Born in Rome on January 3, 1929, Sergio Leone is an Italian film director, producer, and writer whose name has become synonymous with that peculiar sub-genre of movies known as Spaghetti Westerns. His trio of films released during the sixties, known as the Dollars Trilogy, were not the first of the type but certainly defined it: A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly are the top of the heap of the more than 600 Spaghetti Westerns and are consistently listed among the best rated Westerns in general.
The term Spaghetti Western was coined by critics, particularly in the U.S., unable to accept the fact that the Old West had been co-opted by a bunch of pesky Italians, even though Americans had grown bored with its depiction. Although directed by Italians, the films were actually rather international; the actors and technical staff came from throughout Europe and the U.S. Although originally released in Italian, everything was dubbed since the actors spoke in a variety of languages and the whole enterprise had the sound of a food fight at the United Nations. A Hollywood has-been usually headed the cast, or in the case of the Dollars Trilogy, a yet to be recognized upstart such as Clint Eastwood.
Some argue that the first Spaghetti Western appeared way back in 1910 — Giacomo Puccini’s 1910 opera La fanciulla del West; the first Italian Western movie was La Vampira Indiana in 1913, a Western vampire flick, directed by Sergio Leone’s father. Throughout the following years, several movies fit the category, but it was Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars that established the Spaghetti Western standard for cinematic style, acting and evocative music. In it, an unlikely hero (bounty hunter is the favored occupation) enters a town ruled by two outlaw gangs, where ordinary social norms are non-existent. He cleverly plays the gangs against one another to fleece them of that titular fistful of dollars. His treachery is eventually exposed and he is beaten severely about the head, but he wins out in the end through his cunning and wit.
During the following years, the genre evolved (as genres will), and the Spaghetti Western legacy was transformed almost beyond recognition, giving way to overwrought action and low-brow comedy, a genre that might more appropriately be called Spaghetti-o Western.
Oleo Oleo Oxen Free
In 1871 Henry Bradley received a patent for an amorphous concoction of cottonseed oil and animal fats that had the appearance, texture and perhaps the taste of silly putty. He called his creation oleomargarine (margarine to its close friends) to be used as a substitute for butter.
While Real Butter from Real Cows had a pleasant yellow color, Bradley’s faux butter was a stark, pasty white, more of a lard look alike that turned a lot of people off. No one spreading this white stuff on their toast would ever dream of exclaiming “I can’t believe it’s not butter.”
The answer, of course, was to color the stuff to make it look like Real Butter. But not so fast. It seems that discontented cows saw yellow margarine as a threat to the butter industry. (And this was long before a single crown appeared on a margarine muncher’s head.) They rose up and secured legislation prohibiting the sale of yellow margarine.
Margarine manufacturers used various tactics to bring color to their products. One of the oddest was a method devised by the W.E. Dennison Co. that used a capsule of yellow dye inside a plastic baggie of margarine The consumer would knead the package, breaking the capsule, allowing the dye to eventually spread throughout the margarine. Some consumers were still kneading their first lump of margarine when, in 1955, the ban on yellow margarine was lifted. Today margarine remains a glorious shade of yellow, and the naked eye cannot tell it from Real Butter. It does still taste like silly putty, however.
Stone Cold Dead in de Market, Part 1: Upton Swann’s Demise
Upton Swann sat all alone on the ornate cast iron love seat that had been painted white sometime in the distant past, shaded by a spreading Poinciana, surrounded by chattering merchants with piles of bananas to the right, piles of coconuts to the left — fruits, vegetables, fish and tourists everywhere. Activity swirled around him, but he didn’t seem to care. It was noon. He’d been sitting there since 7 a.m.
On a second floor terrace of the Hotel Vieux Habitant that overlooked the market square, five people sat in a row, leaning over the railing, staring down past the frenzied activity at Upton Swann. They, too, had been sitting there since seven.
Upton Swann and his audience of five had all been together on the terrace the previous evening, enjoying the serenity of the market square, abandoned in the early evening hours by merchants and tourists alike. And they enjoyed the soft warmth tempered by the steady breeze off the ocean – at least five of them did; Upton Swann did not. He found the climate foul - too hot — and that was just the tip of his iceberg of complaints about this island in particular and the Caribbean in general. Unlike the others he could not wait to get back to the sensible climate of New York in March, a desire he did not endeavor to keep to himself. “What if I get sick here?” he lamented. “My god, they’ve probably got chickens wandering through the hospital.”
By 8 p.m., he had enjoyed just about as much of the tropical night as he intended to enjoy. With a harrumph, he marched inside, revved the air conditioner up to its maximum, and sat down on the couch with a tumbler of Scotch. Within minutes, he would complain no more.
The beginning of Upton Swann’s journey to the great beyond went unnoticed. In fact, he was about two hours along before the Dexters — Howard and Wilma — came in and thought it odd that the tumbler lay in his lap in the center of a large Scotch stain. (Later, they would recall that his last words were: “This is a wretched place; I need Scotch.” Not eloquent enough for his tombstone, but certainly better than Myrna Pomeroy’s first husband’s last words: “Five minutes on the toilet and I’ll be just fine.”)
The Dexters sounded a general alarm, and Myrna, her current husband Phil Pomeroy, and Upton’s widow Adele all came running in — although Adele didn’t yet realize that she was a widow, not until Howard Dexter said: “He’s deader than a doornail.”
Adele sobbed, and the others looked on with bewildered expressions. Howard wasn’t a coroner or a doctor or anything, but he knew a lot of things, and the others accepted his diagnosis.
“Do you suppose he had a heart attack?” asked Myrna Pomeroy.
Howard Dexter picked up the bottle of scotch and ceremoniously sniffed at it. He might have been selecting a wine for their dinner. Then he poured a few drops into his palm, wetted a finger and touched it to his tongue. The others watched in silence.
“Poison,” Howard proclaimed. “Not a doubt of it. This Scotch has really been laced with it.” Howard wasn’t a pharmacologist or detective either, but he knew a lot of things.
Adele sobbed again, and Myrna Pomeroy said: “How could it be? We were all here. How could someone have… no, you’re not suggesting…?”
I only know two pieces; one is ‘Claire de Lune’ and the other one isn’t. –Danish comedian, pianist and conductor Victor Borge, born on January 3, 1909 (died in 2000):