Man with no Name
The Man with No Name, or simply No Name, is a character created for Sergio Leone’s western movie A Fistful of Dollars (1964), which was an unofficial remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. He was played by Clint Eastwood, whose laconic performance helped establishing the character as one of the coolest ever. The poncho-clad gunslinger is also one of the most iconographic images in the history of filmmaking. He is globally known and referred to as The Man with No Name even though he’s briefly called ‘Joe’ by the coffin maker in A Fistful of Dollars.
Both Leone and Eastwood have claimed to be the true creator of the character. No Name has a casual look, wears a poncho, is sparse with words, and smokes cigars. Eastwood has always sustained that he cut most of the dialogue that was handed over to him when he arrived in Italy, and Leone has never denied this, but there are various versions in relation to the poncho. Clint has claimed that the idea was his and that he bought a poncho at Western Costume in Hollywood, but other sources mention that the garment was provided by Leone, and that he had bought it in Spain. Some have proposed the elegant solution that there were two ponchos, one American, one Spanish. According to Leone the poncho was part of his remodeling of Eastwood's juvenile image. Anyway, No Name wears the same poncho in all three movies; the original colour was green, but it turned to ocre because the garment was never washed in the meantime. Eastwood was not Leone’s first choice, actually he wasn’t his choice at all: when the name was finally proposed to him, he had never even heard of him, even though the TV-series Rawhide was shown on Italian television. Leone watched an episode of Rawhide, Incident of the Black Sheep, and said afterwards that there was ‘a framework he could build on’. He particularly liked Eastwood’s way of walking with ‘a tired, resigned air’ (1). Yet, when he met Eastwood face to face, he was surprised by his young looks; Eastwood looked too innocent for the part, so Leone told him to grow a stubbly beard and to smoke (or chew on) cigarillos. Leone also thought a poncho could hide Eastwood’s slender stature and make him look stronger and more menacing. Because of budgetary reasons, the gun and holster Eastwood used for Rawhide, were also used in the movie. Eastwood had never smoked before and didn’t like the idea of the cigars, but he later admitted that they put him in ‘a certain mood’, required for the gruff character.
No Name has a few things in common with Sanjuro, the samurai of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo: he’s a typical loner and is unusually skillful with his weapon, in his case a revolver. But he is less talkative, and is played in a more laid-back style that soon would become Eastwood’s trademark style. Overall he seems more modeled in order to distinguish him from the image of the traditional western hero, than to make him look like a pseudo samurai. Both his casual appearance and his moral ambiguity were very uncommon for a western hero in those days. No Name may shoot first and he sees no evil in killing people (albeit bad people) for no other reason than to impress a possible employer. Yet the confrontation with a young woman who is forced into adultery, ignites a spark of humanity in his darkened soul.
Eastwood would return twice as No Name, although the two other movies aren’t official sequels and the character is slightly different in the three movies. In For a Few Dollars More he’s a bounty hunter, in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly he’s a rascal who’s involved in a treasure hunt. The funny thing is that if the three movies are considered as a real trilogy, the final film comes first: it’s set during the Civil War while the other two movies are set in its aftermath. This order still causes another paradox: in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly No Name becomes awfully rich, so it’s hard to understand why he would take so many risks for a fistful of dollars a few years later. On the other hand it seems totally acceptable that the gunslinger from A Fistful of Dollars would turn to bounty hunting one day.
Eastwood was 34 when he arrived in Italy, but the character he plays, seems more a man who is in his late twenties than in his mid-thirties. In For a Few Dollars More he forms a partnership with a fellow bounty hunter, played by Lee van Cleef, who is repeatedly called ‘old man’ by No Name, even though Van Cleef was in reality only five years older than Eastwood.
In 2008, Empire Magazine chose The Man With No Name as the 43rd greatest movie character of all time (the only other western character on the list was Ethan Edwards, from The Searchers, at N° 97). Eastwood’s performance became a model for numerous other actors, both within and outside the genre, and the character transgressed the boundaries by appearing in spin-off novels, comic books and commercials. A quick look on the internet will tell you that he inspired artists, varying from graphic designers to painters, sculptors and even songwriters. He’s available in wax, wood, plastic and tin ware (and Lego, for sure), and you can buy replicas of his poncho, hat, guns and boots.
- (1) Gerald Cole, Peter Williams, Clint Eastwood, London, 1983
The World of No Name:
- Left bar:
- 1. Comic Book cover, designed by Richard Isanove for #1 in The Man with no Name series, penned by Christos Gage, illustrated by Wellington Dias, published by Dynamite Entertainment
- 2. Believe it or not, this portrait is carved, by artist Alex Queral, from an old phone book. Queral only uses a knife and a little pot of acrylic medium to set detail areas to create his incredible works of art: http://www.projectsgallery.com/Queral.htm
- 3. Sculpture by Mark Knize: http://www.mark-knize.com/
- Right bar:
- 1. Drawing by Francesco Francavilla: http://pulpsunday.blogspot.com/2008/07/pulp-spotlight-man-with-no-name.html
- 2. Poncho, replica, by Larry Green Productions. You can get yours for only $399,99 …
The artists will receive a notice from the author by email