Daily | Luciano Vincenzoni, 1926 – 2013

Luciano Vincenzoni and Billy Wilder

Luciano Vincenzoni and Billy Wilder

Luciano Vincenzoni, an urbane Italian screenwriter who worked with Billy Wilder, Dino De Laurentiis and other giants of film but to his dismay was best known for helping to write two spaghetti westerns starring a young Clint Eastwood, died on Sunday in Rome,” reports John Schwartz in the New York Times. Vincenzoni, who was 87, “contributed to about 70 films, chiefly as a screenwriter or script doctor.” Among them: Pietro Germi‘s Il ferroviere (1956), which screened at the 9th Cannes Film Festival; Mario Monicelli‘s The Great War (1959), produced by De Laurentiis; Germi’s 1964 comedy Seduced and Abandoned (1964), recently released on DVD and Blu-ray by Criterion; Giulio Petroni’s 1967 spaghetti western Death Rides a Horse; and, though he took no credit, Wilder’s Avanti! (1972).

Schwartz: “But to the general public Mr. Vincenzoni was most associated with For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, two hugely successful Italian-made westerns directed by Sergio Leone that are now recognized as classics. ‘I have written movies that won prizes at Cannes and Venice,’ he told Christopher Frayling, a cultural historian and Leone biographer. ‘These were screenplays for which we suffered on paper for months. Do you know how long it took me to write For a Few Dollars More? Nine days.'”

Let’s also mention that Vicenzoni worked on Leone’s Duck You Sucker! aka A Fist Full of Dynamite (1971). In 1998, Cenk Kiral conducted an interview with Vincenzoni that ended up stretching out over days, turning into a frank conversation about Leone, with whom the screenwriter had fallen out, and a slew of other directors and writers he worked with. For here and now, though, I want to pluck out a quote from the introduction, which Kiral, in turn, has taken from Oreste DeFornari’s book, Sergio Leone: The Great Italian Dream of Legendary America.

Duck You Sucker!

The U.S. poster for the movie with at least two names

Here’s Peter Bogdanovich on Duck You Sucker!: “Luciano Vincenzoni, the writer of Leone’s two best films, had been hired to work on this one too, and he and I got on famously right from the start, though his job was not the very appetizing one of being translator, mediator, arbiter, and scenarist all at once. Luciano, by the way, is everyone’s ideal Italian—one could be exported as a tourist attraction—charming, gracious, enthusiastic, good-looking, and funny. For some reason best known to himself, he really wanted me to direct this picture—a lot more than I did—and much of our time alone together was spent in his trying to get me to be more politic with Sergio.”

The Daily Grindhouse has a lively appreciation, noting, for example, that Vincenzoni also wrote Michael Anderson’s Orca (1977), “a personal favorite for the fact that it’s a killer whale movie with a weirdly sincere script and an abjectly gorgeous Morricone score.”

Update, 10/13: “He had a superb sense of humor, of course, and a rollicking grasp of the absurd,” writes Peter Bogdanovich in a new entry at his blog. “It’s this trait that made it easier for him to work with Sergio, who was most like a flamboyant ten-year-old playing at cowboys and Indians, endlessly acting out a showdown, for example, between one outlaw and another: ‘Clink, clink,’ indicating spurs, then his hand spins out an imaginary six-gun, and, ‘Bang, bang!’ Following this, he might say that the character is, naturally, we should understand, none other than Jesus Christ. To function with Sergio, as Luciano did for a while (until they finally had a violent split), the writer had to have patience and a privately held attitude of splendid derision. He and I used to roar with laughter after a typical session with Leone, which was nothing if not surreal. This humor of Luciano’s is what makes Leone’s best films so entertaining.”

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