Often directly associated with the Spaghetti Western, director Sergio Leone was by no means the inventor of the sub-genre, but did more than any other Italian director to popularize it overseas, particularly in the United States. Leone entered filmmaking at the height of popularity for Sword-and-Sandal epics of the 1950s, making his solo directorial debut with "The Colossus of Rhodes" (1961). Once that genre fell out of favor over the massive budgets, he joined a group of Italian directors who reinvented the Western, turning the genre on its head with films that were gritty, violent and often darkly humorous. For his part, Leone employed a number of techniques like extreme close-ups, rapid-fire editing, punctuated score, and laconic characters in a trilogy of films - "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964), "For a Few Dollars More" (1966) and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (1967) - that reshaped the modern Western and turned a little-known actor named Clint Eastwood into a star. All three films were derided by critics for their then-excessive violence while also becoming major international box office hits. Leone followed with what many felt was his Western masterpiece, "Once Upon a Time in the West" (1968), and later spent over 10 years making his four-and-a-half hour long gangster epic, "Once Upon a Time in America" (1984). When he died in 1989, Leone left behind a legacy as a pioneering director whose influence was felt throughout generations while inspiring a permanent shift of the cultural landscape.