14. Once Upon a Time in the West
score by Ennio Morricone
After a film like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, how exactly would Sergio Leone make another western? By making an elegiac, somber farewell to both the west and the Hollywood Western. For that, he’d once again turn to Ennio Morricone, however this time, Morricone would less score specific scenes in the film and instead give each of the characters their own specific theme song, which could be played whenever they appeared on screen. Much like Peter and the Wolf, each of the film’s four leads would have distinctive music, which was all composed prior to the filming, and was in fact played on set. So, very intentionally, the music helped form the pace of the film as well as the attitudes of the characters. Jill’s theme is very hopeful but somewhat sad; she’s alone in a new place looking for a man that would never meet her. Hers is a very operatic theme. Cheyenne has a warbly cowboy song with the percussion plucked on a banjo and the melody whistled, reflecting his romantic bandit nature. Harmonica’s theme is, you guessed it, played on a harmonica, not complexly, but by someone mostly moving their mouth from one side to the other. It’s a haunting tune for a mysterious man with a score to settle. And finally Frank’s theme is loud and raucous electric guitar, perfect for a man who for much of his life has basically been the embodiment of smiling death. Quite disparate, and yet when put together in the same film, they prove to be very much of a piece.