Man with No Name

Yojimbo

The man with no name (Italian: ‘Uomo senza nome’) is a stock character in Western films, but the term usually applies specifically to the character played by Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s ‘Dollars Trilogy’ (‘A Fistful of Dollars,’ ‘For a Few Dollars More,’ and ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.’ A ‘Fistful of Dollars’ was directly adapted from Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Yojimbo.’ It was the subject of a successful lawsuit by Yojimbo’s producers.

The film’s protagonist, an unconventional ronin played by Toshirō Mifune, bears a striking resemblance to Eastwood’s character: both are quiet, gruff, eccentric strangers with a strong but unorthodox sense of justice and extraordinary proficiency with a particular weapon (in Mifune’s case, a katana; for Eastwood, a revolver). Like Eastwood’s character, Mifune’s ronin is nameless. When pressed, he gives the pseudonym ‘Sanjuro Kuwabatake’ (meaning ‘thirty-year-old mulberry field’), a reference to his age and something he sees through a window (although, regarding the age he jokes ‘Closer to forty actually’).

The convention of hiding the character’s arms from view is shared as well with Mifune’s character typically wearing his arms inside his kimono, leaving the sleeves empty. Prior to signing on to ‘Fistful,’ Eastwood had seen Kurosawa’s film and was impressed by the character. During filming, he did not emulate Mifune’s performance beyond what was already in the script. He also insisted on removing some of the dialogue in the original script, making the character more silent and thus adding to his mystery. As the trilogy progressed, the character became even more silent and stoic.

‘Yojimbo’ is itself believed to have been based on Dashiell Hammett’s 1929 detective novel ‘Red Harvest.’ Kurosawa scholar David Desser and film critic Manny Farber, among others, state categorically that ‘Red Harvest’ was the inspiration for the Kurosawa film. Leone himself clearly believed this theory, stating: ‘Kurosawa’s ‘Yojimbo’ was inspired by an American novel of the serie-noire so I was really taking the story back home again.’ Although Kurosawa never publicly credited Hammett, he privately acknowledged ‘Red Harvest’ as an influence. The name of the lead character in Hammett’s novel is also unrevealed — a man with no name — and identified only as a ‘Continental Op’ after the detective agency he works for.

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