Leone and Sexual Polititics


(DutchEngstrom) #1

Up until Leone, women in westerns had been featured prominently. Grace Kelly, Natalie Wood, Vera Miles, Claire Trevor and Marlene Dietrich, to name a few, all played key elements in western classics. Even Debbie Reynolds was reserved a major portion of How the West was Won. But along came The Magnificent Seven, and suddenly the western had become a “boys only” club. Leone stepped it up a notch by making women almost non-existent in his films. and when they were present, they were abused badly by the lowest of characters, or totally ignored. In Fistful of Dollars, the mother has her son taken away from her, repeatedly. The matriarchal leader of the Baxter gang is portrayed as a shrew, until ultimately, she is gunned down. In For a Few Dollars More, the hotel managers wife is belittled by her husband, and Mortimer’s sister is raped before she kills herself. In GBU and Duck, You Sucker, Leone takes male-bonding to extremes, and save for an excised rape scene in DYS, there are no female characters. Jill(Claudia Cardinale) in OUTIW, is the only majorly featured female character in a Leone western. She is slapped around by Bronson, sexually assaulted by Fonda, and admired as a mother figure by Robards. Was Leone telling the viewers about his sexual preferences, in a round about way? Were his films a precursor to Brokeback Mountain? What’s your opinion?


(Sebastian) #2

uh… I have nothing to say :slight_smile:


(ENNIOO) #3

Leone had issues with women for sure, to what extent who really knows?

And let’s not forget the very nasty scene in ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA with Elizabeth McGovern.


(Silver) #4

Perhaps he just felt women and romance would detract from the stories, or that they had no real place in them? And let’s face it women probably would have had a crappy time of it in those days. As for his sexuality? Wasn’t he married til his death, with a couple of kids? Also, it seems quite a few of the directors of those times had problems with women (most notable Fulci, and Argento), plus Leone was reputed to have had a temper and to have been a pretty callous guy.


(ENNIOO) #5

I think there was no place in the storylines for prominent lead female roles in most Leone westerns (Once Upon A Time In The West being the exception, but even then she is treated rather bad at times).

Yes, Leone was married like you say.
But this can be a very good cover if needed perhaps?
(Remember what Rock Hudson used to get up to when he was married)


(Silver) #6

[quote=“ENNIOO, post:5, topic:649”]I think there was no place in the storylines for prominent lead female roles in most Leone westerns (Once Upon A Time In The West being the exception, but even then she is treated rather bad at times).

Yes, Leone was married like you say.
But this can be a very good cover if needed perhaps?
(I am thinking re Rock Hudson for example).[/quote]

True…you just never know i guess ???


(DutchEngstrom) #7

[quote=“Silver, post:4, topic:649”]Perhaps he just felt women and romance would detract from the stories, or that they had no real place in them? And let’s face it women probably would have had a crappy time of it in those days. As for his sexuality? Wasn’t he married til his death, with a couple of kids? Also, it seems quite a few of the directors of those times had problems with women (most notable Fulci, and Argento), plus Leone was reputed to have had a temper and to have been a pretty callous guy.[/quote] Women were much stronger, historically, than they were ever portrayed in any genre film. Some women had birth 9 or 10 children by their 30th birthday(if they lived that long). That’s how they kept the farms running. Free labor.[quote=“ENNIOO, post:5, topic:649”]I think there was no place in the storylines for prominent lead female roles in most Leone westerns (Once Upon A Time In The West being the exception, but even then she is treated rather bad at times).

Yes, Leone was married like you say.
But this can be a very good cover if needed perhaps?
(Remember what Rock Hudson used to get up to when he was married) .[/quote]Actually, if you really watch West, Jill is the most unnecessary character in the film. She has no real bearing on the final outcome, anymore than Cheyenne does. I think she was window dressing imposed on Leone by the studios.


(ENNIOO) #8

However, without this character the film would have been much shorter, and by this time Leone wanted to make epic long style films, and did not want to make another ‘Dollar’ style film.


(DutchEngstrom) #9

[quote=“ENNIOO, post:8, topic:649”]However, without this character the film would have been much shorter, and by this time Leone wanted to make epic long style films, and did not want to make another ‘Dollar’ style film.[/quote] Lawrence of Arabia hasn’t one female character in the whole movie, and it clocks in at over 3 1/2 hours. I’m sure Leone was a clever enough man, that he could have figured out how to pad out the movie without a female star, as he had done in GBU.


(ENNIOO) #10

Different writers have different ideas, and of course there were a few involved in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.


(DutchEngstrom) #11

[quote=“ENNIOO, post:10, topic:649”]Different writers have different ideas, and of course there were a few involved in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.[/quote] Leone contributed a lot of his own writing to his scripts, and, from what I have heard, was always working on his next movie, while in the middle of a current film. Ultimately, most directors have the final word on any script. A writer of the commercial magnitude of Stephan King might be an exception to the rule.


(ENNIOO) #12

He contributed yes, but with so many other writers involved, it must have been difficult at times.

I would not agree on most directors having the final say on scripts all the time, I would more say the producers, as it is there money at stake.


(DutchEngstrom) #13

[quote=“ENNIOO, post:12, topic:649”]He contributed yes, but with so many other writers involved, it must have been difficult at times.

I would not agree on most directors having the final say on scripts all the time, I would more say the producers, as it is there money at stake.[/quote] Writing for Leone was not an extremely tough task to perform, as his films had very little dialogue, usually more peppered with catch-phrases than lines. Leone was more a visual director, much like Kubrick, and dialogue always came second to the visual image. Leone, almost single-handedly, rejuvenated the Italian film industry with his financial successes, and I doubt very many studio bigwigs would have stood in his way. Even less-influential directors have ways around thick-headed producers, usually via editing.


(ENNIOO) #14

I think you underate the writers, as may be minimal, but is multi-layered, and I suspect catch phrases are not always easy to come up with.

And, this film had American money in whereas his ‘Dollar’ films did not, and some Americans at the time would have certaintly stood in the way of Leone.


(DutchEngstrom) #15

[quote=“ENNIOO, post:14, topic:649”]I think you underate the writers, as may be minimal, but is multi-layered, and I suspect catch phrases are not always easy to come up with.

And, this film had American money in whereas his ‘Dollar’ films did not, and some Americans at the time would have certaintly stood in the way of Leone.[/quote] Leone was strictly an Italian product, up until Once Upon a Time in America. US influences ran no further than distributorship. As a matter of fact, Leone lost major ground with producers in America when West flopped here. With his follow-up failure DYS only magnifying the rift in regards to US ties. Which might explain US heavy-handed editing of OUTIA. They didn’t trust Leone, by that point, to bring a cohesive story in at under 2 hours. When Leone went into West, he was still living high on the hog from the Eastwood trilogy. US producers would have done just about anything at that time, to get an SW from the Maestro, especially after all the shlocky imitators. After West, was a different story.


(ENNIOO) #16

Once Upon A Time In The West is a Italian / American co-production.

Well, been lovely speaking to you, but one must get his sleep, Adios!


(Silvanito) #17

I think all this was just a part of Leone’s style when he made his first spaghettis.

Hollywood-westerns had featured many leading ladies, and that’s exactly the reason why Leone excluded them in his films.

And that many women were treated badly was just a part of the extreme violence in the spaghetti wild west. A hell of a lot of men were treated even worse in Leone’s films :wink:

Besides not all women were abused all the time, Eastwood saves Marianne Koch and the baby in Fistful for instance.


(DutchEngstrom) #18

Just re-watched the docs on OUTIW, last night. Hadn’t seen them in a while. Bertolucci related how it took a long time persuading Leone to put the character Jill into the script. He never had any intentions of a female part in that film.


(Silvanito) #19

How nice that Bertolucci managed to persuade Leone, since Claudia Cardinale is the best part of OUATITW!

Ciao bella ;D


(Stanton) #20

Maybe, but now she’s the center of the film.

Leone has claimed that the film is about the building of an american matriarchy, but as a dream.

Well, at the end she is the only survivor of the 5 main characters, she wins all what the men were struggling for.
Bronson is disappearing, dead inside.