The Godfather (novel)
|Cover artist||S. Neil Fujita|
|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.
It formed the basis for 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 considered to be two of the greatest films of all time.
The cover was created by S. Neil Fujita whose design featured a large Gothic-style letter "G" with a long curl at the top emphasizing the first three letters of the word "godfather", accompanied by the hands of a puppeteer holding a set of strings over the "father" portion of the word.
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.
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.
In 1972, a film adaptation of the novel was released, starring Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone, Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Mario Puzo assisted with writing the screenplay and with other production tasks. The film grossed approximately $269 million worldwide and won various awards, including three Academy Awards, five Golden Globes and one Grammy and is considered to be one of the greatest films of all time. The sequel, The Godfather Part II won six Oscars, and became the first sequel to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
The film is similar to the novel in most places, but leaves out some details, such as extended back stories for some characters. Some of these details were actually filmed, and were included in later versions such as The Godfather Saga. A subplot involving Johnny Fontane in Hollywood was not filmed. The biggest difference was that the novel included a more upbeat ending than the film, in which Kay Corleone accepts Michael's decision to take over his father's business. The film, in contrast, ends with Kay's realization of Michael's ruthlessness, a theme that would develop in the second and third films, which were largely not based on the original novel. Vito Corleone's backstory appeared in the second film.
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. Al Pacino also did not participate, and his likeness was replaced with a different depiction of Michael Corleone.
The Godfather Effect
The novel had a “Godfather Effect” on American culture. As noted by author Tom Santopietro, The Godfather was a turning point in American cultural consciousness. With its emphasis on proud ethnicity, The Godfather changed not just the way Italian-Americans saw themselves, but how Americans of all backgrounds viewed their individual and national self-identities, their possibilities, and attendant disappointments.
The "Godfather Effect" had a broader philosophical dimension, as well. As noted by Santopietro, "what Puzo delivered - brilliantly - was nothing less than a disquisition on the madness, glory, and failure of the American dream."  Early in the novel, Amerigo Bonasera declares “I believe in America.” (these are the first words spoken in the film version). The novel then depicts a nation where Mafia and big business are two sides of the same coin: both are corrupt, tell the truth selectively, and do exactly as they wish.
This insight is bluntly stated by Michael Corleone, who recommends that Italian-Americans “must learn from the philanthropists like the Rockefellers – first you rob everybody, then you give to the poor.”
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 movie adaption.
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 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.
The novel opens with an epigraph from Honoré de Balzac: "Behind every great fortune there is a crime." The most famous line from The Godfather is an adaptation of a line in Balzac's novel Le Pere Goriot, in which Vautrin tells Eugène that he is "making him an offer that he cannot refuse."
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, Moe Greene on Bugsy Siegel, for example.
Notes and references
- "Top Movies - Best Movies at Rotten Tomatoes". Rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- Grimes, William. "S. Neil Fujita, Innovative Graphic Designer, Dies at 89", The New York Times, October 27, 2010. Accessed October 27, 2010.
- Godfather film director whacks Godfather game - by Tor Thorsen, GameSpot, April 8, 2005, retrieved April 8, 2005.
- The Godfather Effect; by Tom Santopietro; published by St. Martin's Press, 2012; p. 83. The Godfather
- The Godfather Effect; by Tom Santopietro; published by St. Martin's Press, 2012; p. 7. The Godfather
- The Godfather Effect; by Tom Santopietro; published by St. Martin's Press, 2012; p. 81. The Godfather
- The Godfather Effect; by Tom Santopietro; published by St. Martin's Press, 2012; p. 72. The Godfather
- Bruno, Anthony. "Fact and Fiction in The Godfather". TruTV. Retrieved 2009-06-15.
- "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. ..."
- "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, ..."
- The Official Mario Puzo's Library entry for The Godfather
- 20th-Century American Bestsellers's Entry for The Godfather
- The Godfather Returns