Clint Eastwood is a Hollywood legend with a career that began back in 1955. The 90-year-old Academy Award-winning director and actor has proven his place in Hollywood history with memorable characters such as Dirty Harry, Josey Wales, Philo Beddoe, Gunny Highway, and Will Munny. But one of his most iconic roles came in the mid-60s when he made a series of Spaghetti Westerns with director Sergio Leone. His “Man with No Name” is one of his best characters and now the character’s best film, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly can be viewed on YouTube for free.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is the third film in Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy. Eastwood first played The Man with No Name in 1964 with A Fistful of Dollars, following that up the next year with A Few Dollars More. Eastwood completed the trilogy in 1966 with his final portrayal as The Man with No Name in what is now considered one of the greatest Spaghetti Westerns.
When The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly premiered, it continued Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Western reign in Europe. Americans were growing tired of the Western, something which would remain true with the genre for years until its resurgence in the mid-80s, led by none other than Clint Eastwood. United Artists was pleased with the overseas success of For A Few Dollars More, so they upped the budget for the third film to $1 million, with the film eventually costing $1.2 million.
For Clint Eastwood’s part, he decided for the third time around, he was going to hold out for a better deal. He initially had concern that Eli Wallach was going to upstage him, so he made demands before accepting the role. This time, Eastwood asked for and got $250,000, a new Ferrari, and 10% of the movie’s profits once it was released in the United States. A Fistful of Dollars was released in Italy in 1964 and For A Few Dollars More was released in 1965, but in America, all three movies got their releases in 1967. When The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly premiered at the end of the year, it made $6.3 million at the box office.
Critically, the movie received mixed reviews. As mentioned, Americans were down on Westerns and this one didn’t hit the audience even remotely as well as it did in Italy. New York Times critic Renata Alder commented that the film “must be the most expensive, pious and repellent movie in the history of its peculiar genre.” But as time went on, critics and audiences alike began to appreciate what Leone did with his trio of Spaghetti Westerns, as did Clint Eastwood, who eventually formed his own production company, Malpaso Productions, shortly after filming The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
While Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood never made another movie together, it wasn’t for the lack of Leone trying. After The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly premiered, the Italian director flew to Los Angeles to pitch another film to Eastwood. In this one, he wanted Eastwood to play “Harmonica”, another Man with No Name, but Eastwood flatly turned him down. “Harmonica” ended up being the famous character played by Charles Bronson in Leone’s epic Once Upon a Time in the West.
Clint Eastwood was always known for his Westerns, having appeared in 217 episodes of Rawhide, and several Western films prior to working with Sergio Leone. However, soon after making the Dollars trilogy, Eastwood would also start a decades-long career as a director. His second directorial effort, High Plains Drifter in 1973, starred Eastwood in another Western as yet another mysterious stranger coming into a new town.
While Clint Eastwood would direct several other Westerns throughout his career, it was the 1992 revisionist Western, Unforgiven, which revitalized interest in the genre, showing Westerns as full of characters who lived on morally ambiguous terms. Unforgiven won Best Picture and earned Eastwood his first of two Oscars for Best Director.
If you’re looking for a great classic Western to watch, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is highly recommended. Also worth watching are the first two films in the trilogy, A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More. But with The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly available for free on YouTube, there’s no better time to watch one of the finest Westerns ever made.