Directed by Sergio Leone, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is an iconic 1966 Italian Spaghetti Western film starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach. To this day, the film continues to captivate audiences with its impressive use of camera work and extremely high tension, not to mention its violence. Deemed one of the most classic Spaghetti Westerns ever made, it is the third and final installment of the Dollars Trilogy and resulted in Eastwood’s ultimate fame. Take a look to see why this particular Western from outside of the United States is considered one of the best of all time.
A Dog Was Unknowingly Released Into A Scene
In the scene before the final duel, when Tuco, played by Eli Wallach, is stumbling through the graveyard, a dog can be running across the screen. Although this was done on purpose, it was also improvised on the spot.
Director Sergio Leone was fearful that the scene was becoming too melodramatic, so he released the dog without informing Wallach. This made the dog’s and Wallach’s reactions to each other completely genuine, which made for a great addition to the scene.
Only A Few Actors Actually Spoke English
The three main actors in the movie, Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach are primarily the only people who actually speak English in the film with the exception of Al Mulock (the one-armed man) and John Bartha (the Sheriff.)
Everyone else in the film speaks their native language, which was mostly Spanish and Italian. Their voices were then dubbed for American release. One can imagine the difficulty of acting with someone who is speaking another language!
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Wasn’t The Planned Title
Director Sergio Leone originally wanted to title his story The Magnificent Rogues or The Two Magnificent Tramps. However, during a meeting when he pitched the story to United Artists executives Arnold Picker and Arthur Krim, Leone, he changed the name on the fly.
The executives were impressed by his impulsive new title and made the decision to contribute between $1.2 and $1.6 million to make it and retain North American distribution rights.
Leone Made A Small Nod To Another One Of His Films
After Blondie brings Tuco to the Sheriff for the first time, the Sheriff reveals one of Tuco’s wanted posters. He then unrolls it to reveal a picture of Tuco. However, if you look closely, you can see that the name on the poster is Guy Calloway, which is assumed to be one of Tuco’s aliases.
It also happens to be the name of one of the wanted men that Lee Van Cleef’s character takes out in another Leone film, For A Few Dollars More.
Clint Eastwood Didn’t Jump At The Offer
According to Sergio Leone, when he approached Clint Eastwood to act in the movie it took some convincing before he agreed to take the role. The main reason he was hesitant to do it was because he was afraid that his character would be upstaged by Tuco.
Eastwood commented, “In the first movie, I was just about alone. In the second, there were two of us, and now three. If it goes on like this, I’m going to end up with a whole cavalry.” Ironically, even though Eastwood was the title character, Eli Wallach has the most screentime.
Clint Eastwood’s Pistol Grips Appeared In Several Projects
In The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Clint Eastwood’s impressive pistol grips have an inlaid silver rattlesnake. In another of Leone’s films, Just A Few Dollars More, Eastwood also has the same grips.
Then, in the hit television series Rawhide, Eastwood plays the character Rowdy Yates who shoots a gunfighter with the grips that would be seen in Leone’s two feature films. Yates then carries the pistol grips for the rest of the series’ run.
Eli Wallach Had Trouble Holstering His Weapon
Initially, Eli Wallach had issues with properly holstering his pistol without looking, so Leone suggested that he wear it around his neck with a lanyard. After Wallach greed, Leone asked Wallach if he could move his neck in a fast motion to get the gun to land in his hand in one smooth motion.
When Leone was disappointed that Wallach couldn’t do that either, Wallach insisted that Leone try himself. When he did, he ended up hitting himself in the crotch, resulting in him telling Wallach just to stick the gun in his belt.
One Set Was Used For Numerous Different Locations
The town where Tuco’s second hanging occurs, where Maria is interrogated by Angels Eyes, where Tuco visits the gun shop, and where Tuco and his gang attempt to ambush Blondie, are all the same set. Designer Carlo Simi had originally built the town, El Paso, to use in For Just A Few Dollars More.
They managed to make the town appear to be four different locations by shooting in different areas of the town. “El Paso” still exists today and is a Western theme park known as “Mini Hollywood.”
There Was Potential For A Sequel
Although Leone never made an actual sequel to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Screenwriter Luciano Vincenzoni wrote a sequel that had the tentative title of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly No.2. According to Wallach, the film would have followed Tuco in pursuit of Blondie’s grandson for the gold.
Clint Eastwood even demonstrated some interest in narrating the movie, with Joe Dante and Leone being approached to direct and produce. However, the project was overruled by Leone, who didn’t want his concept or characters to be reused.
The Filmmakers Thought About The Ending Shootout Long And Hard
When the three gunslingers are in a standoff at the cemetery ring at Sad Hill, the three begin to slowly distance themselves from one another for the anticipating shootout. At one point, Angel Eyes moves to his left, crossing in the front of Tuco.
While this might seem like a foolish move, there was a reasoning behind it that that the filmmakers took into impressive consideration. Although this seems to put him directly in front of his enemy, it also put his back against the sun, something only an experienced gunslinger might think about.
Switching Up The Character’s Titles
In the theatrical trailer, Angel Eyes is actually “The Ugly” and Tuco is “The Bad,” which is reversed in the actual movie. This is so, because the Italian title translated into English is “The Good, the Ugly and the Bad,” although in Italian it was still “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”
When the trailer was made in English, they kept the same title which ended up meaning that the title names of Angel Eyes and Tuco had to be reversed.
The Italian Filmmakers Traveled To Retain Historical Accuracy
Because the film is set during the American Civil War, the Italian director and screenwriter traveled to the United States to gain a better understanding of the time period he was attempting to portray.
A lot of his inspiration came from his research of photos and documents by legendary photographer Mathew Brady at the Library of Congress. However, the film is still somewhat inaccurate in the fact that it features dynamite, an explosive that was not in existence during the period that the film was set.
Sad Hill Was Rediscovered By Fans
In 1966, Sad Hill Cemetery was built by the Spanish Army in Burgos with over 5,000 graves for the final scenes of the film. When filming concluded, the set was left as it was, and nature slowly reclaimed the makeshift cemetery.
In 2015, a group of superfans began excavating the site and beneath three inches of ground discovered the iconic paved circle. For months after, people from across Europe made pilgrimages to the site to restore the location to its former glory.
Some Aspects Were Based On Historical Events
In the film, the Union prison camp “Battleville” was inspired by the actual Confederate prison camp of Andersonville, a place where thousands of Union soldiers died. It was based on the engravings of Andersonville from August 1864.
In the film, when Angel Eyes is disguised as a Union Sergeant, he is harassed about his treatment of the Confederate soldiers. He responds sarcastically, asking if the Union soldiers imprisoned at Andersonville were treated any better.
There Are Clues That It’s A Prequel
While The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, may have been advertised as the third installment of The Dollars trilogy, it is, in fact, a prequel to the story. Leone planted sly hints throughout the film for eagle-eyed viewers to catch in order to put the pieces together.
For example, Eastwood’s classic style of a light blue shirt, lambskin vest, and brown hat, was given to him by Angel Eyes as they left the POW camp. Furthermore, the green poncho never is revealed until the final act of the story.
The Three Main Characters All Have Parts Of Leone In Them
Although all of the characters have unique personalities, they share one thing in common, which is that they came from the same mind as Sergio Leone. Each one has a character trait of Leone’s.
Leone once commented, “(Sentenza/Angel Eyes) has no spirit, he’s a professional in the most banal sense of the term. Like a robot. This isn’t the case with the other two. On the methodical and careful side of my character, I’d be nearer il Biondo (Blondie): but my most profound sympathy always goes towards the Tuco side. He can be touching with all that tenderness and all that wounded humanity.”
Eli Wallach Accepted The Job Minutes After Seeing The Previous Films
Initially, Leone wanted Italian actor Gian Maria Volonté to play the role of Tuco. The actor was renowned for his skill at playing villainous roles. Unfortunately, Volonté turned the role down, and Leone was left to find someone else. He turned to American actor Eli Wallach, who had made a name for himself in the now-classic Magnificent Seven.
Wallach was hesitant about making a Western, especially with an Italian director. To convince him, Leone hosted a personal screening of his past films for Wallach, and within minutes Wallach accepted the role.
Sergio Leone Didn’t Speak Any English To Anyone, Even Clint Eastwood
By the springtime of 1966, Italian director and screenwriter Sergio Leone had managed to make an impressive two films with both Eastwood and Van Cleef, with the intention of adding Eli Wallach into his third.
Yet, what few people know is that during this entire process, despite his film’s successes is that Leone didn’t speak any English. Instead, he relied on a translator. This is an impressive feat considering what he was able to accomplish.
The Big Explosion Had To Be Filmed Twice
The scene when Blondie and Tuco decide to blow up the bridge that leads to the cemetery where they believed the gold was located was quite the ordeal. Not only were hundreds of extras involved, but Leone had to set up several cameras to be in the right position to capture the exact moment in the right lighting.
The word “Vaya” was the signal to set off the explosion, and Leone patiently waited for the call. Unfortunately, while trying to encourage a cameraman, a member of the crew yelled “Vaya,” which resulted in the untimely detonation of the explosives. Leone’s response was “Let’s go eat,” the bridge was rebuilt, and the scene reshot.
Eastwood Hated His Cigars
One of Clint Eastwood’s “Man With No Name” trademarks are the cigarillos that he almost always has hanging out of the side of his mouth. Although Eastwood was known to be considerate of his health (including not smoking cigars), the role called for it. On top of that, Leone was adamant about filming multiple takes.
This meant that Eastwood not only had to smoke but often, which made him sick. According to Wallach, Eastwood would sometimes say to Leone, “You better get it right this time or I’m going to throw up.”