After small parts in ten movies and seven years acting in TV’s Rawhide, 34-year-old Clint Eastwood starred in this Italian/German co-production.
The producers had originally wanted Henry Fonda in the lead, but they couldn’t afford him.
The director was a certain Bob Robertson – the American-sounding pseudonym of Italian director Sergio Leone, who had made such films as The Last Days of Pompeii and The Colossus of Rhodes.
Here he took on a genre hitherto exclusively American and scored a success. Other Italians involved in the film also disguised themselves behind names such as Dan Savio (the composer Ennio Morricone), Jack Dalmas (cinematographer Massimo Dallamano) and John Wells (co-star Gian Maria Volontè).
The plot, taken from Akira Kurosawa’s Yo-jimbo (1961) tells of how Eastwood, as a quick-on-the-trigger mercenary, plays off two rival gangs against each other, and then faces five gunmen alone in the final protracted shoot-out.
With a small budget of $100,000, Leone shot the exteriors in Spain, while the interiors were filmed at Cinecittà in Rome.
A Fistful of Dollars wasn’t the first Italian Western, nor the first to be shot in Spain. But it was the first to be successfully sold back to the Americans.
The movie hit UK and US screens three years after its Italian release.
The Man With No Name
John Wells (Gian Maria Volontè)
Don Miguel Benito Rojo
Benny Reeves (Benito Stefanelli)
Richard Stuyvesant (Mario Brega)