Once Upon a Time in America (lost 139-minute US theatrical cut of drama film; 1984)

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Once Upon A Time In America1.jpg

US theatrical poster.

Status: Lost

Once Upon a Time in America, released in US theatres on June 1st, 1984, was the final film to be directed by Sergio Leone. The finished film originally ran at 229 minutes and premiered as such at the Cannes Film Festival.

The first screening of the film in the United States went poorly, and over a hundred audience members reportedly left during the intermission and did not return.[1] In the wake of this incident, the Ladd Company, who were distributing the film in the United States, decided to drastically recut the movie to 139 minutes in length, rearranging its non-chronological narrative to take place in a more conventional chronological order.

The re-edited version, which was screened for the film's wide release in the United States, was met with scathing reviews and would be considered a box office bomb. Famed critics Gene Siskel & Roger Ebert, who had previously seen the unedited version of the film, reviewed the US cut of Once Upon a Time in America on their show, focusing their criticisms on the edits made to that version; Ebert declared:
"...As far as I'm concerned, this movie has been destroyed."[2]
Ebert also expressed hope that the longer version would be seen again one day.

Sergio Leone's preferred 229-minute version of the film ran in most countries internationally and was the version released on home video worldwide, albeit edited slightly for scenes of rape and gruesome violence. The complete, uncut version, without any additional censorship, was finally released on DVD in 2003, and was the default version of the film on home video until a longer 251-minute cut was released in 2014.

The 139-minute cut does not appear to have ever been released on home video and has reputedly only ever aired infrequently on television.

See Also