ONCE UPON A TIME…

in Hollywood, is a Quentin Tarantino movie. We don’t normally Post about Quentin Tarantino movies on this Classic Hollywood blog, but months ago my son recommended the film to me. I put a hold on the DVD at the local Library (I was number 500 plus on the hold list).The DVD became available this past weekend.

I love writing about Silent Movie’s, 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s movies, those are the movies I grew up watching on television in the 1950’s. By the time the hold came in I couldn’t remember why my son had recommended this film to me (other than the fact that he is a huge Quentin Tarantino fan). Hippie girls rooting through trash bins and a close up of the street sign CIELO DR jogged my memory…Sharon Tate.

I am now on my third time watching this film. I’m not going to say this is a fun movie because we all know how this movie ended in real life. However I love the premise of this movie. 1969 Hollywood a time of transition not only on television but in the movies, I think Tarantino captured the time perfectly, radio advertisements, background music, behind the scenes life on a movie set, the tribulations of an aging actor. The parallel story of Sharon Tate, Rick Dalton’s next door neighbor an up and coming actress was bittersweet, as was the storyline of fictional characters; Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth.

Leonardo DiCaprio was exceptional as actor Rick Dalton especially in the saloon scene as DeCoteau with the kidnapped daughter of Lancer. For me the scene was reminiscent of Chuck Connors character Buck Hannassey in the 1958 Gregory Peck movie The Big Country.

Kudos to Quentin for the Brad Pitt shirtless scene on the rooftop for us girls that first noticed Brad Pitt twenty-eight years ago in his memorable minor part in the 1991 film: Thelma & Louise.

Brad Pitt’s character Cliff Booth is pretty much the hero in Once Upon a Time. Pitt’s easy breezy aging surfer boy looks as he drives Dalton’s car weaving in and out of traffic with background music playing from the car radio sets the tone of the scenes as Pitt picks up the hippie hitchhiker. Pitt is great in the ominous scenes at Spahn ranch. The set designer did a wonderful job with the scenes in George Spahn’s house. Commercials playing on the TV in the back ground as Cliff looks around at the filth. You can feel his uneasiness of what these people might have done to his friend George. The Radiogram theme from the movie ‘Torn Curtain’ plays in the background building the suspense as Cliff enters George’s room. Bruce Dern was perfect as the dementia addled George Spahn.

I loved seeing the actors: Nickolas Hammond, Martin Kove, Clu Gulager again. It was fun watching 2nd and 3rd generation actors in key scenes or just a blurb of a scene. Pussycat; Margaret Qualley (Andie MacDowell’s daughter) was perfect as the brainwashed under aged hippie hitchhiker riding with Cliff Booth to the Spahn ranch. Rumer Willis (Demi & Bruce’s daughter) played actress Joanna Pettet. Spencer Garrett (Kathleen Nolan son) played the character Allen Kincade. Clifton Collins Jr. (the grandson of the memorable character actor Pedro Gonzales Gonzales) played Ernesto the Mexican Vaquero. Maya Hawke (daughter of Uma Thurman & Ethan Hawke) played a flower child.
Sydney Sweeney (cousin of Robert Vaughn) played the part of Snake a Hippie.

As you may have heard, this movie is an Oscar contender with ten nominations. Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Costume Design, Director, Best Picture, Production Design,
Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Writing Original Screenplay I have no argument over any of these nominations. Is Once Upon a Time… a Best Picture? I don’t know, I haven’t watched any of the other movies nominated yet but I will say I can’t remember when in the last forty years I’ve ever watched an Oscar contending movie more than once, this movie is the exception for me.

Margot Robbie is also nominated for an Oscar this year in a supporting role not for this film but for the movie Bombshell. I have no complaints about her portrayal of Sharon Tate in Once Upon a Time. I was anxious though how Quentin would end the movie, knowing his penchant for blood and gore I did not look forward to any reenacted scenes of Sharon Tate’s gruesome murder. However I was surprisingly pleased at Quentin’s fictional version of payback on the hippies.

DiCaprio’s Rick Dalton character’s confrontation with the hippies in their pollution spewing car is impressive as were his scenes in the pool and with the flamethrower. As Cliff Booth turns the dial on the radio to ‘You Keep Me Hangin On’ by Vanilla Fudge it ominously starts the scene at the front door as the hippies enter Rick’s house with gun and knives drawn.

The long anticipated gore I expected came with a vengeance as the Hippies got their just desserts from the just a little bit drunk, just a little bit high Cliff Booth and his Pitbull Brandy (Brandy is also an award winner, receiving the Palm Dog Award for best performance by a canine in this film, she earned this award for the scenes with the hippies). Rick Dalton and his flamethrower with the hippie girl in the pool scene reminded me of the wicked witch of the west scene in The Wizard of Oz with the barbecued hippie sinking slowly into the depths of the pool after being torched by Rick Dalton.

Hippies are dead Sharon and her friends are saved…well not really. The ending scenes are beautifully done and very surreal with Rick Dalton chatting it up with neighbor Jay Sebring at the entrance gate to the Polanski home. Sharon is on the gate speaker asking if everything is o.k. When she learns she is talking to Rick Dalton she invites him up for a drink and to meet her friends. As she buzzes open the gate the haunting music ‘Miss Lily Langtry’ from the 1972 movie ‘The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean’ begins to play as Rick and Jay walk up the driveway with the camera climbing higher and higher to look down on the scene below as Sharon, Abigail Folger, and Wojciech Frykowski greet Rick Dalton.

In real life on August 8/9, 1969 the shocking slaughter of 8 ½ month pregnant actress Sharon Tate and her friends sent shock waves throughout the Hollywood community and through the nation.
At the time of Sharon’s murder I was also 8 ½ months pregnant with my son and was obsessed with the news, radio, TV, newspapers waiting to hear of an arrest of the monsters that committed such a horrible crime. Quentin Tarantino and Brad Pitt would have been 6 years old at the time of the murders; Leonardo DiCaprio was born four years after.

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