Upon A Time In The West are now recognized as two of the greatest westerns ever made but, at the time they were released, they were criticized for being too long and (oddly enough) thematically shallow. Leone even had to suffer that indignity of having his final (and, in my opinion, best) film, Once Upon A Time In America, edited down by a studio that cared little about the intricate structure that Leone had crafted for his tale of greed, crime, and redemption in America.
Leone died when he was only 60, felled by a heart attack. However, his legacy remains alive, as his films continue to inspire directors and writers and other film lovers to this day. His two greatest films — Once Upon A Time In The West and Once Upon A Time In America — have been rediscovered and rescued from the studio hacs who previously served him so badly. Just last year, Quentin Tarantino paid tribute to Leone with the title of his best film-to-date, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.
On this day, we honor the legacy of a cinematic great.
4 Shots From 4 Sergio Leone Films
A Fistful of Dollar (1964, dir by Sergio Leone, DP: Massimo Dallamano)
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (1966, dir by Sergio Leone, DP; Tonino Delli Colli)
Once Upon A Time In The West (1968, dir by Sergio Leone, DP: Tonino Delli Colli)
Once Upon A Time In America (1984, dir by Serigo Leone, DP: Tonino Delli Colli)