One of my favorite westerns is the movie, Once Upon A Time In The West. This was Sergio Leone’s epic masterpiece. Whereas The Good, The Bad and the Ugly is several stories held together by a longer arc, Once is a long narrative. I put them as 1A and 1B as far as how I rate them greatness.
One of the greatest build-ups of tension and suspense is the opening scene with three outlaws waiting for a train. The scene seems drawn out, but is perfectly paced. When the train arrives you hear a lone harmonica playing. As the train pulls away, Charles Bronson is standing there playing the harmonica. There is a brief, but humorous, exchange between Bronson and the creepy Jack Elam. Then Bronson guns the outlaws down.
An interesting story I read is that Leone wanted Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach, and Clint Eastwood as the outlaws in the opening sequence. This would have been his final story about “The Man with No Name”. Man, that would have been so cool. What better way to end that story, than to show him in the beginning and having him gunned down before the opening credits roll? Also it is a perfect noir element to introduce to a western. It would have been great. My understanding is that Van Cleef, and Wallach were on board to do it, but Eastwood was still early in his movie career and didn’t want to be tied too closely with one director or genre and declined to do it.
Oh what could have been.