Servant of Two Masters

It’s just been announced in the UK that the stage production One Man, Two Guvnors starring James Corden is heading for the West End. One Man, Two Guvnors by Richard Bean, with songs by Grant Olding, is currently on a popular, critically acclaimed run at the National Theatre. On 15 September 2011 a performance will be broadcast to cinemas around the world, as part of National Theatre Live. One Man, Two Guvnors will be on tour from 27 September to 29 October, after which it will move to the Adelphi Theatre in the West End, from 8 November. One Man, Two Guvnors is an adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s 1745 comedy Servant of Two Masters (orig: Arlecchino servitore di due padrone, or Harlequin Servant of Two Masters), relocated to 1960s Brighton.

YojimboFistful of DollarsWhen Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars was a smash in Italy in the fall of 1964, Leone’s work came to the attention of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. Leone had used Kurosawa’s 1961 samurai movie Yojimbo (The Bodyguard) as the entire basis for his plot, with some (very) minor differences. Leone received a letter from Kurosawa, pointing out that ‘I have just seen your film. It is a very fine film, but it is my film’. Kurosawa claimed copyright infringement and demanded payment. Leone, clutching at straws, discovered that both Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars bore a passing resemblance to Goldoni’s play. After some negotiation, Kurosawa and co. were allowed exclusive distribution rights to A Fistful of Dollars in Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, plus 15% of the worldwide box office. It’s now been established that both Yojimbo and Fistful were influenced by numerous sources, including Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest (titled Piombo e sangue, or ‘Lead and blood’ in Italy) and the western-set Corkscrew.

Judge for yourself who borrowed what from where:

A Fistful of Dollars

Yojimbo

Servant of Two Masters

Red Harvest

Corkscrew

For more things Italian Cinema, check out my my books: Once Upon a Time in the Italian West: The Filmgoers’ Guide to Spaghetti Westerns and Cinema Italiano: The Complete Guide from Classics to Cult published by I.B. Tauris

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