Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Who did Rick Dalton play in the Great Escape?

Archive footage from many films is included in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, including C.C. and Company, Lady in Cement, Three in the Attic, and The Wrecking Crew, in which Sharon Tate appears as Freya Carlson. Three scenes were digitally altered, replacing the original actors with Rick Dalton. One from an episode of The F.B.I., entitled "All the Streets Are Silent," in which Dalton appears as a character originally portrayed by Burt Reynolds. Another from Death on the Run, with Dalton's face imposed over Ty Hardin's. The third is from The Great Escape, with Dalton appearing as Virgil Hilts, the role made famous by Steve McQueen. For The 14 Fists of McCluskey, a WWII film within the film starring Dalton, footage and music from Hell River is used. Additionally, Martin Abrahams, Brioni Farrell, Victor Freitag, Nancy Kwan, Dean Martin, Hannes Messemer, Gordon Mitchell, Rod Taylor, Burt Ward, and Adam West appear via archive footage and sound.

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  • Trudi Fraser, the precocious child actor working on Lancer, is inspired by an actual character from that series. Marvin Schwarz is Dalton's agent, a role that Tarantino wrote specifically for Al Pacino. Francesca Capucci, a starlet who marries Dalton, is influenced by 1960s Italian actresses Sophia Loren and Claudia Cardinale. Billie Booth is Cliff's wife, whose death echoes Natalie Wood's. Some roles, such as Zoë Bell's stunt coordinator and Heba Thorisdottir's makeup artist, were portrayed by individuals who performed those jobs for the film.

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  • The film also garnered moral and theological praise. The Los Angeles Catholic Bishop Robert Barron praised the character of Cliff Booth as embodying the four cardinal virtues, while the theologian David Bentley Hart wrote that the film "exhibit[s] a genuine ethical pathos, one that actually brought tears to my eyes" for its portrayal of "cosmic justice." Specifically, Hart praised the revisionism when "Tarantino's version of the story unexpectedly veered away into some other, dreamlike, better world, where the monsters inadvertently passed through the wrong door and met the end they deserved" that "gave glorious expression to a perfectly righteous rage" in "some other order of reality, if only an imaginary one, where ethereal sweetness had survived and horror had perished."

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  • Rick Dalton is an actor who starred in the fictitious television western series Bounty Law, based on the real-life series Wanted Dead or Alive, starring Steve McQueen. Dalton's relationship with Cliff Booth is based on Burt Reynolds' with his longtime stunt double Hal Needham. Dalton was inspired by actors whose careers began in Classical Hollywood but faltered in the 1960s, such as Ty Hardin, who went from starring in a successful TV western to making spaghetti westerns, as well as by Ralph Meeker. Though not mentioned in the film, Dalton apparently suffers from undiagnosed bipolar disorder, inspired by Pete Duel.

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