The Godfather (novel)

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The Godfather
Godfather-Novel-Cover.png
Author Mario Puzo
Cover artist S. Neil Fujita
Country United States
Language English
Series The Godfather
Genre Crime novel
Publisher G. P. Putnam's Sons
Publication date
10 March 1969
Preceded by The Family Corleone
Followed by The Sicilian

The Godfather is a crime novel written by Italian American author Mario Puzo, originally published in 1969 by G. P. Putnam's Sons. It details the story of a fictitious Mafia family based in New York City (and Long Beach, New York), headed by Don Vito Corleone, who became synonymous with the Italian Mafia. The novel covers the years 1945 to 1955, and also provides the back story of Vito Corleone from early childhood to adulthood.

The book introduced Italian criminal terms like consiglieri, caporegime, Cosa Nostra, and omertà to an English-speaking audience.

It inspired a 1972 film of the same name. Two film sequels, including new contributions by Puzo himself, were made in 1974 and 1990. The first and second films are widely held in high esteem as examples of the cinematic arts.[1][2]

S. Neil Fujita created a book cover with a marionette puppet theme. The title is in a single column of bold white Gothic letters against a black background. The word "Godfather" has the extended upper horizontal arm of the "G" and the vertical arm of the "d" separated by a black "string" line that descends from the upper right corner where are held the controls in a hand of the "manipulator". White strings descend to the f, t, h, e and r.[3]

The novel deals with a mob war fought between the Corleone family and the other four of the five Mafia families in New York. After Don Vito Corleone is shot by men working for drug dealer Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo, Corleone's two sons, Santino and Michael, must run the family business with the help of consigliere Tom Hagen and the two caporegime Peter Clemenza and Salvatore Tessio. When Michael murders Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey, an Irish police officer on the drug lord's payroll, the conflict escalates into a full-scale war; this ultimately results in Santino's murder and Michael's ascension to the head of the family. He initially desires to legitimize the family business, but gradually becomes even more ruthless than his father, orchestrating the murder of all of the family's enemies, including his brother-in-law Carlo Rizzi, who played a part in Santino's murder. Michael then sells all the family's businesses in New York and moves the Corleones to Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

Several characters were to receive relatively minor coverage in the film adaptation, such as the Don's godson Johnny Fontane and his friend Nino Valenti, Sonny's mistress Lucy Mancini, and Michael's bodyguard Al Neri.

Title[edit]

Some controversy surrounds the title of the book and its underworld implications. Although it is widely reported that Puzo was inspired to use "Godfather" as a designator for a Mafia leader from his experience as a reporter, the term The Godfather was first used in connection with the Mafia during Joe Valachi's testimony during a 1963 United States congressional hearing on organized crime.[citation needed]

Main characters[edit]

The Corleone family patriarch is Vito Corleone (The Don), whose surname (Italian for "Lionheart") recalls the town of Corleone, Sicily. Vito has four children: Santino "Sonny" Corleone, Frederico "Fredo" Corleone, Michael "Mike" Corleone, and Constanzia "Connie" Corleone. He also has an informally adopted son, Tom Hagen, who became the Corleones' consigliere. Vito Corleone is also the godfather of singer and movie star Johnny Fontane. The godfather referred to in the title is generally taken to be Vito. However, the story's central character is actually Michael. Its central theme follows that it is Michael's destiny to replace his father as the head of the family, despite his determination to lead a more Americanized life with his girlfriend (and eventual wife) Kay Adams.

The Corleone family is in fact a criminal organization with national influence, notably protection, gambling and union racketeering. Serving under the Don is his oldest son Santino, who serves as underboss. The operational side of the organization is headed by two caporegimes, Peter Clemenza and Salvatore Tessio.

Film adaptation[edit]

Main article: The Godfather

The 1972 film adaptation of the novel was released with Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone and Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Mario Puzo assisted with both writing of the screenplay and other production tasks. The film grossed approximately $269 million worldwide and won various awards, including: three Academy Awards, five Golden Globes and one Grammy. The film is considered to be tremendously significant in cinematic history. The sequel, The Godfather Part II won six Oscars, and became the first sequel to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The film shares much with the novel except such details as backstories of some characters that are not included, although they were filmed. Some of this footage was included in later versions such as "The Godfather Saga." The subplot involving Johnny Fontane in Hollywood was not filmed. The most significant deviation between the film from the novel was that the latter had a more upbeat ending than the film in which Kay Corleone accepts Michael's decision to take over his father's business. The film ends with Kay's realization of Michael's ruthlessness, a theme that would develop in the second and third films, which are largely not based on the original novel. Vito Corleone's backstory appeared in the second film, performed by Robert DeNiro.

Other adaptations[edit]

The video game company Electronic Arts released a video game adaptation of The Godfather on March 21, 2006. The player assumes the role of a "soldier" in the Corleone family. Prior to his death, Marlon Brando provided some voice work for Vito, which was eventually deemed unusable and was dubbed over by a Brando impersonator. Francis Ford Coppola said in April 2005 that he was not informed of Paramount's decision to allow the game to be made and he did not approve of it.[4] Al Pacino also did not participate, and his likeness was replaced with a different depiction of Michael Corleone.

Sequels[edit]

In 1983, Puzo's literary sequel to The Godfather was published. Entitled The Sicilian, it chronicles the life of "Giuliano" (Salvatore Giuliano) but the Corleone family is featured heavily throughout, Michael Corleone in particular. Chronologically this story sits between Michael's exile to Sicily in 1950 to his return to the USA. For copyright reasons, the Corleone family involvement was cut from the Michael Cimino film adaptation, which is not considered part of the Godfather film series.

In 2004, Random House published a sequel to Puzo's The Godfather, The Godfather Returns, by Mark Winegardner. A further sequel by Winegardner, The Godfather's Revenge, was released in 2006. The sequel novels continue the story from Puzo's novel.

The Godfather Returns picks up the story immediately after the end of Puzo's The Godfather. It covers the years 1955 to 1962, as well as providing significant backstory for Michael Corleone's character prior to the events of the first novel. The events of the film The Godfather Part II all take place within the time frame of this novel, but are only mentioned in the background. The novel contains an appendix that attempts to correlate the events of the novels with the events of the films.

The Godfather's Revenge covers the years 1963 to 1964.

Continuing Puzo's habit, as seen in The Godfather, of featuring characters who are close analogues of real life events and public figures (as Johnny Fontane is an analogue of Frank Sinatra), Winegardner features in his two Godfather novels analogues of Joseph, John, and Robert F. Kennedy, as well as an analogue for alleged organized crime figure Carlos Marcello (Carlo Tramonti). In The Godfather Returns, Winegardner also dramatizes the sweep of organized crime arrests that took place in Apalachin, New York, in 1957.

Winegardner uses all of the characters from the Puzo novels, and created a few of his own, most notably Nick Geraci, a Corleone soldier who plays a pivotal role in the sequel novels. Winegardner further develops characters from the original novel, such as Fredo Corleone, Tom Hagen, and Johnny Fontane.

In 2012, a prequel, based on an unproduced screenplay by Mario Puzo, titled The Family Corleone was written by Ed Falco. It tells the story of how Vito Corleone rises to Don and how Sonny Corleone and Tom Hagen enter the family business.

Literary reference[edit]

Honoré de Balzac's “Le Père Goriot” (1834) has been the inspiration for notable lines that have gain wide popularity in cinema history. Puzo opened his 1969 novel with an epigraph popularly attributed to Balzac: "Behind every great fortune there is a crime." The saying is most likely evolved over time from Balzac's original text: "The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been found out, because it was properly executed."[5]

"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse" was included in both the original Puzo novel, The Godfather (1969), and used in the film adaptation (1972). It is the second ranking cinematic quote included in AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes (2005) by the American Film Institute. Its origin very well may be from the same work to which Balzac is credited with the opening epigraph. Balzac, wrote of Vautrin telling Eugene: "In that case I will make you an offer that no one would decline."[6]

Real-life influences[edit]

Large parts of the novel are based upon reality, notably the history of the so-called 'Five Families', the Mafia-organization in New York and the surrounding area. The novel also includes many allusions to real-life mobsters and their associates, and Johnny Fontane is based on Frank Sinatra,[7] Moe Greene on Bugsy Siegel,[8][9] for example.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "Top Movies - Best Movies at Rotten Tomatoes". Rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  2. ^ http://www.imdb.com/chart/top
  3. ^ Grimes, William. "S. Neil Fujita, Innovative Graphic Designer, Dies at 89", The New York Times, October 27, 2010. Accessed October 27, 2010.
  4. ^ Godfather film director whacks Godfather game - by Tor Thorsen, GameSpot, April 8, 2005, retrieved April 8, 2005.
  5. ^ http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/09/09/fortune-crime/#more-7188
    Comédie Humaine by Honoré de Balzac, Edited by George Saintsbury, Old Goriot (Le Père Goriot) (1896), Translated by Ellen Marriage, Quote Page 124, J. M. Dent and Co., London and New York. "Le secret des grandes fortunes sans cause apparente est un crime oublié, parce qu’il a été proprement fait. 1834, Revue de Paris, Volume 12, Le Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac, Seconde Partie
    L’entrée dans le monde, Start Page 237, Quote Page 258, Au Bureau De La Revue De Paris, Paris, France. (Google Books full view); http://www.e-corpus.org/notices/150840/gallery/1947340/fulltext; viewed 10-2-2014.
  6. ^ http://www.literaturepage.com/read/balzac-father-goriot-104.html (Father Goriot, page 104 in Chapter 1); "Dans ces conjonctures, je vais vous faire une proposition que personne ne refuserait. Honoré de Balzac, Œuvres complètes de H. de Balzac (1834), Calmann-Lévy, 1910 (Le Père Goriot, II. L'entrée dans le monde, pp. 110-196); viewed 10-2-2014.
  7. ^ Bruno, Anthony. "Fact and Fiction in The Godfather". TruTV. Retrieved 2009-06-15. 
  8. ^ "The Not-so-famous Alex Rocco". Boston Globe. November 13, 1989. Retrieved 2008-07-20. "Until this year, Alex Rocco was best known as Moe Greene, the Bugsy Siegel character who was shot in the eyeglasses at the end of "The Godfather. ..." 
  9. ^ "Snap Judgment: Betting against the odds". Jerusalem Post. January 31, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-20. "Moe Greene is, of course, Lansky partner Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, who spearheaded the building of Las Vegas's first luxury casino-hotel, The Flamingo, ..." 

External links[edit]