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)
Film Critic

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.

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.