Two things go straight to a man’s heart, bullets and gold. -Leader of the Wild Bunch
The Unheralded Classic Cool Movie you should know about today is Mio nome è Nessuno, Il (1973), or by it’s USA title, My Name Is Nobody.
Don’t let the Italian fool ya, it’s in English and it’s good. One of the spaghetti westerns produced by Sergio Leone, but far more comic than most. (much of the film was also directed by Leone)
Think Charlie Chaplin Meets Unforgiven and you’ll get an idea.
It’s about an aging gun-fighting legend, Jack Beauregard (Henry Fonda), tired of fending off attempts on his life and sensing he’s nearing the end, who meets a young gunfighter who calls himself Nobody (Terence Hill) who idolizes him and wants to be the one who ends his career (they’ll say, Jack Beauregard . . . Nobody was faster).
Nobody cons Jack into doing the wildest battle ever, to cement his legend before Nobody takes him down.
Nobody: I see it clear as crystal. Jack Beauregard standing alone, facing the Wild Bunch. Just think of it. You’ll be written up in all the history books.
Jack Beauregard: You’ll be down on Earth reading them while I’m up there playing on a harp.
What makes the film My Name Is Nobody cool is the way it plays as a homage to western mythology while at the same time subtilely satirizing it. Most things don’t happen exactly the way you’d expect, and Nobody, while the fastest folks have ever seen, never approaches a gun fight as anything other than a fun goof.
One of the best, most amusing sequences has Nobody slapping a gunfighter before the man can pull his gun, then pulling the man’s gun for him. I searched for it on youtube and couldn’t find it, but anyone who’s seen the film is likely to remember that sequence.
And the film has one of my favorite tags of all time, having to do with a finger substituting for a gun. And even telling you that doesn’t spoil it.
There’s a lot of physical slapstick, but that doesn’t seem too contrived or silly, it plays witty and fun (I’d point to Richard Lester’s Three Musketeers, which had a very similar tone and physical approach) and there’s a real wit to the dialogue as well, as witnessed here:
Jack Beauregard: Folks that throw dirt on you aren’t always trying to hurt you, and folks that pull you out of a jam aren’t always trying to help you. But the main point is when you’re up to your nose in shit, keep your mouth shut.
Fonda is great in the role (and his last western, I should mention) and Hill is perfect, actually, this is the only part Hill seems to be really capable of playing well (he did another series of westerns called The Trinity series, which are fun but this is his best work) and he’s a very talented physical comedian.
In addition, Fonda’s role as a man growing too old to be who is he, and tired of it, is pitch-perfect.
I’m not sure if this film is available on DVD (I think in Germany, where Hill is a huge star) but if you can find it at your local cool video store (videos, remember them?) I highly recommend My Name Is Nobody.
Lots of other Italian westerns got much attention, but in my opinion this rambunctious, witty comedy-western about growing old (yes, that’s what I said) is as worthy as any of them.