Once Upon A Time In America (lost 6-hour-long print of Sergio Leone film; 1984)

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Once Upon A Time In America1.jpg

Original theatrical poster.

Status: Lost

Once Upon a Time in America was the final film from acclaimed Italian director Sergio Leone, starring Robert DeNiro and James Woods. This 1984 gangster epic was critically panned at the time of its release but has enjoyed a great amount of acclaim retrospectively.


Leone's original cut was 4 hours and 29 minutes, a length that made most film distributors do not want to touch it. Upon release in America and several other countries, the film was cut down to as short as an hour and a half. The American release even re-edited the movie to make it flow in sequential order, which further contradicted Leone's vision for the film.[1] The resulting butchered recut left Leone heartbroken to the point where he nearly vowed to never make another film. Leone would die of a heart attack 5 years after the film's release, never to see his masterpiece released in the way he intended for it to be seen.

DVD releases would attempt to restore Leone's vision to the fullest extent that censorship laws would allow. However, many versions of the film would also remove a rape scene that was absolutely vital to the plot.[2] In 2012, a version was screened at the Cannes Film Festival that was as identical to the original version as the surviving footage would allow.[3] Even that print has been removed from circulation due to the fact that footage has been discovered.

What not many people know, however, is that Leone's original original intent was actually a 6-hour running time for the film.[4] This version of the film was actually shot and edited; however, no copies of it are known to survive. This has left fans of the film saddened, as Leone apparently had to substantially shorten the film in order to get distributors interested.[5] Unfortunately, even the shortened cut was not sufficient enough for most distributors. It is likely that Leone himself saved a copy, but its whereabouts are unknown.

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