Puzo in 1996
|Born||Mario Gianluigi Puzo
October 15, 1920
Manhattan, New York City, New York
|Died||July 2, 1999
Manor Lane in West Bay Shore, New York
|Pen name||Mario Cleri|
|Notable work(s)||The Godfather (1969)|
|Spouse(s)||Erika Puzo (1946–78)|
Dorothy Antoinette Puzo
Virginia Erika Puzo
Mario Gianluigi Puzo (//; Italian: [ˈpudzo]; October 15, 1920 – July 2, 1999) was an Italian American author and screenwriter, known for his novels about the Mafia, including The Godfather (1969), which was later co-adapted into a film by Francis Ford Coppola. He won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in both 1972 and 1974.
Puzo was born in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York, into a poor family from Pietradefusi, Province of Avellino, Campania, Italy. Many of his books draw heavily on this heritage. After graduating from the City College of New York, he joined the United States Army Air Forces in World War II. Due to his poor eyesight, the military did not let him undertake combat duties but made him a public relations officer stationed in Germany. In 1950, his first short story, The Last Christmas, was published in American Vanguard. After the war, he wrote his first book, The Dark Arena, which was published in 1955.
At periods in the 1950s and early 1960s, Puzo worked as a writer/editor for publisher Martin Goodman's Magazine Management Company. Puzo, along with other writers like Bruce Jay Friedman, worked for the company line of men's magazines, pulp titles like Male, True Action, and Swank. Under the pseudonym Mario Cleri, Puzo wrote World War II adventure features for True Action.
Puzo's most famous work, The Godfather, was first published in 1969 after he had heard anecdotes about Mafia organizations during his time in pulp journalism. He later said in an interview with Larry King that his principal motivation was to make money. He had already, after all, written two books that had received great reviews, yet had not amounted to much. As a government clerk with five children, he was looking to write something that would appeal to the masses. With a number-one bestseller for months on the New York Times Best Seller List, Mario Puzo had found his target audience. The book was later developed into the film The Godfather, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The movie received 11 Academy Award nominations, winning three, including an Oscar for Puzo for Best Adapted Screenplay. Coppola and Puzo then collaborated on sequels to the original film, The Godfather Part II and The Godfather Part III.
Puzo wrote the first draft of the script for the 1974 disaster film Earthquake, which he was unable to continue working on due to his commitment to The Godfather Part II. Puzo also wrote the original screenplay for Richard Donner's Superman which, at the time, also included the plot for Superman II, as they were originally written as one film. He also collaborated on the stories for the 1982 film A Time to Die and the 1984 Francis Ford Coppola film The Cotton Club.
Puzo never saw the publication of his penultimate book, Omertà, but the manuscript was finished before his death as was the manuscript for The Family. However, in a review originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Jules Siegel, who had worked closely with Puzo at Magazine Management Company, speculated that Omertà may have been completed by "some talentless hack." Siegel also acknowledges the temptation to "rationalize avoiding what is probably the correct analysis – that [Puzo] wrote it and it is terrible."
Puzo's favorite writer was Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He was deeply influenced by his books, particularly The Brothers Karamazov which Puzo quoted in his books, The Dark Arena, Fools Die, The Fourth K, and The Family.
- The Dark Arena (1955)
- The Fortunate Pilgrim (1965)
- The Runaway Summer of Davie Shaw (1966)
- Six Graves to Munich (1967), as Mario Cleri
- The Godfather (1969)
- Fools Die (1978)
- The Sicilian (1984)
- The Fourth K (1991)
- The Last Don (1996)
- Omertà (2000)
- The Family (2001) (completed by Puzo's longtime girlfriend Carol Gino)
- "Test Yourself: Are You Heading for a Nervous Breakdown?" as by Mario Cleri (1965)
- The Godfather Papers and Other Confessions (1972)
- Inside Las Vegas (1977)
- "The Last Christmas" (1950)
- "John 'Red' Marston's Island of Delight" as by Mario Cleri (1964)
- "Big Mike's Wild Young Sister-in-law" as by Mario Cleri (1964)
- "The Six Million Killer Sharks That Terrorize Our Shores” as by Mario Cleri (1966)
- "Trapped Girls in the Riviera's Flesh Casino" as by Mario Cleri (1967)
- "The Unkillable Six" as by Mario Cleri (1967)
- "Girls of Pleasure Penthouse" as by Mario Cleri (1968)
- "Order Lucy For Tonight" as by Mario Cleri (1968)
- "12 Barracks of Wild Blondes" as Mario Cleri (1968)
- "Charlie Reese's Amazing Escape from a Russian Death Camp" as by Mario Cleri (1969)
- The Godfather (1972)
- The Godfather Part II (1974)
- Earthquake (1974)
- Superman (1978)
- Superman II (1980)
- The Godfather Part III (1990)
- Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992)
- Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006)
- The Family Corleone (unproduced)
- Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary: "Puzo"
- Homberger, Eric. "Mario Puzo: The author of the Godfather, the book the Mafia loved", The Guardian, July 5, 1999. Accessed August 10, 2009. "Born one of 12 children, Puzo grew up in Hell's Kitchen on the west side of Manhattan."
- Flamm, Matthew. "A Demimonde in Twilight," New York Times (June 2, 2002). Accessed March 15, 2009.
- FreshAir Interview – Audio interview from Fresh Air. Originally broadcast July 25, 1996.
- Mario Puzo at the Internet Movie Database
- Mario Puzo biography
- Mario Puzo Books
- The Official Mario Puzo Library
- "Saying Goodbye to Mario Puzo", an affectionate recollection of Mario Puzo written by his friend Jules Siegel on being notified of his death.