The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Italian: Il buono, il brutto il cattivo) is a 1966 Italian epic spaghetti western film directed by Sergio Leone, starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach in the title roles. The screenplay was written by Age & Scarpelli, Luciano Vincenzoni and Leone, based on a story by Vincenzoni and Leone. Director of photography Tonino Delli Colli was responsible for the film’s sweeping widescreen cinematography and Ennio Morricone composed the famous film score, including its main theme. It is the third film in the Dollars Trilogy following A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and For a Few Dollars More (1965). The plot revolves around three gunslingers competing to find a fortune in buried Confederate gold amid the violent chaos of gunfights, hangings, American Civil War battles and prison camps.
Clint Eastwood as “Blondie”: The Good, a.k.a. the Man with No Name, a subdued, cocksure bounty hunter who teams with Tuco, and Angel Eyes temporarily, to find the buried gold. Blondie and Tuco have an ambivalent partnership. Tuco knows the name of the cemetery where the gold is hidden, but Blondie knows the name of the grave where it is buried, forcing them to work together to find the treasure. In spite of this greedy quest, Blondie’s pity for the dying soldiers in the chaotic carnage of the War is evident. “I’ve never seen so many men wasted so badly,” he remarks.
Rawhide had ended its run as a series in 1966 and at that point, neither of Clint Eastwood’s Italian films had been released in the United States. When Leone offered him a role in his next movie, it was the only big film offer he had; however, Eastwood still needed to be convinced to do it. Leone and his wife travelled to California to persuade him. Two days later, he agreed to make the film upon being paid $250,000 and getting 10% of the profits from the North American markets—a deal with which Leone was not happy.
Lee Van Cleef as Angel Eyes: The Bad, a ruthless, unfeeling, and sociopathic mercenary named “Angel Eyes” (Sentenza—Sentence—in the original script and the Italian version), who always finishes a job he’s paid for (which is usually finding—and killing—people). When Blondie and Tuco are captured while posing as Confederate soldiers, Angel Eyes is the Union sergeant who interrogates and tortures Tuco, eventually learning the name of the cemetery where the gold is buried, but not the name on the tombstone. Angel Eyes forms a fleeting partnership with Blondie, but Tuco and Blondie turn on Angel Eyes when they get their chance.
Originally, Leone wanted Charles Bronson to play Angel Eyes but he was already committed to playing in The Dirty Dozen (1967). Leone thought about working with Lee Van Cleef again: “I said to myself that Van Cleef had first played a romantic character in For a Few Dollars More. The idea of getting him to play a character who was the opposite of that began to appeal to me.”
Eli Wallach as Tuco: The Ugly, Tuco Benedicto Pacífico Juan María Ramírez, a comical, oafish (though proven also very dangerous as seen throughout the film), fast talking bandit who is wanted by the authorities for a long list of crimes. Tuco manages to discover the name of the cemetery where the gold is buried, but he does not know the name of the grave—only Blondie does. This state of affairs forces Tuco to become reluctant partners with Blondie.
The director originally considered Gian Maria Volonté for the role of Tuco, but felt that the role required someone with “natural comic talent”. In the end, Leone chose Eli Wallach based on his role in How the West Was Won (1962), in particular, his performance in “The Railroads” scene. In LA, Leone met Wallach, who was skeptical about playing this type of character again, but after Leone screened the opening credit sequence from For a Few Dollars More, Wallach said: “When do you want me?” The two men got along famously, sharing the same bizarre sense of humor. Leone allowed Wallach to make changes to his character in terms of his outfit and recurring gestures. Both Eastwood and Van Cleef realized that the character of Tuco was close to Leone’s heart, and director and Wallach became good friends. They communicated in French, which Wallach spoke badly and Leone spoke well. Van Cleef observed, “Tuco is the only one of the trio the audience gets to know all about. We meet his brother and find out where he came from and why he became a bandit. But Clint’s character and Angel’s remain mysteries.”
In the theatrical trailer, Angel Eyes is referred to as The Ugly and Tuco, The Bad. This is due to a translation error; the original Italian title translates literally to “The Good, the Ugly, the Bad”.