CLOSE
United Artists - MGM
United Artists - MGM

12 Great Facts About The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

United Artists - MGM
United Artists - MGM

Though it has to forever compete with The Searchers and High Noon, few Western films will ever have the impact of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, the final film in Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy” and the most famous Spaghetti Western (that is, films in the American Western style made by Italian directors) of all time. It catapulted Clint Eastwood to super-stardom, changed the way countless directors thought about the genre, and continues to influence film to this day. So, in celebration of the film's 50th anniversary, here are a dozen facts about the legendary tale of gunslingers on the hunt for treasure.

1. THE FILM’S STORY WAS IMPROVISED IN A MEETING.

In late 1965, A Fistful of Dollars and its sequel, For a Few Dollars More, were not yet available in the United States, but their success in Europe was not lost on American film executives. Hoping to capitalize on the buzz and secure a lucrative American distribution deal, director Sergio Leone and writer Luciano Vincenzoni brought Arthur Krim and Arnold Picker—two United Artists executives—to Rome, where they were treated to a screening of the second film at a massive cinema where For a Few Dollars More was playing to enthusiastic crowds.

The American executives were interested, and agreed to pay $900,000 for the American rights (a huge amount at the time, particular considering the fact that Eastwood was not yet the massive star he’d become), but as the principals gathered to sign the deal, Picker asked if Leone, Vicenzoni, and producer Alberto Grimaldi had thought about what they’d be doing next, as he was hoping for yet another Western to package with the first two films. The three men hadn’t thought about it before, but Vincenzoni thought quickly, and improvised an idea.

“I don’t know why, but the poster came into my mind—Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo. ‘The Good, The Bad and the Ugly,’” said Vincenzoni. “It’s the story of three bums that go around through the Civil War looking for money.”

Based on that short pitch, Picker agreed to fund the film, and the movie was on its way. Eventually, all three films were released in America over the course of a single year.

2. CLINT EASTWOOD’S SALARY DEMANDS DELAYED FILMING.

Eastwood initially agreed to return for a third film, but was disappointed when he read the script and discovered that he’d be sharing the screen with two other major players: Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef (who’d already co-starred with Eastwood in For a Few Dollars More). In Eastwood’s view, the increasing reliance on an ensemble was crowding him out of the movie.

“If it goes on this way, in the next one I will be starring with the American cavalry,” Eastwood reportedly said in response to the story.

Negotiations for the third film fell apart, and Eastwood’s agents and publicist worked hard to bring him back to the production. What’s most interesting about this was that, because the films still had not come out in America, Eastwood was not yet the huge star that we know him to be today, so he had less negotiating pull than you might expect. Still, his agents were ultimately able to get him a $250,000 salary for the film (more than the entire budget of A Fistful of Dollars), plus 10 percent of the profits when the film was finally released in America. As a cherry on top, he was also promised a new Ferrari. Of course, he ultimately accepted the job.

3. ELI WALLACH SAID YES AFTER SEEING ONLY MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS FILMS.

Eli Wallach in 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly'
United Artists - MGM

For the role of Tuco, a.k.a. “The Bad,” Leone initially wanted Italian actor Gian Maria Volontè, who’d played villainous roles in both previous films. When Volontè turned the role down, Leone turned to American actor Eli Wallach, who was at the time best known for his role in The Magnificent Seven. Wallach was skeptical of making a Western with, of all people, an Italian director, but a screening was arranged in an attempt to convince him. After watching just minutes of one of the first two “Dollars” films, Wallach told the projectionist that he could turn the movie off, and accepted the job.

4. SERGIO LEONE DID NOT SPEAK ENGLISH, AND THUS COULD NOT SPEAK DIRECTLY TO EASTWOOD.

By the spring of 1966, Sergio Leone had made two films with Eastwood, one film with Van Cleef, and was about to make a third film along with another American actor: Eli Wallach. Despite this, Leone did not speak English, and relied on an interpreter. Wallach, however, was able to communicate with Leone in French, in which the director was fluent.

5. LEONE DID COPIOUS RESEARCH.

Because the film was set during the Civil War, Leone wanted to preserve a certain sense of accuracy, and went to America to research the film. Among his inspirations were Library of Congress documents and the photographs of legendary photographer Mathew Brady. The film is not completely historically accurate, though. It features the use of dynamite before that particular explosive was invented.

6. THE FAMOUS BRIDGE EXPLOSION HAD TO BE SHOT TWICE.

For the scene in which Blondie (Eastwood) and Tuco (Wallach) decide to blow up the bridge that leads to the cemetery where they believe the gold they seek is buried, the production hired hundreds of Spanish soldiers to stand in for Civil War fighters. The shoot was complicated. The soldiers all had to be in the right, safe place, and Leone set up several cameras to film the moment while waiting for the perfect light to capture it.

As Eastwood and Wallach watched from a nearby hilltop (where Eastwood apparently practiced his golf swing), Leone watched the sky, waiting for the right light. The signal to blow up the bridge was supposed to be the word “Vaya,” and the crew gave a Spanish officer the honor of igniting the blast. Unfortunately, a member of the crew, while trying to hurry a cameraman, said “Vaya” too quickly. The officer heard the word and blew up the bridge.

The special effects expert who accidentally triggered the explosion with his words fled the set quickly, while Leone simply said, “Let’s go eat.” The bridge was rebuilt, and the scene was re-shot, driving up the budget of the film.

7. EASTWOOD HATED HIS CIGARS.

Eastwood’s “Man With No Name” character is easily identified by the little cigarillos he’s almost constantly smoking. Unfortunately for Eastwood, he didn’t really have a taste for them, and Leone was a fan of multiple takes. So Eastwood had to smoke quite a bit, and sometimes he felt so bad that he had to lay down an ultimatum.

According to Wallach, Eastwood would sometimes tell the director: “You’d better get it this time, because I’m going to throw up.”

8. WALLACH WAS ALMOST SERIOUSLY INJURED THREE TIMES.

Of all the stars of the film, it seems Wallach had the hardest time while shooting. For the scene in which he’s about to be hanged while sitting atop a horse (the idea was that the horse would be ushered away, thus leaving him to hang), Eastwood was supposed to fire a rifle at the rope. A small explosive charge in the rope would then detonate, thus freeing Wallach. What Leone didn’t count on was that the horse would be spooked by the sound of the rifle, and take off at a dead gallop with Wallach on its back, his hands still tied.

“It took me a mile before that horse stopped,” Wallach recalled.

For the scene in which Tuco escapes Union captivity by cutting his handcuffs under a moving train, Leone wanted to make sure the audience saw Wallach himself, and not a stuntman, lying beside the train as it sped by. Wallach agreed, then realized after the first take that a metal step affixed to one of the cars had missed his head by inches.

“I realized that if I had raised my head four or five inches I’d be decapitated,” Wallach said.

His troubles still weren’t done, though. During the film’s climax, when Tuco unearths the gold hidden in the cemetery, the crew applied acid to one of the bags of gold, so that when Wallach hit it with his shovel it was guaranteed to split open on cue. What the crew didn’t tell Wallach was that they were keeping the acid in a bottle that once held a brand of lemon soda that he enjoyed. Wallach saw the bottle and, thinking it was his favorite drink, took a sip. Luckily, he realized his mistake before it was too late.

9. IT’S TECHNICALLY A PREQUEL.

Careful viewers of the “Dollars Trilogy” will note that, though it’s the final film, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly actually takes place prior to the other two films. Among the clues: Eastwood acquires his iconic poncho, worn in both A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, in the final minutes.

10. “THE UGLY” AND “THE BAD” ARE REVERSED IN THE FIRST TRAILER.

In the final film, Tuco is designated as “The Ugly,” while Lee Van Cleef’s character, Angel Eyes, is “The Bad.” In the original trailer for the American release, though, Angel Eyes is “The Ugly” and Tuco is “The Bad.”

11. EASTWOOD TURNED DOWN A FOURTH FILM.

By the end of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Eastwood was done working with Leone—a famous perfectionist—and had resolved that he would form his own company and start making his own movies. Leone, on the other hand, wasn’t necessarily done with Eastwood. He even flew to Los Angeles to pitch him the role of “Harmonica” (ultimately played by Charles Bronson) in Once Upon a Time in the West. Eastwood wasn’t interested.

12. JOHN WAYNE WAS NOT A FAN OF EASTWOOD.

Before Leone’s Westerns hit America, heroic gunfighters were almost always portrayed as men who waited for the villain to draw their guns first, the idea being that these were men who wouldn’t kill unless they had to. Among these heroes was John Wayne, whose career was winding down just as Eastwood’s was heating up. According to Eastwood, director Don Siegel (who made several films with Eastwood, including Dirty Harry) once tried to get Wayne to be more like the “Dollars Trilogy” star during the filming of Wayne’s final film, The Shootist. Wayne, it turns out, was not a fan of Eastwood’s more ruthless Western style.

For a scene in The Shootist in which Wayne was originally supposed to sneak up behind a man and shoot him in the back, Wayne declared “I don’t shoot anyone in the back.”

Siegel, according to Eastwood, replied: “Clint Eastwood would’ve shot him in the back.”

Wayne’s response: “I don’t care what that kid would’ve done.”

Additional Sources:
The Leone Style (2004)
Clint: The Life and Legend by Patrick McGilligan (1999)
American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood by Marc Eliot (2009)
Inside The Actors Studio: “Clint Eastwood” (2003)

nextArticle.image_alt|e
A24
arrow
entertainment
The 25 Best Movies to Stream Right Now
Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz in The Lobster (2015).
Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz in The Lobster (2015).
A24

An incredible amount of entertainment is at our fingertips now, which causes an unfortunate conundrum: water everywhere and not a drop to drink. There’s so much on offer that we end up scrolling endlessly through vast online libraries of enticing movies, plagued by the burden of choice until we give up and wash the dishes.

Instead of resorting to household chores, here’s a tidy list of excellent films worth considering before you’re blinded by the infinite streaming options on the main Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime screens. Pick one from this concise list, and fear option paralysis no longer.

1. 13TH (2016)

Ava DuVernay’s primal scream in documentary form chronicles the American prison system through the lens of historical racial inequality. It’s as informative as it is enraging.

Where to watch it: Netflix

2. AIRPLANE! (1980)

A classic parody of disaster movies that places Julie Hagerty, Robert Hays, Peter Graves, and Leslie Nielsen into the cockpit. Surely, you can’t pass up streaming this one.

Where to watch it: Netflix

3. A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (1992)

Hilarious, heartfelt, epic, and intimate, this story of an all-female baseball team during World War II is one of the best movies of the modern era. It also taught us that there’s no crying in baseball.

Where to watch it: Hulu

4. THE BIG SICK (2017)

The breakout romantic comedy of 2017, Kumail Nanjiani stars as a wannabe stand-up comic who falls for a PhD student named Emily (Zoe Kazan) despite his parents wanting him to have a traditional Pakistani arranged marriage. It’s a fantastic (and partly autobiographical) film that was written by Nanjiani and his wife, Emily V. Gordon. But there’s no shame in watching it solely for Holly Hunter.

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime

5. A GHOST STORY (2017)

Another hit from last year’s Sundance Film Festival, this meditation on grief will either completely entrance you or leave you ice cold. Starring Rooney Mara (eating pie for the first time in her life) and Casey Affleck (who spends most of the movie under a sheet), it’s a divisive but profoundly rewarding experience.

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime

6. THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS (2016)

Inventive and incendiary, this novel adaptation breathes new life into the stumbling zombie genre. In a post-apocalyptic Britain, a group of hybrid children who salivate for human flesh but also have the ability to learn is held captive so that the military can workshop a cure and study their behavior. The brightest among them, Melanie (Sennia Nanua), plots her escape.

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime

7. THE GODFATHER (1972) AND THE GODFATHER II (1974)

Don’t think of it as a double feature of two of the best movies of all time. Think of it as a singular, six-and-a-half-hour experience with a brief intermission. And if you’ve got an entire day to kill, let The Godfather III pull you back in.

Where to watch it: Netflix

8. THE INDIANA JONES QUADRILOGY (1981 - 2008)

All four Indy movies—from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull—are available on Amazon, which means you can spend an entire day trying to retrieve mythic treasures before Gestapo officers get their mitts on them. Just watch out for snakes …

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime

9. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009)

Speaking of treks into the past, Quentin Tarantino’s Nazi-hunting, scalp-retrieving mission is available to stream without the danger of highly flammable nitrate film reels. Our introduction to Christoph Waltz as a charming villain, who faces off against Brad Pitt’s American GI and Mélanie Laurent’s French Jewish cinema owner as everyone tries to kill Hitler.

Where to watch it: Netflix

10. THE LOBSTER (2015)

In the world of Yorgos Lanthimos’s 2016 film, being single is illegal, which is why Colin Farrell’s David must find a life mate in 45 days or be turned into an animal of his choosing. The comedy is as dry as a salt lick in the Sahara, and the dystopian vision is absurd, which allows this story to prove just how strange love can be.

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime

11. THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES (NEW AND SELECTED) (2017)

Noah Baumbach has earned a reputation for digging 10 feet deep into his characters and leaving their hearts exposed for us. In his latest, Adam Sandler stars as an unemployed divorcee who moves in with his father (Dustin Hoffman) and navigates relationships with his sister, half-brother, and daughter, while juggling a difficult diagnosis.

Where to watch it: Netflix

12. MOONLIGHT (2016)

A trailblazer and last year’s Best Picture winner, Barry Jenkins’s film chronicles the life of Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes) as he grows up under the burden of his own and others’ responses to his homosexuality. It’s a stirring portrait anchored by phenomenal performances (including an Oscar-earning turn from Mahershala Ali).

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime

13. MUDBOUND (2017)

It’s amazing that we can watch a few awards season favorites from our couch, but with Netflix and Amazon pushing for more original content, you can expect that to become the norm. One of the very best of 2017 (and certainly the best ensemble), Dee Rees’s exceptional film weaves together the lives of one white family and one black family in WWII-era Mississippi to both joyous and tragic effect.

Where to watch it: Netflix

14. THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993)

Invite your friends over and bet them all the money in your pocket that Tim Burton didn’t direct this holiday classic, where Jack Skellington tries to take over Santa’s job. You’ll have a creepy fun sing-a-long, and you’ll win your friends’ money.

Where to watch it: Netflix

15. OKJA (2017)

If you didn’t think the adventure of a young girl and her super pig could make you pump your fist in the air, it’s time to check out this quirky firecracker from Bong Joon-ho. Thought-provoking and breathtaking? That’ll do, super pig.

Where to watch it: Netflix

16. PADDINGTON (2014)

The sequel to this animated hit is in theaters now, offering fans even more uplifting, good-spirited thrills. The original sees the adorable bear on a slap-stick ride through London. Don’t forget the marmalade!

Where to watch it: Netflix

17. THE PRESTIGE (2006)

Christopher Nolan’s poetic and exciting exploration of the antique world of stage magic and Tesla-fueled wizardry hides its tricks in plain sight and still manages to confound. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman star as dueling conjurers with a deadly serious rivalry. 

Where to watch it: Netflix

18. SCREAM (1996)

Wes Craven riffing on Wes Craven, this is the ultra-rare horror film that manages to mock the genre while getting the blood pumping in terror. Come for the slasher brilliance, stay for the 1990s fashion and lack of cell phones.

Where to watch it: Hulu

19. SICARIO (2015)

In this gripping crime drama, Emily Blunt plays an FBI agent struggling with the abandonment of ethics apparently necessary in taking down a Mexican drug lord. It’s a showcase of intense talent, from Blunt to director Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049) to cinematographer Roger Deakins (whose career is too long and impressive to condense).

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime

20. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991)

Serial killer perfection. Jonathan Demme managed to create a incredible thriller, detective yarn, and horror film all in one. Of course, Jodie Foster’s performance as Clarice Starling is a quiet tornado at the dark center of this murder mystery, even if Anthony Hopkins gets to chew more scenery. Did you know it was released on Valentine’s Day?

Where to watch it: Hulu

21. SUNSET BLVD. (1950)

Perhaps the greatest film noir of all time, Billy Wilder’s cinematic stick of dynamite features a formerly famous actress (who’s ready for her close-up, Mr. DeMille) and a hack screenwriter whose relationship with her ultimately leads to him floating the wrong way up in her swimming pool.

Where to watch it: Netflix

22. SWISS ARMY MAN (2016)

Vibrant, effervescent, and deeply weird, Paul Dano stars in this musical collage as a depressed loner stranded on an island until he finds a talking, farting corpse played by a very post-Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe. They save one another and, together, attempt to get back to civilization while singing the praises of Jurassic Park.

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime

23. THE TRUMAN SHOW (1998)

Unmistakably hopeful and humane, Peter Weir’s sci-fi film stars Jim Carrey as a naïve man who has lived since birth as the only person on a reality show who isn’t in on the reality. Blending philosophy and reality TV together is a feat on its own, but the movie is also fantastically entertaining.

Where to watch it: Netflix

24. THE WITCH (2015)

Delicately crafted with an eye toward historical accuracy, this existential horror film focuses on a New England farming family in the wilds of 1630 who believe a witch has cursed them. Anya Taylor-Joy’s standout performance acts as a guide through the possessed-goat-filled insanity.

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime

25. ZODIAC (2007)

The product of David Fincher’s notorious perfectionism, this deep dive into the unsolved case of a series of brutal crimes in the San Francisco Bay Area explores the depths of humanity’s depravity as well as its capacity for seeking justice. It’s a masterclass in filmmaking with powerful turns from Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey, Jr., and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime

nextArticle.image_alt|e
The Jim Henson Company
arrow
entertainment
The Dark Crystal Is Coming Back to Theaters
The Jim Henson Company
The Jim Henson Company

In 1982, Jim Henson and Frank Oz dared to venture into somewhat gloomier territory with the release of The Dark Crystal. Though the film, which centers on two Gelflings (a sort of creepy elf-like creature) attempting to save their species and restore peace to the world, wasn’t a huge hit at the box office, it has developed a large cult following in the more than 35 years since its release—even among those kids it scared the hell out of back in the day. Now, as Netflix preps its prequel series, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, for release later this year, Nerdist reports that the original film will make its way back into theaters next month.

As part of Fathom Events’s ongoing effort to breathe big-screen life back into classic films with limited releases across the country, The Dark Crystal will be playing in more than 500 theaters nationwide on February 25 and February 28. In addition to the original film, the screenings will also feature a brand-new introduction courtesy of Lisa Henson, Jim’s daughter and current president/CEO of The Jim Henson Company, who will talk about the making of the film and how it fit within her father's creative legacy.

To find out whether The Dark Crystal will be coming back to a theater near you, log onto Fathom’s web page for the movie and type in your ZIP code; tickets are on sale now.

[h/t: Nerdist]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios