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Sergio Leone

Sergio Leone (January 3, 1929 - April 30, 1989) was an Italian film director. Born in Rome, he was the son of the cinema pioneer Vincenzo Leone and the actress Francesca Bertini. With this background he started working in film in his teens.


He began writing screenplays in the 1950s and made his solo directoral debut in 1960. He did not invent the Spaghetti Western genre, but he created some of its most memorable films, overblown CinemaScope excesses that pushed the relative unknown Clint Eastwood into stardom.

Using the leverage of his successes he directed what he hoped would be his masterwork, C'Era una Volta il West (Once Upon a Time in the West), in 1967 for Paramount. Cruelly edited down, the film flopped. He directed a quick, money-making project starring James Coburn and turned down the opportunity to direct The Godfather, building up instead to another epic work, this time centred on American gangsters. At his death he was part way through planning yet another epic, this time on the Second World War battle for Leningrad.

His contributions to the Western genre

Leone deservedly gets credit for one great breakthrough in the Western genre that is still followed today: in "old" Westerns, heroes and villains alike looked like they had just stepped out of the beauty parlor. Leone's characters looked like what people really looked like back then: grimy. His Western figures were never shaved, always covered with dirt, always looking like they didn't smell so good.

This realism continues to affect Western movies.