A ‘Fistful’ of cinematic history


2014 marks the 50th anniversary of Sergio Leone’s “A Fistful of Dollars.”

On seeing Akira Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo,” Leone thought it would make a great western. “Yojimbo” was inspired by Dashiell Hammett’s novel “Red Harvest” and also by Hollywood westerns like “Shane.” As Leone said, “It would be wonderful to take it back to where it originally came from.” So in 1964 the western was reinvented in Italy as a low budget film originally called “Il Magnifico Straniero” (The Magnificent Stranger). The title was changed to “A Fistful of Dollars.”

Though not the first Italian western, Leone’s approach was truly unique. It became a huge success in Italy and made a movie star of Clint Eastwood. Thus the “spaghetti western” was born. The prototype for the cynical, ultra-cool action hero (or antihero) had now been established. Also integral to the film was maestro Ennio Morricone’s score.

Italian westerns: A June 29 article about the origins of the “spaghetti westerns” of the 1960s said that the original Italian title of the film “A Fistful of Dollars” was “Il Magnifico Strangero.” The correct translation is “Il Magnifico Straniero.” —

Because of a copyright lawsuit brought by Kurosawa, the film wasn’t released in the U.S. until 1967.


Inspired by this anniversary (and my Italian American heritage), I’ve created a blog called “Spaghetti Journal.” It’s a kind of graphic journal that combines homage, pop culture, Old West mythology and memoir.