Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Old West Revived in Rome [archived newspaper article]

Even Westerns fit Italian style

The Washington Post

By Leo J. Wollemborg

July 19, 1965

ROME- The western, Italian style, is the surprise box office hit at movie theaters throughout Italy this year.

     The lead product of the current crop of homemade sagas of cowboys, bandits and Indians was turned out in six weeks at a cost of just under $200,000.

     Released last October and appropriately titled “Per un pugno di dollari” (For a Handful of Dollars), the picture has already grossed $3.3 million. “Goldfinger” and “Marriage Italian Style”, the Sophia Loren – Marcello Mastroianni vehicle directed by Vittorio De Sica, are the only two other movies that can boast similar receipts here during the 1964 -65 season.

     Another Italian – made, low budget western, released last December called “Minnesota Clay”, has already grossed $1.2 million. No wonder that by now two dozen of those films should be in production or under consideration by Italian movie-makers. Their titles range from “The Colt Is My Law”, to “The Charge of the Fifth Cavalry” and from “A Pistol for Ringo” to “Three Dollars of Lead” and “The Sheriff of the OK Corral”.

     THE SUCCESS enjoyed by “For a Handful of Dollars” and by “Minnesota Clay” contrasts sharply with the poor reception given to the westerns produced her in the past. Perhaps Italian movie-goers have become tired of both the “realistic’ and sexy films that were the mainstays of local production in earlier years. But the main reason is that the latest homemade westerns have been put together with a careful and respectful eye to Hollywood’s style and tradition in the field.

     For instance Sergio Leone who directed “A Handful of Dollars”, has drawn heavily upon his experience as an assistant to both William Wyler and Fred Zinnemann. Accordingly, his picture offers both evidence of adequate documentation on the lore of the Old West and credible performances by the actors impersonating the typical heroes and villains of the lore.

     The cast is almost wholly Italian, but the names have been duly Americanized, including Leone’s own which has become Bob Robertson. This has now become standard practice: in the current crop of Italian – made westerns, therefore, the director is likely to be called Robert M. White (nee Roberto Bianchi) and the cast is bound to include actors names Joseph Trader (a literal translation of Giuseppe Mercanti), Herbert Martin (Alberto Martini) or Joseph Mason (Giuseppe Masini), plus one or two genuine state-side products like Cameron Mitchell and Clint Eastwood.    

[Thanks to Mike Hauss for contributing this newspaper article.]

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