The Real Movies & Shows That Inspired Rick Dalton's Resumé In Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood

Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures.
Warning: Slight spoilers are ahead.
Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood is being hailed as a love letter to the the movie industry's late 1960s heyday. As the times are rapidly changing, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) is struggling to keep up. Dalton, a television actor fighting to make his big break in movies, signs a four movie deal with Universal.
So much of Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood seamlessly blends fact and fiction into one sunshine-hued narrative that you'd be forgiven for losing track of where reality ends and the Tarantino story begins. Take for example, Rick Dalton's movies and TV roles.
In short, most of what's on Dalton's resume is not real. Dalton does name-check some roles on real TV series, including The FBI (it ran on ABC from 1965 to 1964), The Green Hornet (also ABC from 1966 to 1967), and Land Of The Giants (on ABC from 1968 to 1970). You won't find his TV show Bounty Law or the movie The 14 Fists Of McCluskey in any film archives.
But just as the film's title Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood takes after the title of Sergio Leone's 1968 film Once Upon A Time In The West, Dalton's movies contain loads of references to real films and people from the spaghetti western era of Hollywood. In the 1960s, many westerns were actually being shot in Italy. As part of his transition from television to film, Dalton considers a move to Europe with his stunt double and best friend, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt).
Posters were made for Dalton's movies in what can only be described as a stroke of brilliant marketing. To truly appreciate the posters, fans have to keep in mind some of the main influences driving Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood: spaghetti westerns, Hollywood in the late '60s, and Clint Eastwood.

Bounty Law

While the bounty hunter western that Rick Dalton stars in on NBC sure seems like something that could have realistically happened on TV in the '60s, Bounty Law isn't real. It is, however, a clear homage to the short-lived Steve McQueen series, Wanted Dead or Alive, which was about a "cavallier" bounty hunter bounding across the old West. Since Dalton is sort of loosely based on McQueen, it's pretty clear this is what Tarantino was after.

The 14 Fists Of McCluskey

The World War II movie for which Dalton learns to operate a literal flame-thrower stands out in the bunch for a very Tarantino reason: It appears to reference his own film, Inglourious Basterds, which also includes a grand finale in which Nazis go down in literal flames.

Nebraska Jim

Nebraska Jim is actually a nod to a similarly titled film, Minnesota Clay. The 1965 western was directed by Sergio Corbucci, who is credited with directing the fictitious film as well. This isn't the first time that Tarantino took inspiration from Corbucci. The Italian director also made a movie called Django which Tarantino used to inspire his film Django Unchained.


Looking like a classic Clint Eastwood film, Tanner doesn't appear to be based on any one film, but rather it is an homage to the era, in general. It was around this time that the idea of an anti-hero became popular. You might root for Joe Tanner, but that didn't mean he was the best of guys.

Kill Me Now Ringo, Said The Gringo

This film contains another hidden reference to a Corbucci film. Released in 1966, Corbucci's movie, Johnny Oro, had an alternate title, Ringo and His Golden Pistol. The faux-movie poster also credits Titanus which was a real Italian studio putting out westerns at the time.

Operazione Dyn-o-mite!

Another straight-from-Italy production, Operazione Dyn-o-mite! appears to be a step away from the action anti-hero roles played by Dalton. Based on the poster and a clue given in the billing, this is likely a reference to any number of James Bond imitators that came out in the '60s. Co-starring opposite Dalton is Margaret Lee, who was a British actress at the time. Lee became famous by starring in European spy films.

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