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Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

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A former Prohibition-era Jewish gangster returns to the Lower East Side of Manhattan over thirty years later, where he once again must confront the ghosts and regrets of his old life.

Director:

Sergio Leone

Writers:

Harry Grey (novel), Leonardo Benvenuti (screenplay) | 6 more credits »
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Popularity
548 ( 9)
Top Rated Movies #70 | Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Another 11 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert De Niro ... Noodles
James Woods ... Max
Elizabeth McGovern ... Deborah
Treat Williams ... Jimmy O'Donnell
Tuesday Weld ... Carol
Burt Young ... Joe
Joe Pesci ... Frankie
Danny Aiello ... Police Chief Aiello
William Forsythe ... Cockeye
James Hayden James Hayden ... Patsy
Darlanne Fluegel ... Eve (as Darlanne Fleugel)
Larry Rapp ... Fat Moe
Dutch Miller Dutch Miller ... Van Linden
Robert Harper ... Sharkey
Richard Bright ... Chicken Joe
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Storyline

Epic tale of a group of Jewish gangsters in New York, from childhood, through their glory years during prohibition, and their meeting again 35 years later. Written by Andrew Welsh <andreww@bnr.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

As boys, they said they would die for each other. As men, they did. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

12 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | Italy

Language:

English | Italian | French

Release Date:

27 September 1984 (Netherlands) See more »

Also Known As:

Het gebeurde in Amerika See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,412,014, 3 June 1984, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$5,321,508
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (re-cut) | (extended cut)

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film took so long to be made, that Composer Ennio Morricone had finished most of the soundtrack before filming had even reached the halfway point. See more »

Goofs

When Deborah is a child her eyes are brown; when she is an adult they are blue. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
[In 1933, two goons rudely question a young woman]
Beefy: Where is he? Where's he hiding?
Eve: I don't know... I've been looking for him since yesterday.
[second goon slaps her harshly; she falls onto the bed]
Beefy: I'm gonna ask you for the last time: Where is he?
Eve: I don't know... What are you gonna do to him?
[Two shots are heard]
Beefy: [to his partner] Stay here in case that rat shows up...
See more »

Crazy Credits

Joey Faye is credited as the "adorable old man." See more »

Alternate Versions

A network television version of three hours (without commercials) was briefly available in the early-to-mid-1990s, which retained the film's non-chronological order but still left out several key scenes. This version has recently turned up in viewings of the film for the AMC TV channel. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Reapers (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

St. James Infirmary Blues
(uncredited)
Traditional., sometimes credited as written by Irving Mills (1930)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
An unnecessarily padded and ersatz schlep of a film.
27 July 2003 | by noilieSee all my reviews

It is high time that American critics and fans alike start to debunk their unquestioned, sloppy veneration of films like Sergio Leone's 'Once Upon a Time in America'. The checkered history of this opulent film (and the grand, fanciful myth associated with it's production and many versions) belies its mediocrity on a narrative level. The film lurches backward and forward in fits and starts, its central figures adrift and seemingly out of place surrounded by the ersatz decadence of towering sets, the minutia of production detail and the, by 1984, cliche'd but gorgeous cinematographic confection on offer to the audience. The plot's time frame is confusing, gimmicky and laboured, leading some critics to imagine the Noodles figure's opium binging to be the antecedent of some future 'dream reality' as well as the sepia-toned remembrances. This ham handed, overly fan boy-apologetic interpretation glosses over the glaring narrative irregularities on display. Even at this full (?) running time, figures appear and disappear with alarming suddenness: the Deborah character is fleetingly established in child form, a cold and unattainable 'trophy' female, not even hinting at the gravity with which she will re-establish her relationship with a post-prison Noodles, the said re-union henceforth rings completely false. The deadening pace is somewhat to blame, certain sequences drag along stagnantly for far too long, signifying very little, hinting at a director with so little restraint and narrative economy that he often feels obligated to usurp every iota of screen time possible in order to show off his production, fatal for a film that contains figures so sullen and aloof. The trajectory of the figures' lives is presented to us as a microcosm mirroring the historical trajectory of America's teens through prohibition and its spoils, ending with the (arguable) ruin of its moribund central figures (save Deborah- a make up department fumble or intentional one wonders). This notion is commonplace, even banal. The cast of characters as imagined in the one note script (written by seven Italians no less) are flatly and awkwardly played by all but the younger actors, who at least venture a few variant facial expressions. This is understandable given the almost unworkable material. Some critics state that the characters may seem so impenetrably self-absorbed, but actively seek their own goals, assuming the compliance of others (e.g. when Noodles gets out of prison, Max picks him up and offers him a hooker without asking him whether or not this is what he desires and later makes deals assuming Noodles will comply). This explanation of their abrupt, abrasive dispositions is unsatisfactorily extraneous and merely serves to highlight the complicated ends the films unwavering supporters will go to to defend their positions regarding a film unfortunately short on sense. Although Ennio Morricone's score is much revered, it is undeniably schmaltzy and repetitive, it gushes with an emotional redolence that the scenes themselves, many violent, just do not warrant. At points it is questionable whether or not Morricone was watching the same film I was so incongruous is his work. As a paean to American Filmmaking, it succeeds in terms of mood (helped by a few strokes of masterful editing segueing between time periods) and visuals (not helped by said score) but lacks narrative cohesion and fluidity.


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