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Francis Ford Coppola
March 24, 1972
English and Italian
The Godfather is a 1972 American crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by Albert S. Ruddy from a screenplay by Mario Puzo and Coppola. Based on Puzo's 1969 novel of the same name, the film stars Marlon Brando and Al Pacino as the leaders of a powerful New York crime family. The story, spanning the years 1945 to 1955, centers on the transformation of Michael Corleone (Pacino) from reluctant family outsider to ruthless Mafia boss while also chronicling the Corleone family under the patriarch Vito Corleone (Brando).
The Godfather is widely regarded as one of the greatest films in world cinema—and as one of the most influential, especially in the gangster genre. Now ranked as the second greatest film in American cinema (behind Citizen Kane) by the American Film Institute, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1990.
The film was for a time the highest grossing picture ever made, and remains the box office leader for 1972. It won three Oscars that year: for Best Picture, for Best Actor (Brando) and in the category Best Adapted Screenplay for Puzo and Coppola. Its nominations in seven other categories included Pacino, James Caan and Robert Duvall for Best Supporting Actor and Coppola for Best Director. The success spawned two sequels: The Godfather Part II in 1974, and The Godfather Part III in 1990.
In late August 1945, on the day of his only daughter's wedding, Vito Corleone hears requests in his role as the Godfather, the Don of a New York crime family. Vito's youngest son, Michael, in a Marine Corps uniform, introduces his girlfriend, Kay Adams, to his family at the sprawling reception. Vito's godson Johnny Fontane, a popular singer, pleads for help in securing a coveted movie role, so Vito dispatches his consigliere, Tom Hagen, to the abrasive studio head, Jack Woltz, to secure the casting. Woltz is unmoved until the morning he wakes up in bed with the severed head of his prized stallion.
Shortly before Christmas 1945, drug baron Virgil Sollozzo, backed by the Corleones' rivals, the Tattaglias, asks Vito for investment in the emerging drug trade and protection through his political connections. Vito disapproves of drug dealers, so he sends his enforcer, Luca Brasi, to spy on them. The family then receives two fish wrapped in Brasi's vest, imparting he "sleeps with the fishes". An assassination attempt by Sollozzo's men lands Vito in the hospital, so his eldest son, Sonny, takes command. Sollozzo kidnaps Hagen to pressure Sonny to accept his deal. Michael thwarts a second assassination attempt on his father at the hospital, but is accosted by corrupt police captain McCluskey, who breaks his jaw; Sonny retaliates by having Tattaglia's son Bruno killed. Michael comes up with a plan to hit Sollozzo and McCluskey that his brother approves over Hagen's objections: on the pretext of settling the dispute, Michael lures the pair to a restaurant, retrieves a planted handgun and murders them.
Despite a clampdown from the authorities, the Five Families erupt in open warfare and the brothers fear for their safety. Michael takes refuge in Sicily, and Fredo Corleone is sheltered by associate Moe Greene in Las Vegas. Sonny attacks his brother-in-law Carlo on the street for abusing his sister Connie. When it happens again, Sonny speeds for her home but assassins ambush him at a highway toll booth and riddle him with machine gun fire.
Vito is saddened to learn that, despite his hopes, Michael has become involved in the family business. However, Michael has fallen in love with Apollonia Vitelli and married her in Sicily. His euphoria is shattered when a car bomb intended for him takes the life of his new wife.
To end the feuds, Vito meets with the heads of the Five Families, withdrawing his opposition to the Tattaglias' heroin business and swearing to forgo revenge for Sonny's murder. He deduces that the Tattaglias were under orders of the now dominant Don Emilio Barzini. With his safety guaranteed, Michael returns home and over a year later marries Kay. Seeing his father at the end of his career and his surviving brother too weak, Michael takes the reins of the family and promises his wife to make it legitimate within five years.
Biding his time, Michael allows rival families to pressure Corleone enterprises even as he plans to move family operations to Nevada, while delegating New York operations to members who stay behind. Hagen, upset when Michael replaces him with Vito, is mollified by the older man's reassurance about their long-range plans for him. When Michael travels to Las Vegas to buy out Greene's stake in the family's casinos, Greene derides the Corleones as a fading power. To add injury to insult, Michael sees Fredo falling under Greene's sway.
Vito collapses and dies in his garden while playing with Michael’s son, Anthony. At the funeral, caporegime Salvatore Tessio arranges a meeting between Michael and Don Barzini, signalling his treachery as Vito had warned. The meeting is set for the same day as the christening of Connie's son, to whom Michael will stand as godfather. As the christening proceeds, Corleone assassins, acting on Michael's orders, murder the other New York dons and Moe Greene. Tessio is told that Michael is aware of his betrayal and taken off to his death. After Carlo is questioned by Michael on his involvement in setting up Sonny's murder and confesses he was contacted by Barzini, caporegime Peter Clemenza kills him with a wire garrote. Michael is confronted by Connie, who accuses him of having her husband killed. He denies killing Carlo when questioned by Kay, an answer she accepts. As Kay watches warily, Michael receives his capos, who address him as the new Don Corleone.
- Don Vito Corleone .... Marlon Brando
- Michael Corleone .... Al Pacino
- Sonny Corleone .... James Caan
- Peter Clemenza .... Richard S. Castellano
- Tom Hagen .... Robert Duvall
- Mark McCluskey .... Sterling Hayden
- Jack Woltz .... John Marley
- Emilio Barzini .... Richard Conte
- Virgil Sollozzo .... Al Lettieri
- Kay Adams .... Diane Keaton
- Salvatore Tessio .... Abe Vigoda
- Connie Corleone .... Talia Shire
- Carlo Rizzi .... Gianni Russo
- Fredo Corleone .... John Cazale
- Carmine Cuneo .... Rudy Bond
- Johnny Fontane .... Al Martino
- Carmela Corleone .... Morgana King
- Luca Brasi .... Lenny Montana
- Paulie Gatto .... John Martino
- Amerigo Bonasera .... Salvatore Corsitto
- Al Neri .... Richard Bright
- Moe Greene .... Alex Rocco
- Bruno Tattaglia .... Tony Giorgio
- Nazorine .... Vito Scotti
- Theresa Hagen .... Tere Livrano
- Philip Tattaglia .... Victor Rendina
- Lucy Mancini .... Jeannie Linero
- Sandra Corleone .... Julie Gregg
- Signora Clemenza .... Ardell Sheridan
- Apollonia Vitelli .... Simonetta Stefanelli
- Fabrizio .... Angelo Infanti
- Don Tommasino ..... Corrado Gaipa
- Calò .... Franco Citti
- Signor Vitelli .... Saro Urzì
- Extra in furniture moving scene .... Max Brandt
- Piano player in montage scene .... Carmine Coppola
- Baptism observer .... Gian-Carlo Coppola
- Diner in Louis Restaurant .... Italia Coppola
- Michael Rizzi .... Sofia Coppola
- Victor Stracci .... Don Costello
- Cowboy on the set at Woltz's studio .... Gray Frederickson
- Usher in bridal party .... Ron Gilbert
- Anthony Corleone .... Anthony Gounaris
- Sonny's bodyguard .... Joe Lo Grippo
- Cop outside hospital .... Sonny Grosso
- Don Zaluchi .... Louis Guss
- Sonny's killer .... Randy Jurgensen
- Singer .... Peter Lemongello
- Wedding guest .... Tony Lip
- Unknown role .... Frank Macetta
- Frank Hagen .... Lou Martini Jr.
- Father Hayes .... Joseph Medeglia
- Night nurse .... Carol Morley
- Lou .... Rick Petrucelli
- Floral designer .... Burt Richards
- Drunk .... Sal Richards
- Rocco Lampone .... Tom Rosqui
- Barzini's bodyguard at the funeral .... Nino Ruggeri
- Extra .... Frank Sivero
- Extra at wedding scene .... Filomena Spagnuolo
- Willie Cicci .... Joe Spinell
- Enzo Aguello .... Gabriele Torrei
- Wedding party guest .... Nick Vallelonga
- Wedding guest .... Ed Vantura
- Ray Clemenza .... Matthew Vlahakis
Behind the scenesEdit
Coppola and ParamountEdit
Coppola was not Paramount Pictures' first choice to direct. Italian director Sergio Leone was offered the job first, but he declined in order to direct his own gangster opus, Once Upon a Time in America, which focused on Jewish-American gangsters. Peter Bogdanovich was then approached but he also declined the offer and made What's Up, Doc? instead. Robert Evans, head of Paramount at the time, specifically wanted an Italian-American to direct the film because his research had shown that previous films about the Mafia that were directed by non-Italians had fared dismally at the box office, and he wanted to, in his own words, "smell the spaghetti". When Coppola hit upon the idea of making it a metaphor for American capitalism, coupled with his Sicilian and Italian heritage, he was offered the assignment. In the interview in 1997 which accompanies the 25th Anniversary Edition box set Coppola comments that, "They wanted to make it at a very inexpensive budget, which was probably why I was hired. I was young; I had two children and a baby on the way. I didn't have any money really. So, I was swept along (pause) by the studio basically wanting to make this film." At that time, Coppola had directed five feature films, the most notable of which was the adaptation of the stage musical Finian's Rainbow – although he had also received an Academy Award for co-writing Patton in 1970. Coppola was in debt to Warner Bros. for $400,000 following budget overruns on George Lucas's THX 1138, which Coppola had produced, and he took The Godfather on Lucas's advice.
There was intense friction between Coppola and Paramount, and several times Coppola was almost replaced. As early as the first week, Coppola was nearly fired when Pacino was badly injured, delaying production. Paramount maintains that its skepticism was due to a rocky start to production, though Coppola believes that the first week went extremely well. The studio thought that Coppola failed to stay on schedule, frequently made production and casting errors, and insisted on unnecessary expenses, and two producers unsuccessfully tried to convince another filmmaker to take Coppola's place. The producers scapegoated the other filmmaker when their attempt to fire Coppola became known. Because the producers told him that the other filmmaker had attempted a coup, Coppola says he was shadowed by a replacement director, who was ready to take over if Coppola was fired. Despite such intense pressure, he managed to defend his decisions and avoid being replaced. Coppola would later recollect: The Godfather was a very unappreciated movie when we were making it. They were very unhappy with it. They didn't like the cast. They didn't like the way I was shooting it. I was always on the verge of getting fired. So it was an extremely nightmarish experience. I had two little kids, and the third one was born during that. We lived in a little apartment, and I was basically frightened that they didn't like it. They had as much as said that, so when it was all over I wasn't at all confident that it was going to be successful, and that I'd ever get another job.
Paramount was in financial trouble at the time of production and was desperate for a "big hit" to boost business, hence the pressure Coppola faced during filming. They wanted The Godfather to appeal to a wide audience and threatened Coppola with a "violence coach" to make the film more exciting. Coppola added a few more violent scenes to keep the studio happy. The scene in which Connie smashes crockery after finding out Carlo has been cheating was added for this reason.
The film was originally budgeted for $2 million, and was scripted as a modern adaptation. However, when Coppola got his hands on the script, he was adamant that it be set in the same time period as the book, from 1945 to 1955. This required a large number of second unit shots, some of which embarrassed Coppola at the time.
Coppola's casting choices were unpopular with studio executives at Paramount, particularly Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone. Coppola's first two choices for the role were Brando and Laurence Olivier, but Olivier's agent refused the role, saying, "Lord Olivier is not taking any jobs. He's very sick. He's gonna die soon and he's not interested" (Olivier lived 18 years after the refusal). Paramount wanted Ernest Borgnine and refused to accept Brando because he had delayed production on his recent films. Coppola was told by Paramount president Stanley Jaffe that "Marlon Brando will never appear in this motion picture." One studio executive proposed Danny Thomas for the role since Don Corleone was a strong "family man". After pleading with the executives, Coppola was allowed to cast Brando only if he accepted a lower salary than for his previous films, performed a screen-test, and put up a bond insuring that he would not cause any delays in production. Coppola chose Brando over Borgnine on the basis of his screen test, which also won over the Paramount leadership. Charles Bluhdorn in particular was captivated by Brando's screen test; when he saw it, he exclaimed, "What are we watching? Who is this old guinea?" Brando later won an Academy Award for his portrayal, which he refused to accept in order to call attention to harmful Hollywood stereotypes of Native Americans.
The studio originally wanted Robert Redford or Ryan O'Neal to play Michael Corleone, but Coppola wanted an unknown who looked like an Italian-American, whom he found in Al Pacino. Pacino was not well known at the time, having appeared in only two minor films, and the studio did not consider him right for the part, in part because of his height. Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Warren Beatty, Martin Sheen, and James Caan also auditioned. At one point, Caan was the first choice to play Michael, while Carmine Caridi was signed as elder brother Sonny. Pacino was given the role only after Coppola threatened to quit the production; Caan stated that Coppola envisioned Michael to be the Sicilian-looking one and Sonny was the Americanized version. The studio agreed to Pacino on the condition that Caan was cast as Sonny instead of Caridi, despite the former's Jewish heritage and the latter closely matching the character in the novel (a six-foot-four, black-haired Italian-American bull). Coppola and Puzo would subsequently create a role for Caridi in the sequels.
Bruce Dern, Paul Newman, and Steve McQueen were considered for the role of Tom Hagen that eventually went to Robert Duvall. Sylvester Stallone auditioned for Carlo Rizzi and Paulie Gatto, Anthony Perkins for Sonny, and Mia Farrow auditioned for Kay. William Devane was seen for the role of Moe Greene. Mario Adorf was approached for a role as well. A then-unknown Robert De Niro auditioned for the roles of Michael, Sonny, Carlo, and Paulie. He was cast as Paulie, but Coppola arranged a "trade" with The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight to get Al Pacino from that film. De Niro later played the young Vito Corleone in Part II, winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for the role.
To some extent, the film was a family affair for Francis Ford Coppola. Carmine Coppola, his father, who had a distinguished career as a composer, conductor and arranger, wrote additional music for the film and appeared in a bit part as a piano player, and Carmine's wife, Italia Coppola, was an extra. The director's sister, Talia Shire, was cast as Connie Corleone, and his infant daughter, Sofia, played Connie's and Carlo's newborn son, Michael Francis Rizzi, in the climactic baptism scene near the movie's end. Coppola also cast his sons as Tom Hagen's sons, Frank and Andrew. They are seen in the Sonny-Carlo street fight scene and behind Pacino and Duvall during the funeral scene.
Al Pacino, James Caan and Diane Keaton each received $35,000 for their work on The Godfather, and Robert Duvall got $36,000 for eight weeks of work. Marlon Brando, on the other hand, was paid $50,000 for six weeks and weekly expenses of $1,000, plus 5% of the film, capped at $1.5 million. Brando later sold his points back to Paramount for $300,000.
Most of the principal photography took place from March 29, 1971 to August 6, 1971, although a scene with Pacino and Keaton was shot in the autumn — there were a total of 77 days of shooting, fewer than the 83 for which the production had budgeted.
The opening shot is a long, slow pullback, starting with a close-up of Bonasera, who is petitioning Don Corleone, and ending with the Godfather, seen from behind, framing the picture. This move, which lasts for about three minutes, was shot with a computer-controlled zoom lens designed by Tony Karp.
One of the movie's most shocking moments involved the real severed head of a horse. Animal rights groups protested the inclusion of the scene. Coppola later stated that the horse's head was delivered to him from a dog food company; a horse had not been killed specifically for the movie. This scene was shot in Port Washington, New York.
In the novel, Jack Woltz, the movie producer whose horse's head is put in his bed, is also shown to be a pedophile as Tom Hagen sees a young girl (presumably one of Woltz's child stars) crying while walking out of Woltz's room. This scene was cut from the theatrical release but can be found on the DVD (though Woltz can still briefly be seen kissing the girl on the cheek in his studio in the film).
The scene with Michael driving with McCluskey and Sollozzo avoided the use of back-projection because of cost. Technicians moved lights behind the car to create the illusion.
The startling scene of McCluskey's shooting was accomplished by building a fake forehead on top of actor Sterling Hayden. A gap was cut in the center, filled with fake blood, and capped off with a plug of prosthetic flesh. The plug was quickly yanked out with monofilament fishing line, making a bloody hole suddenly appear in Hayden's head.
The most complicated filming scene was the death of Sonny Corleone at the Jones Beach Causeway toll plaza midway through the film. Caan's suit was rigged with 127 squibs of fake blood that exploded in a simulation of multiple sub machine-gun bullet hits.
The shooting of Moe Green through the eye was inspired by the death of gangster Bugsy Siegel. To achieve the effect, actor Alex Rocco's glasses had two tubes hidden in their frames. One had fake blood in it, and the other had a BB gun and compressed air. When the gun was shot, the compressed air shot the BB through the glasses, shattering them from the inside. The other tube then released the fake blood.
Locations around New York City were used for the film, including the then-closed flagship store of Best & Company on Fifth Avenue, which was dressed up and used for the scene in which Pacino and Keaton are Christmas shopping. At least one location in Los Angeles was used also (for the exterior of Woltz's mansion), for which neither Robert Duvall nor John Marley was available; in some shots, it is possible to see that extras are standing in for the two actors. A scene with Pacino and Keaton was filmed in the town of Ross, California. The Sicilian towns of Savoca and Forza d'Agrò outside of Taormina were also used for exterior locations. Interiors were shot at Filmways Studio in New York.
A side entrance to Bellevue Hospital was used for Michael's confrontation with police Captain McCluskey. As of 2007, the steps and gate to the hospital were still there but have fallen victim to neglect.
The hospital interiors, when Michael visits his father there, were filmed at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary on 14th Street, in Manhattan, New York City.
The location of the meeting of the Dons was filmed at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. However, the interior shooting location of the meeting was the Boardroom of the Penn Central Railroad in Grand Central Terminal, 32nd floor.
The scene in which Don Barzini was assassinated was filmed on the steps of the New York State Supreme Court building on Foley Square in Manhattan, New York City.
The wedding scene at the Corleone family compound was shot at 110 Longfellow Avenue in the Todt Hill section of Staten Island. The numerous Tudor homes on the block gave the impression that they were part of the same "compound". Paramount built a Plexiglas "stone wall" which traversed the street – the same wall where Santino smashed the camera. Many of the extras in the wedding scene were local Italian-Americans who were asked by Coppola to drink homemade wine, enjoy the traditional Italian food, and participate in the scene as though it were an actual wedding.
Two churches were used to film the baptism scene. The interior shots were filmed at St. Patrick's Old Cathedral in New York. For the baptism, Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582 was used, as were other Bach works for the pipe organ. The exterior scenes following the baptism were filmed at The Church of St. Joachim and St. Anne in the Pleasant Plains section of Staten Island. In 1973 much of the church was destroyed in a fire. Only the façade and steeple of the original church remained, and were later incorporated into a new structure.
The toll booth scene was filmed at the site of Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York on Long Island, which was under construction at the time. It also utilized the former Mitchel Field, and the roadway used was once a runway.
The film's famous score was composed by Nino Rota. Francis Coppola's father Carmine Coppola contributed to the music performed in the film's wedding scene. Later, his son would call on him to compose additional music for the score of The Godfather Part II (1974) and most of the score for The Godfather Part III (1990).
Differences from the novelEdit
One of the primary parts of Puzo's novel which was not used for the movie was the flashback story of Vito Corleone's earlier life, including the circumstances of his emigration to America, his early family life, his murder of Don Fanucci, and his rise in importance in the Mafia, all of which were later used in The Godfather Part II.
Many subplots were trimmed in the transition from the printed page to the screen, including:
- singer Johnny Fontane's misfortunes with women and his problems with his voice (Johnny is a major character in the book);
- a teenaged Sonny's impulsive dabbling in street crime and his utterly lacking the tact and coolheadedness possessed in such abundance by his father;
- Sonny's mistres, Lucy Mancini, was a substantial character in the novel, but only appears briefly in the film. Additionally, the novel states that Lucy Mancini was not pregnant by Sonny when she moved to Las Vegas, thus leaving no room for her son, Vincent Mancini of The Godfather Part III;
- Dr. Jules Segal, who was excised entirely from the film;
- Jack Woltz's pedophilia, although in scenes shown in The Godfather Saga, the pedophilia is explicitly shown and mentioned by Hagen to Don Corleone;
- Kay Adams' home life and her brief separation from Michael;
- Luca Brasi's demonic past;
- the Corleone family's victorious rise to power in earlier New York gang wars in which Don Corleone survives a previous assassination attempt and Al Capone sends triggermen from Chicago in an unsuccessful attempt to aid a rival gang;
- disgraced former police officer Al Neri's recruitment as a Corleone hit man;
- Don Corleone's ingenious plan to bring Michael out of exile in Sicily;
- the detailed savage attack on the two men who assaulted the undertaker Bonasera's daughter, which was led by Paulie Gatto and involved retainer thugs (which was only alluded to in the film).
Connie's confrontation with Michael over Carlo's death is also portrayed somewhat differently. Although she is initially distraught, accusing Michael of executing her husband as revenge for Sonny's brutal murder, in the book she apologizes to Michael a few days later, claiming she was mistaken, apparently glad to be rid of the abusive Carlo and that Sonny has been avenged. She also marries again less than a year later.
Characters with smaller roles in the film than in the novel include Johnny Fontane, Lucy Mancini, Rocco Lampone, and Al Neri (the last two are reduced to non-speaking roles). Characters dropped in the film adaptation besides Dr. Segal include Vito's terminally-ill consigliere, Genco Abbandando (only spoken of, he appears in a deleted scene featured in The Godfather Saga; he first appears on film in The Godfather II), family friend Nino Valenti, and Dr. Taza from Sicily. Also, in the book, Michael and Kay have two sons, but in the movies they have a son and a daughter.
The novel and film also differ on the fates of Michael's bodyguards in Sicily, Fabrizio and Calò. The film has them both surviving (Calò, in fact, appears in the third installment). In the book, however, it is stated that Calò dies along with Apollonia in the car explosion, and Fabrizio, implicated as an accomplice in the bombing, is shot and killed as one more victim in the famous "baptism scene" after he is tracked down running a pizza parlor in Buffalo. Fabrizio's murder was deleted from the film but publicity photos of the scene exist. (He is later killed in a completely different scene in The Godfather Saga which was deleted from The Godfather Part II.)
The book's ending differs from the movie: whereas in the film Kay suddenly realizes that Michael has become "like his family", the drama is toned down in the book. She leaves Michael and goes to stay with her parents. When Tom Hagen visits her there, he lets her in on family secrets for which, according to him, he would be killed should Michael find out what he has revealed. Kay returns to Michael in an uneasy compromise; she loves him, holds herself apart from the details of his work and attends Catholic mass daily with Mama Corleone to pray for Michael's soul, just as Mama had done for Vito.
Box office performanceEdit
The Godfather was a blockbuster, breaking many box office records to become the highest grossing film of 1972. It earned $81.5 million in theatrical rentals]] in North America during its initial release, increasing its earnings to $85.7 million through a reissue in 1973, and including a limited re-release in 1997 it ultimately earned an equivalent exhibition gross of $135 million. It displaced Gone with the Wind to claim the record as the top rentals earner, a position it would retain until the release of Jaws in 1975. News articles at the time proclaimed it was the first film to gross $100 million in North America, but such accounts are erroneous since this record in fact falls to The Sound of Music, released in 1965. The film repeated its native success overseas, earning in total an unprecedented $142 million in worldwide theatrical rentals, to become the highest net earner. Profits were so high for The Godfather that earnings for Gulf & Western Industries, Inc., which owned Paramount Pictures, jumped from seventy-seven cents per share to three dollars and thirty cents a share for the year, according to a Los Angeles Times article, dated December 13, 1972. To date, it has grossed $286 million in international box office receipts, and adjusted for ticket price inflation in North America, still ranks among the top 25 highest-grossing films.
Since its release, The Godfather has received universal critical acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes reports that all 77 critics gave the film a positive review, with an average score of 9.1/10.  Metacritic, another review aggregator, assigned the film a perfect weighted average score of 100 (out of 100) based on 14 reviews from mainstream critics, considered to be "universal acclaim".
Both The Godfather and The Godfather Part II were selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1990 and 1993, respectively. International critics routinely list these two among cinema's pinnacle achievements, sometimes considering them as one work. In the decennial 2002 Sight & Sound poll of film directors, the pair was ranked as the second best film of all time. The critics poll separately voted it fourth. The American Film Institute has listed it second in U.S. film history behind Citizen Kane. Other polls and publications have it first, as well, among them Entertainment Weekly, and Empire magazine (November 2008)
The soundtrack's main theme by Nino Rota was also critically acclaimed; the main theme ("Speak Softly Love") is well-known and widely used.
Previous Mafia movies had looked at the gangs from the perspective of an outraged outsider. In contrast, The Godfather presents the gangster's perspective of the Mafia as a response to corrupt society. Although the Corleone family is presented as immensely rich and powerful, no scenes depict prostitution, gambling, loan sharking or other forms of racketeering. Some critics argue that the setting of a criminal counterculture allows for unapologetic gender stereotyping, and is an important part of the film's appeal ("You can act like a man!", Don Vito tells a weepy Johnny Fontane).
Real-life gangsters responded enthusiastically to the film, with many of them feeling it was a portrayal of how they were supposed to act.. Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, the former Underboss in the Gambino crime family, stated: "I left the movie stunned... I mean I floated out of the theater. Maybe it was fiction, but for me, then, that was our life. It was incredible. I remember talking to a multitude of guys, Made guys, who felt exactly the same way." According to Anthony Fiato after seeing the film, Patriarca crime family members Paulie Intiso and Nicky Giso altered their speech patterns closer to that of Vito Corleone's. Intiso would frequently swear and use poor grammar; but after the movie came out, he started to articulate and philosophize more.
Joe Bonanno, former boss of the Bonanno crime family, explains in his autobiography, A Man of Honor, the extraordinary response to the work: "This work of fiction is not really about organized crime or about gangsterism. The true theme has to do with family pride and personal honor. That’s what made The Godfather so popular. It portrayed people with a strong sense of kinship to survive in a cruel world."
Remarking on the 40th anniversary of the film's release, film critic John Podhoretz praised The Godfather as "arguably the great American work of popular art" and "the summa of all great moviemaking before it".
The Godfather won three Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor for Marlon Brando and Best Adapted Screenplay for both Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola. The film had been nominated for eight other Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Al Pacino, James Caan, and Robert Duvall, Best Director for Coppola, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound. The film also had a Best Original Score nomination but was disqualified when found out that Nino Rota had used a similar score in another film. Despite having three nominees for the Best Supporting Actor award, they all lost to Joel Grey in Cabaret. It also lost the Best Director, Best Sound and Best Film Editing to Cabaret.
The film won five Golden Globes out of seven nominations. It won the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Drama, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Score and Best Actor – Drama for Brando. It received two nominations for Best Actor – Drama for Pacino and Best Supporting Actor for Caan.
Nino Rota won the Grammy Award for Best Original Score for a Motion Picture or TV Special for the film's soundtrack.
At the BAFTA Awards, Nino Rota won the Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music while Brando, Duvall and Pacino received nominations for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Most Promising Newcomer, respectively. Anna Hill Johnstone was also nominated for Best Costume Design.
Marlon Brando and Al Pacino boycott Edit
Brando won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance, but turned down the Oscar, becoming the second actor to refuse a Best Actor award (the first being George C. Scott for Patton). Brando boycotted the Academy Award ceremony, sending instead American Indian Rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather, who appeared in full Apache dress, to state Brando's reasons, which were based on his objection to the depiction of American Indians by Hollywood and television.
Pacino also boycotted the Academy Award ceremony, as he was insulted at being nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor award, noting that he had more screen time than his co-star and Best Actor winner Brando and thus he should have received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Nino Rota's score was removed at the last minute from the list of 1973 Academy Award nominees when it was discovered that he had used the theme in Eduardo De Filippo's 1958 comedy Fortunella. Although in the earlier film the theme was played in a brisk, staccato and comedic style, the melody was the same as the love theme from The Godfather, and for that reason was deemed ineligible for an Oscar. Despite this, The Godfather Part II won a 1974 Oscar for Best Original Score, although it featured the same love theme that made the 1972 score ineligible.
- The film is ranked at the top of Metacritic's top 100 list, and in the top 10 on Rotten Tomatoes' all time best list (100% "Certified Fresh").
- In 2002, The Godfather and The Godfather Part II reached No. 2 on Film4's list of The 100 Greatest Films of All Time.
- Entertainment Weekly named The Godfather the greatest film ever made.
- The Godfather was voted in at No. 1 on Empire magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time in November 2008.
- In Time Out's 2003 readers' poll, The Godfather was ranked the second best film of all time, after Some Like It Hot.
American Film InstituteEdit
- 1998 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – No. 3
- 2001 AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills – No. 11
- 2003 AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains:
- Vito Corleone – Nominated Villain
- 2005 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse." – No. 2
- "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli." – Nominated
- "It's a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes." – Nominated
- 2005 AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores – No. 5
- 2007 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – No. 2
- 2008 AFI's 10 Top 10 – No. 1 Gangster film
Although many films about gangsters had been made before The Godfather, Coppola's sympathetic treatment of the Corleone family and their associates, and his portrayal of mobsters as characters of considerable psychological depth and complexity was hardly usual in the genre. This was even more the case with The Godfather Part II, and the success of those two films, critically, artistically and financially, opened the doors for more and varied depictions of mobster life, including films such as Mattin Scorsese's Goodfellas and TV series such as David Chase's The Sopranos.
The image of the Mafia as being a feudal organization with the Don being both the protector of the small fry and the collector of obligations from them to repay his services, which The Godfather helped to popularize, is now an easily recognizable cultural trope, as is that of the Don's family as a "royal family". (This has spread into the real world as well – cf. John Gotti – the "Dapper Don", and his celebritized family.) This portrayal stands in contrast to the more sordid reality of lower level Mafia "familial" entanglements, as depicted in various post-Godfather Mafia fare, such as Scorsese's Mean Streets and Casino, and also to the grittier hard-boiled pre-Godfather films.
In the 1999 film Analyse This, which starred Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal, many references are made both directly and indirectly to The Godfather. One dream scene is almost a shot by shot replica of the attempted assassination of Vito Corleone (Crystal playing the Don and De Niro playing Fredo). In the 1990 comedy The Freshman, Marlon Brando plays a role reminiscent of Don Corleone. And one of those most unlikely homages to this film came in 2004, when the PG-rated, animated family film Shark Tale was released with a storyline that nodded at this and other movies about the Mafia. Similarly, Rugrats in Paris, based on a Nickelodeon children's show, began with an extended parody of The Godfather.
The 2005 Sarkar, directed by Ram Gopal Varma, with Amitabh Bachchan in the lead role as a "Don" and his son Abhishek Bachchan as the equivalent of Michael, is modeled on The Godfather with due credits appearing at the beginning of the film.
In the DVD commentary for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas stated that the interwoven scenes of Darth Vader slaying Separatist leaders and Emperor Palpatine announcing the transformation of the Galactic Republic into the Galactic Empire was an homage to the christening and assassination sequence in The Godfather.
In popular cultureEdit
The Godfather, along with the other films in the trilogy, had a strong impact on the public at large. Don Vito Corleone's line, "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse", was voted as the second most memorable line in cinema history in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes by the American Film Institute. The line actually originates in the French novel Le Père Goriot, by Honoré de Balzac, wherein Vautrin tells Eugène that he is "making him an offer that he cannot refuse".
An indication of the continuing influence of The Godfather and its sequels can be gleaned from the many references to it which have appeared in every medium of popular culture in the decades since the film's initial release. That these homages, quotations, visual references, satires, and parodies continue to pop up even now shows clearly the film's enduring impact.
In Set it Off, four women - Lita "Stoney" Newsome (Jada Pinkett), Cleopatra "Cleo" Sims (Queen Latifah), Francesca "Frankie" Sutton (Vivica A. Fox), and Tisean "T.T." Williams (Kimberly Elise) - meet around a conference table at the office building they clean to plan a series of bank heists, during which time they do imitations of The Godfather.
In You've Got Mail, Joe Fox (played by Tom Hanks) quotes The Godfather, positing:
- "The Godfather is the I-ching. The Godfather is the sum of all wisdom. The Godfather is the answer to any question. What should I pack for my summer vacation? «Leave the gun, take the cannoli». What day of the week is it? «Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday»."
The Warner Bros. animated show Animaniacs featured several segments called "Goodfeathers", with pigeons spoofing characters from various gangster films. One of the characters is "The Godpigeon", an obvious parody of Brando's portrayal of Vito Corleone.
John Belushi appeared in a Saturday Night Live sketch as Vito Corleone in a therapy session trying to properly express his inner feelings towards the Tattaglia Family, who, in addition to muscling in on his territory, "also, they shot my son Santino 56 times".
The Simpsons makes numerous references to The Godfather, including one scene in the episode "Strong Arms of the Ma" that parodies the Sonny-Carlo street fight scene, with Marge Simpson beating a mugger in front of an animated version of the same New York streetscape, including using the lid of a trash can during the fight. The "All's Fair in Oven War" final scene shows James Caan being ambushed by hillbillies (Cletus relatives) at a toll booth, a parody of the scene when Sonny Corleone (portrayed by Caan) is shot and killed. The later episode "The Mook, the Chef, the Wife and Her Homer" parodies the film's ending scene, with Lisa Simpson taking Kay Adams' role and Fat Tony's son Michael standing in for Michael Corleone. The horse-head scene is also parodied in the episode Lisa's Pony.
In the television show The Sopranos, Tony Soprano's topless bar is named Bada Bing after the line in The Godfather when Sonny Corleone says, "You've gotta get up close like this and bada-bing! You blow their brains all over your nice Ivy League suit."
In Season 5 Episode 7 of Breaking Bad, there's an explicit homage where Walter White orders the execution of prisoners that could implicate him as a drug king.
Releases for television and videoEdit
The theatrical version of The Godfather debuted on network television in 1974 with only minor edits. The next year, Coppola created The Godfather Saga expressly for American television in a release that combined The Godfather and The Godfather Part II with unused footage from those two films in a chronological telling that toned down the violent, sexual, and profane material for its NBC debut on November 18, 1977. In 1981, Paramount released the Godfather Epic boxed set, which also told the story of the first two films in chronological order, again with additional scenes, but not redacted for broadcast sensibilities. Coppola returned to the film again in 1992 when he updated that release with footage from The Godfather Part III and more unreleased material. This home viewing release, under the title The Godfather Trilogy: 1901–1980, had a total run time of 583 minutes (9 hours, 43 minutes), not including the set's bonus documentary by Jeff Werner on the making of the films, "The Godfather Family: A Look Inside".
The Godfather DVD Collection was released on October 9, 2001 in a package that contained all three films—each with a commentary track by Coppola—and a bonus disc that featured a 73-minute documentary from 1991 entitled The Godfather Family: A Look Inside and other miscellany about the film: the additional scenes originally contained in The Godfather Saga; Francis Coppola's Notebook (a look inside a notebook the director kept with him at all times during the production of the film); rehearsal footage; a promotional featurette from 1971; and video segments on Gordon Willis's cinematography, Nino Rota's and Carmine Coppola's music, the director, the locations and Mario Puzo's screenplays. The DVD also held a Corleone family tree, a "Godfather" timeline, and footage of the Academy Award acceptance speeches.
After a careful restoration of the first two films, The Godfather series were released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on September 23, 2008, under the title The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration. The work was done by Robert A. Harris of Film Preserve. The Blu-ray Disc box set (four discs) includes high-definition extra features on the restoration and film. They are included on Disc 5 of the DVD box set (five discs).
The restoration was confirmed by Francis Ford Coppola during a question-and-answer session for The Godfather Part III, when he said that he had just seen the new transfer and it was "terrific".
Other extras are ported over from Paramount's 2001 DVD release. There are slight differences between the repurposed extras on the DVD and Blu-ray Disc sets, with the HD box having more content.
Paramount lists the new (HD) extra features as:
- Godfather World
- The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't
- ...when the shooting stopped
- Emulsional Rescue Revealing The Godfather
- The Godfather on the Red Carpet
- Four Short Films on The Godfather
- The Godfather vs. The Godfather, Part II
- Riffing on the Riffing
- Main article: The Godfather: The Game
In March 2006, a video game version of The Godfather was released by Electronic Arts. Before his death, Marlon Brando provided voice work for Vito; however, owing to poor sound quality from Brando's failing health, only parts of the recordings could be used. A sound-alike's voice had to be used in the "missing parts". James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Abe Vigoda lent their voices and likenesses as well, and several other Godfather cast members had their likeness in the game. However, Al Pacino's likeness and voice (Michael Corleone) was not in the game as Al Pacino sold his likeness and voice exclusively for use in the Scarface: The World Is Yours video game. Francis Ford Coppola said in April 2005 that he was not informed and did not approve of Paramount allowing the game's production, and openly criticized the move.
Notes and referencesEdit
- The Godfather - Official site from Paramount Pictures
- The Guardian - Mob mentality
- Fact and Fiction in The Godfather
- Vanity Fair - The Godfather Wars
- The Godfather film locations
- The Godfather transcript