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Traditionally associated with fairy tales, “Once upon a time” invites us to suspend disbelief, leave time behind, and be transported to an alternative world. Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (C’era una volta il West, 1968), a follow-up to his Dollars Trilogy, invites us to visit “The West” not as a historical landscape but a surreal domain. Like the fairy-tale worlds of Grimm or Perrault, or in the film medium of Leone’s, Quentin Tarantino’s cinematic universes invite the audience to experience another dimension entirely. Not surprisingly then, his ninth film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) tells a fact-based Los Angeles tale not as a combination of realism and noir but as a twentieth-century fairy tale for adults (Howard 2015). Further, closer analysis reveals additional suitability of transferring fairytale themes to Westerns; likewise, a longitudinal placing of Western films and TV shows released during Tarantino’s life (1963– ) reveals artistic and cultural intersections that influenced his childhood. The following exploration focuses primarily on selected Western film influences, particularly by directors Sam Peckinpah and Sergio Leone, while situating the genre in popular culture during Tarantino’s formative years.

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2019 Once Upon a Time in Tarantino’s West: Persistence of the Western as an American Fairy Tale. The 21st Century Western: New Riders of the Cinematic Stage. D. Brode, ed. Rowman and Littlefield / Lexington Books.


The Twenty-First-Century Western New Riders of the Cinematic Stage edited by Douglas Brode AND Shea T. Brode, 2019, reproduced by permission of Rowman & Littlefield.

All rights reserved. Please contact the publisher for permission to copy, distribute or reprint.

Available for download on Wednesday, March 13, 2024