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Critic’s Choice: Big new books focus on ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ and pre-Code Hollywood

Critic’s Choice: Big new books focus on ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ and pre-Code Hollywood
Filming in Monument Valley, Utah, from the book "Once Upon a Time in the West: Shooting a Masterpiece." (Angelo Novi /Reel Art Films)

The movies may not be getting bigger than ever, but the books on them most definitely are, starting with Christopher Frayling’s pleasantly massive “Once Upon a Time in the West: Shooting a Masterpiece.”

That Sergio Leone epic 1968 western may have been filmed in Monument Valley but, starring Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda and Jason Robards, it was nothing like a John Ford feature. Frayling, the world’s leading Leone expert, has amassed photographs, posters, production sketches and more, and Leone fan Quentin Tarantino has written the introduction to this impressive volume.

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Also visually focused is “Forbidden Hollywood: The Pre-Code Era (1930-1934): When Sin Ruled the Movies.” Written by Mark A. Vieira, also an expert in his field, it uses scintillating images to explore racy pre-Code doings, when films such as “Baby Face” and “Call Her Savage” hit the screens and Hollywood never met a moral rule it didn’t want to break.

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