A Fistful of Dollars

Infobox Film
name = Fistful of Dollars
(Per un Pugno di Dollari)

|180px|"A Fistful of Dollars DVD cover, from the Macaroni Western Bible"
writer = Sergio Leone
A. Bonzzoni
Victor Andrés Catena
Jaime Comas Gil
starring = Clint Eastwood
Marianne Koch
Gian Maria Volontè
José Calvo
Joseph Egger
Antonio Prieto
Mario Brega
Wolfgang Lukschy
Sieghardt Rupp
Benny Reeves
director = Sergio Leone
producer = Arrigo Colombo
Giorgio Papi
music = Ennio Morricone
distributor = United Artists
released = Italy:
October 16, 1964
United States:
January 18, 1967
runtime = 100 min.
country = Italy
language = Italian
amg_id = 1:17610
imdb_id = 0058461
followed_by = "For a Few Dollars More"
budget = $200,000 (est.)

"A Fistful of Dollars" ("Per un Pugno di Dollari" in Italy and officially on-screen in the U.S. and UK as simply "Fistful of Dollars") is a 1964 western film directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood alongside Gian Maria Volontè, Marianne Koch, Wolfgang Lukschy, José Calvo and Joseph Egger. Released in the United States in 1967, it initiated the popularity of the Spaghetti Western film genre. It was followed by "For a Few Dollars More" (1965) and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (1966), also starring Eastwood. Collectively, the films are commonly known as "The Dollar(s) Trilogy". This film is an unofficial remake of the Akira Kurosawa film "Yojimbo" (1961). In the United States, the United Artists publicity campaign referred to Eastwood's character in all three films as the "Man with No Name".

As one of the first Spaghetti Westerns to be released in the United States, many of the European cast and crew took on American stage names. These included Leone himself ("Bob Robertson"), Gian Maria Volontè ("Johnny Wels"), and composer Ennio Morricone ("Dan Savio").

"A Fistful of Dollars" and its two sequels were shot in the Spanish province Almería.


A new type of hero to Hollywood cinema, a Man with No Name (Eastwood), arrives at a little Mexican border town named San Miguel. He is quickly introduced to the feud between two mafioso style families bitterly laying claim to the town: the Rojos brothers, consisting of Don Miguel (the eldest and nominally in charge), Esteban (the most head-strong) and Ramón (the most capable and intelligent, played by Gian Maria Volontè, who would go on to reappear in "For a Few Dollars More" as the psychopathic El Indio), and the family of town sheriff John Baxter.

The Stranger quickly spies an opportunity to make a "fistful of dollars" and decides to play both families against each other. Eventually he ends up rescuing Ramón's prisoner and mistress, Marisol (Marianne Koch) and reunites her with her own family. Together again, she and her family are told to flee the town by the stranger.

The Rojos capture and torture the stranger after this betrayal, but the stranger soon escapes with the help of the coffin maker Piripero (Joseph Egger, who would also reappear in the sequel). In their search for the stranger, the Rojos, the stronger of the families, gather outside the Baxter home, set fire to it, and massacre them all. The Rojos become the only family left in San Miguel. The Man with No Name returns to town to engage the Rojos in a dramatic duel. In doing so he rescues his new friend, the local innkeeper Silvanito. The Man with No Name kills the Rojos, including Ramón, and rides away before the governments of America and Mexico arrive at San Miguel.


*Clint Eastwood as The Man with No Name
*Marianne Koch as Marisol
*Gian Maria Volontè as Ramón Rojo (as Johnny Wels)
*Wolfgang Lukschy as John Baxter (as W. Lukschy)
*Sieghardt Rupp as Esteban Rojo (as S. Rupp)
*Joseph Egger as Piripero (as Joe Edger)
*Antonio Prieto as Don Miguel Rojo
*José Calvo as Silvanito (as Jose Calvo)
*Margarita Lozano as Consuelo Baxter (as Margherita Lozano)
*Daniel Martín as Julián
*Benito Stefanelli as Rubio (as Benny Reeves)
*Mario Brega as Chico (as Richard Stuyvesant)
*Bruno Carotenuto as Antonio Baxter (as Carol Brown)
*Aldo Sambrell as Rojo gang member (as Aldo Sambreli)


"A Fistful of Dollars" was at first intended by Leone to reinvent the western genre in Italy. In his opinion the American westerns of the mid to late nineteen-fifties had become stagnant, overly-preachy and unbelievable and because of this Hollywood began to gear down on the production of such films. Leone knew that there was still a significant market in Europe for westerns yet also realised that Italian audiences of the time were beginning to laugh at the stock conventions of both the American westerns and pastiche work of Italian directors hiding under pseudonyms. His approach was to take the grammar of the Italian film and transpose it into a western setting. Clint Eastwood was not the first actor who was approached to play the main character. Originally, Sergio Leone intended Henry Fonda to play the role of the "Man with No Name". [Christopher Frayling, "Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans from Karl May to Sergio Leone" (Tauris, 1998).] However, the production company could not afford to engage a major Hollywood star. Hereupon, Leone offered Charles Bronson the part who, in turn, declined the role arguing the script was too bad. Both Fonda and Bronson would later star in Leone's "Once Upon a Time in the West" (1968). Other actors who turned the role down were Ty Hardin [ [http://www.tahoebonanza.com/article/20040618/News/106180001/-1/NEWS Relive the thrilling days of the Old West in film | TahoeBonanza.com ] ] and James Coburn. [ [http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/cteq/03/28/fistful_of_dollars.html A Fistful of Dollars ] ] Leone then turned his attentions towards Richard Harrison, who had recently starred in the very first Italian western, "Gunfight at Red Sands" ("Duello nel Texas"). Harrison, however, had not been impressed with his experience on his previous film, and refused. The producers later established a list of available, lesser-known American actors, and asked Harrison for advice. Harrison suggested Clint Eastwood, who he knew could play a cowboy convincingly. [ [http://nanarland.com/nanarland_tv.php?vid=2 French-made documentary about Richard Harrison] ] Harrison later stated:

"Maybe my greatest contribution to cinema was not doing "Fistful of Dollars", and recommending Clint for the part". [ [http://www.nanarland.com/interview/interview.php?id_interview=richardharrisonvo&vo=1&page=2 Richard Harrison interview] ]

The film was to be shot in Spain, and although it wasn't the first western shot in such manner and the film itself was evidently a tribute to Akira Kurosawa's "Yojimbo" (1961), the film would become a benchmark in the Spaghetti Western genre that evolved from the mid 1960s. Eastwood was instrumental in creating the Man with No Name character's distinctive visual style that would appear in the Dollars trilogy that followed. He bought the black jeans from a sport shop on Hollywood Boulevard, the hat came from a Santa Monica wardrobe firm and the trademark black cigars came from a Beverly Hills store, although Eastwood himself is a non-smoker.

Because "A Fistful of Dollars" was an Italian/German/Spanish co-production, there was a significant language barrier on the set. Sergio Leone did not speak English, and Eastwood communicated with the Italian cast and crew which also included prominent actor Gian Maria Volontè mostly through stuntman Benito Stefanelli, who also acted as an unofficial interpreter for the production and would later appear in Leone's other pictures. Leone reportedly took to Eastwood's distinctive style soon, and commented that "I like Clint Eastwood because he has only two facial expressions: one with the hat, and one without it". [http://www.cinemadelsilenzio.it/index.php?mod=interview&id=17 (in Italian)]

"A Fistful of Dollars" became the first film to exhibit Leone's famously distinctive style of visual direction. This was influenced by both John Ford's cinematic landscaping and the Japanese method of distension, perfected by Akira Kurosawa. Leone wanted an operatic feel to his western and so there are many examples of extreme close-ups on the faces of different characters that function like the arias in a traditional opera. They focus the attention on a single person and that countenance becomes both the landscape and dialogue of the scene. This is quite different from the Hollywood use of faces where the close-up was treated as a reaction shot, usually to a piece of dialogue that had just been spoken. Leone's close-ups are more akin to portraits, often lit with Renaissance type lighting effects and are pieces of design in their own right.


The film's music was written by Ennio Morricone, credited as Dan Savio. Morricone recalled Leone requesting him to write "Dimitri Tiomkin music" for the film. The trumpet theme is similar to Tiomkin's "DeGuella" theme from "Rio Bravo" (1959) (that was called "Un Dollaro D'onore" in Italy) while the opening title whistling music recalls Tiomkin's use of whistling in his "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" (1957). Though not used in the completed film, Peter Tevis recorded lyrics to Morricone's theme for the film. As a movie tie-in to the American release, United Artists Records released a different set of lyrics to Morricone's theme called "Lonesome One" by Little Anthony and the Imperials.


Although the film was advertised in trailers as "the first film of its kind", the plot and to an extent the cinematography was based almost entirely on Akira Kurosawa's film "Yojimbo" (written by Kurosawa and Ryuzo Kikushima), and was the subject of a successful lawsuit by "Yojimbo"'s producers. Kurosawa remained insistent that he receive compensation. He wrote Leone: "It is a very fine film, but it is my film." [cite web
last = Galbraith IV
first = Stuart
title = "The Emperor and the Wolf"
publisher = New York: Faber and Faber
date = 2001
url = http://www.movingimage.us/film_programs/program_notes/y/yojimbo.html
accessdate = 2008-02-29

British critic Sir Christopher Frayling identifies three principal sources:

"Partly derived from Kurosawa's samurai film "Yojimbo", partly from Dashiell Hammett's novel "Red Harvest" (1929), but most of all from Carlo Goldoni's eighteenth-century play "Servant of Two Masters"..." ["The BFI Companion to the Western", 1988.]

Sergio Leone has cited these alternate sources in his defense. He claims a thematic debt, for both "Fistful" and "Yojimbo", to Carlo Goldoni's "Servant of Two Masters" - the basic premise of the protagonist playing two camps off against each other. For Leone, this rooted the origination of "Fistful"/"Yojimbo" in European, and specifically Italian culture. Obviously, it can be claimed that Leone has a vested interest in doing this - distancing the accusations of his stealing Kurosawa's ideas, if those ideas were already borrowed from an Italian classic.

The "Servant of Two Masters" plot can also be seen in Dashiell Hammett's 1929 detective novel "Red Harvest". The Continental Op hero of the novel is, significantly, a "man without a name". Leone himself believed that "Red Harvest", in turn, had influenced "Yojimbo":

"Kurosawa's "Yojimbo" was inspired by an American novel of the serie-noire so I was really taking the story back home again." [Frayling, "Spaghetti Westerns", 1981.]

Leone also referenced numerous American Westerns in the film, most notably "Shane" (1953) and "My Darling Clementine" (1946).

Akira Kurosawa and Ryuzo Kikushima's lawsuit eventually won, and as a result received 15% of the film's worldwide gross and exclusive distribution rights for Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. Kurosawa said later he made more money off of this project than he did on "Yojimbo".

In popular culture

"A Fistful of Dollars", although not the first 'spaghetti western', was indeed the first to be distinctively Italian and as such was immensely influential and is referenced heavily elsewhere in popular culture:

* "Back to the Future" trilogy: in "Back to the Future Part II" (1989), a short scene where the millionaire Biff Tannen in his hotel casino jacuzzi is seen watching Eastwood's character survive the final gunfight with the armour plating. This foreshadows the scene in "Back to the Future Part III" (1990) where Marty McFly duplicates the scene (in the same costume, and after having told locals his name was "Clint Eastwood").
* "": in the episode "A Fistful of Datas", Worf and Troi are trapped in a holodeck western until they play it out to the end of the story. Meanwhile, each of the characters was replaced by a likeness of Data. There is an homage to the iron plate when Worf rigs a makeshift deflector shield.
* The movie "Last Man Standing" (1996) starring Bruce Willis is a version of both "Yojimbo" and "A Fistful of Dollars".
* In the second part of Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" (2003), the theme music of the film is used during the scenes where Budd shoots the Bride.
*Stephen King has credited the trilogy with inspiring the atmosphere of his novel "The Gunslinger".


See also

* "For a Few Dollars More"
* "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly"
* Dollars Trilogy
* Man with No Name
* Spaghetti Western

External links

* [http://www.spaghetti-western.net/index.php/A_Fistful_of_Dollars "A Fistful of Dollars"] at the Spaghetti Western Database
* [http://www.fistful-of-leone.com Fistful-of-Leone.com]
* [http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums Sergio Leone Web Board]
* [http://www.clinteastwood.net Clint Eastwood.net]
* [http://www.clinteastwood.org/forums Clint Eastwood Forums]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A1161271 A Comparison of "Yojimbo", "A Fistful of Dollars" and "Last Man Standing"]

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