Eli Wallach(Tuco):
"But if you miss you had better miss very well.
Whoever double-crosses me and leaves me alive, he understands nothing about Tuco".

He is nasty, brutish, and oddly likable. That most anti- of the trio of antiheros that filled the screen in Sergio Leones' 1966 spaghetti western extravaganza, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, he is Tuco. He is the extremely vital, tough, and irrepressible Vaccaro that is partnter to Clint Eastwood's "Blondie" character (as usual, Clint's badass has no real name).

Now, I've seen the film many times, but as I grew older with it, I realized the true genius of Leone, in that he had filled the screen a sort of surrealist cartoon of the American Civil War, populated with weird archetypes; late Twentieth Century, stylized European ideas of the Old West.

However strange or anachronistic its images might be (Civil War soldiers battle in the 1860s with lever action Winchester rifles, which would not be invented for another 10 years) GB&U is a hyptnotic, character-driven tour de force, one that has maintained its power for a third of a century.

Of course we admire the icy strength of Blondie, or Lee Van Cleef's cool and dapper gunman,
Angel Eyes. The last couple of times I've seen the film, however, it hit me that my admiration
for Tuco increased with each viewing.

Of course part of this admiration comes from realizing that Eli Wallach was 49 years old when the
filming was done in the hot arid plains of Southern Italy. You have to really be struck with the
vitality that the man brought to the role! I can't tear ass around like that now, and I'm in my 30s.

Tucco's gimme-gimme-gimme approach to life always gets a smile out of me. So, here goes, The things that struck me as the ten coolest and strongest lessons that Tuco ever taught us:
  1. A partnership involves certain risks.
  2. It's best to keeps your options open, until you have to commit.
  3. When your enemies think you're a dumbass, just smile and await your opportunity.
  4. Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
  5. A guy should treat himself to a bubble-bath, now and then (but keep your pistol handy)
  6. If food is free, get a big plate (but make your enemy try it first).
  7. A guy can run like a sissy and still be tough.
  8. When someone offers you a drink, you might as well take a big one.
  9. It's Ok if you can't go while someone's watching.
  10. If you want to get rich, you might have to get you hands dirty, first.

Of course, Leone went on to make a trilogy of "Man With No Name" pictures, all starring
Eastwood and Van Cleef. Regrettably, Tuco/Wallach was only featured in this, the first,
and greatest. The magic that Wallach brought to the part, though, remains timeless, the archtypical
rogue, a kind of Caliban of the desert. A real guy's guy, Wallach utterly stole the show in a part
that had originally been offered to Anthony Quinn, who played similarly lusty antiheroic types
in films such as Zorba the Greek and A High Wind in Jamaica.

While Quinn would have undoubtedly filled the role with his own great persona, I, for one,
am certainly glad that Wallach got the part, and I'm glad for the tongue-in-cheek badness
that he brought to the screen. Viva, Tuco!
--©2004 Timothy C. Philllips.