At the end of Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time In
America (1984), Max
(James Woods) appears finally to be dead. Max, alias Secretary Bailey,
Secretary of Commerce, has been killed on the eve of testifying before
Congressional Investigating Committee, late in 1968. Others due to testify
have died in suspicious circumstances. Max has told Noodles (Robert de
Niro), minutes before his disappearance, that he (Max) is
“a dead man.”
There is little doubt, it would seem, that he is dead, ingested by a refuse
wagon. But he appeared to die once before in the spring of 1933, when
Max, the bootlegger and labour fixer, was shot down and burned on his
last liquor run before the end of Prohibition. Indeed, a full sized
confectionary coffin to Prohibition is seen in the sequence, set in
Moe's bar, just prior to his death – one coffin
going, apparently, before another.
If Max has died once, and lived … perhaps he can do it twice.