Sergio Leone, Father Of Spaghetti Western, Dead At 60
ROME (AP) _ Sergio Leone, the Italian director whose widely imitated films included ″The Good, the Bad and the Ugly″ and spawned the spaghetti western genre, has died at age 60.
He died early Sunday of a heart attack at home.
Leone’s career spanned four decades but he is best known for the handful of westerns he made in Italy during the 1960s, typically featuring terse, gunslinging loners dueling on a spare and sun-scorched landscape.
His films made an international film star of Clint Eastwood.
Leone, the son of a film director Vincenzo Leone, began his film career in 1948 as an assistant on Vittorio De Sica’s ″Bicycle Thief.″
He went on to be assistant director on dozens of films, including ″Ben Hur″ and ″The Last Days of Pompeii,″ working with such Hollywood directors as William Wyler and Fred Zinneman.
The first film Leone directed was ″The Colossus of Rhodes,″ one of a series of popular mythological films made in Rome in the 1950s. The film won him a wide following and a flood of offers to direct similar films.
But the American westerns he saw as a child were what captured his imagination and in the early 1960s he began to make ″A Fistful of Dollars.″ Leone paid attention to historical detail and attracted a solid cast led by Eastwood, then an American television cowboy. Leone released the film in 1964 and it was a box-office smash despite the prevailing opinion that the western genre was in decline.
Eastwood recalled Sunday in California that Leone used the pseudonym Rob Robertson to release the movie because ″in those days people didn’t want those Italian westerns.″
Leone’s next film was ″For a Few Dollars More″ in 1965 and ″The Good, the Bad and the Ugly″ in 1966.
″The universal attraction of the western is that it is a great fable, a myth like Achilles,″ he told an interviewer in 1968. ″For me personally, the attraction is the joy of making justice ... without asking permission - bang, bang.″
After the three westerns, Leone began work on a saga about American gangsters in the early 1900s. But he fell in love with a film he had co- written, ″Once Upon A Time in the West,″ and directed it himself, working with a cast that included Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson. He followed it with yet another Western, ″Duck You Sucker″ in 1972.
Leone had trouble in the 1970s finding producers who would foot the bill for his lavish productions and turned to producing other people’s films.
Finally, in 1983, he managed to finish ″Once Upon A Time in America,″ an impressionistic film using flashbacks and flash-forwards. The movie was praised at the Cannes film festival and was a hit in France and Italy, but it was drastically cut for its U.S. release and got lukewarm reviews.
Leone had been planning to direct a blockbuster film about the siege of Leningrad by German troops during World War II.
The directgor, who made his home in both Italy and France, is survived by his wife, Carla, and his children Raffaela, Francesca and Andrea. Funeral services were scheduled for Wednesday.