Re: Once Upon a Time in America / its five versions

From: David P. Hayes
Date: Friday, February 06, 1998 11:07 AM

Burbank74 wrote in message
>Okay - now here is another question about OUATIA. What is it that happens at
>the end of the picture with the garbage truck? Is someone's remains (i.e. James
>Woods) being churned in the back of the truck? And if so - how and why does
>this happen?
>It's the one nagging question I have about the film. Any thoughts, info or help
>on this would be appreciated.

The scene conveys that James Woods commits suicide by going into the back of the dump truck. As you may recall, in the previous scene, Woods asks DeNiro to kill Woods inasmuch as Woods's life is surely over given that mobsters will kill him before he can testify in the union-funds scandal. Woods, you may recall, operated a trucking syndicate (he got into it immediately after Prohibition by using the trucks that had been used to haul booze), so it's easy to infer that he would have control enabling him to give orders that a truck be outside his home at an appointed time.

This scene apparently perplexed American preview audiences, and led to the only footage/sound substitution in the short theatrical version: when DeNiro leaves Woods's home in the short version, we hear the sound of a gunshot, indicating Woods's suicide by gunshot rather than (as in the other versions) by combining his innards with rubbish (a symbolic point, I assume).

David Hayes


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