The Godfather Part III

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The Godfather Part III
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Produced by Francis Ford Coppola
Written by
Music by Carmine Coppola
Cinematography Gordon Willis
Edited by
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • December 20, 1990 (1990-12-20) (Beverly Hills)
  • December 25, 1990 (1990-12-25) (United States)
Running time
162 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $54 million[2]
Box office $136.8 million[2]

The Godfather Part III is a 1990 American crime film written by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola, and directed by Coppola. It completes the story of Michael Corleone, a Mafia kingpin who tries to legitimize his criminal empire. The film also weaves into its plot a fictionalized account of two real-life events: the 1978 death of Pope John Paul I and the Papal banking scandal of 1981–1982; both are linked with the affairs of Michael Corleone. The film stars Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, and Andy García, and features Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna, George Hamilton, Bridget Fonda, and Sofia Coppola.

Coppola and Puzo originally wanted the title to be The Death of Michael Corleone but this was not acceptable to Paramount Pictures. Coppola subsequently stated that The Godfather series is two films, and Part III is the epilogue. Part III received mixed reviews compared to the critical acclaim of the first two films. It grossed $136,766,062 and was nominated for seven Academy Awards including the Academy Award for Best Picture.


In 1979, Michael Corleone is nearing 60 and racked with guilt for his ruthless rise to power, especially ordering the murder of his brother Fredo. By now, he has mostly retired from the Mafia, leaving the Corleone family's criminal interests in the hands of enforcer Joey Zasa, and is using his tremendous wealth and power to restore his reputation via numerous acts of charity. Michael and Kay have been divorced since 1960, and Michael gave her custody of their children, Anthony and Mary.

At a ceremony in St. Patrick's Old Cathedral, Michael is named a Commander of the Order of St. Sebastian. At a party following the ceremony, Anthony tells his father that he is going to drop out of law school to pursue a career as an opera singer. Kay supports his choice, but Michael disagrees, wishing that his son would either finish law school or join the family business, but Anthony refuses to have anything to do with his father's "legacy". Michael and Kay have an uneasy reunion, in which Kay tells him that Anthony knows the truth about Fredo's death.

Vincent Mancini, the illegitimate son of Sonny, shows up at the party. He is embroiled in a feud with Zasa, who has involved the Corleone family in major drug trafficking and turned Little Italy into a slum. Michael's sister Connie arranges a "sit-down" between Vincent and Zasa in Michael's study. When Zasa calls Vincent a bastard, Vincent bites Zasa on the ear. That night Vincent has a one-night stand with a journalist named Grace Hamilton. Two men armed with knives and a gun break in and try to kill him. Vincent kills them both but not before learning that Zasa sent them. Michael is troubled by Vincent's fiery temper but is nonetheless impressed by his loyalty and agrees to take his nephew under his wing.

Michael busies himself with the biggest deal of his career: He has recently bought enough stock in International Immobiliare, an international real estate holding company known as "the world's biggest landlord", to become its largest single shareholder, with six seats on the company's 13-member board of directors. He now makes a tender offer to buy the Vatican's 25% interest in the company, which will give him controlling interest. Knowing that Archbishop Gilday, who serves as head of the Vatican Bank, has run up a massive deficit, he negotiates a deal to pay $600 million to the Bank in exchange for the shares. The deal is quickly approved by Immobiliare's board, but it must be ratified in Rome by Pope Paul VI, who is gravely ill. Without his word, the deal is in limbo.

Don Altobello, an elderly New York Mafia boss and Connie's godfather, soon visits Michael, telling him that his old partners on the Commission want in on the Immobiliare deal. Michael is adamant that the deal shall be untainted by Mafia involvement. A meeting is arranged, and Michael appeases most of the Mafia bosses with payoffs from the sale of his Las Vegas holdings. Zasa gets nothing and declares that Michael is his enemy and storms out. Altobello tells Michael that he will try to reason with Zasa and follows close behind. Minutes later, a helicopter hovers outside the conference room and sprays it with machine gun fire. Most of the other mob bosses are killed, but Michael, Vincent, and Michael's bodyguard, Al Neri, escape. Back at his penthouse in New York, Al Neri tells Michael that those mob bosses who escaped the massacre made deals with Zasa. Michael knows that Zasa was not the mastermind of the massacre due to Zasa's being "muscle" and not having the cunning to organize such a scheme. Vincent wants to kill Zasa, but Michael refuses. As he considers how to respond to the situation, he suffers a diabetic stroke and is hospitalized but not before realizing that Altobello is the traitor.

As Michael recuperates, Vincent begins a romantic relationship with Mary and plots revenge against Zasa. Neri and Connie give Vincent permission to act. During a street festival hosted by Zasa's Italian American civil rights group, Vincent's men gun down Zasa's bodyguards. Vincent, disguised as a policeman on horseback, shoots Zasa dead. When Michael discovers this, he berates Vincent for his rashness. Michael also insists that Vincent end his relationship with Mary because Vincent's involvement in the family's criminal enterprises puts her life in jeopardy.

The family takes a vacation to Sicily in preparation for Anthony's operatic debut in Palermo at the Teatro Massimo. They stay at the villa of Corleone family friend Don Tommasino. Michael tells Vincent to speak with Altobello and tell him that he is planning to leave the Corleone family. Altobello supports Vincent switching his allegiance and introduces him to Don Licio Lucchesi, a powerful Italian political figure and Immobiliare's chairman. Michael realizes that the Immobiliare deal is an elaborate conspiracy among Lucchesi, Archbishop Gilday, and Vatican accountant Frederick Keinszig to swindle him out of his money and visits Cardinal Lamberto, the man favored to become the next Pope, to speak about the deal. Lamberto persuades Michael to make his first confession in 30 years, in which he tearfully admits to ordering Fredo's murder. Lamberto tells Michael that he deserves to suffer for his sins but that his life could still be redeemed.

Shortly after the meeting between Vincent and Lucchesi, Altobello travels to the small village of Montelepre, where he hires Mosca, a veteran hitman, to assassinate Michael. A few days later, Mosca and his son, disguised as priests, attempt to kidnap Don Tommasino and force him to allow them entry to his villa. Tommasino refuses, and Mosca kills him. While touring Sicily with Kay, who has arrived for Anthony’s operatic debut, Michael asks for her forgiveness. As they both admit that they still love each other, Michael receives word that Tommasino is dead. At the funeral, Michael swears over his old friend's coffin to sin no more.

After the death of Pope Paul VI, Cardinal Lamberto is elected Pope John Paul I, which means that the Immobiliare deal will likely be ratified. The new Pope's intentions come as a death knell to the plot against the ratification of the Immobiliare deal, prompting frantic attempts by the plotters to cover their own tracks. Vincent tells Michael that he has learned from Altobello of Mosca's plot on his life. Michael sees that his nephew is a changed man and makes him the new Don of the Corleone family. In exchange, Vincent agrees to put an end to his relationship with Mary.

The family travels to Palermo to see Anthony perform the lead in Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana, a tale of murderous revenge in a Sicilian setting. Meanwhile, Vincent exacts his own revenge:

  • Keinszig is abducted by Vincent's men, who smother him with a pillow and hang him from a bridge to make his death look like a suicide.
  • Don Altobello, also attending the opera, eats poisoned cannoli that his goddaughter Connie gave him. He dies as Connie watches from her opera box.
  • Al Neri travels to the Vatican, where he shoots Archbishop Gilday.
  • Finally, Calò (Tommasino's former bodyguard) meets with Don Lucchesi at his office, claiming to bear a message from Michael. As he pretends to whisper the message to Lucchesi, Calò stabs him in the jugular vein with his own glasses.

The killings are too late to save the Pope. Just hours after he approves the Immobiliare deal, the Pope drinks poisoned tea provided to him by Archbishop Gilday and soon dies in his bed.

Mosca, still disguised as a priest and armed with a sniper rifle, descends upon the opera house during Anthony's performance, eliminating three of Vincent's men but is unable to shoot Michael from a box before the opera ends. The assassin retreats to the opera house façade's staircase and tries to kill Michael there. At the same moment, Mary confronts her father about the forced break-up with Vincent. Mosca fires twice, wounding Michael and accidentally killing Mary. Vincent then shoots him dead. As Kay and Connie weep, Michael cradles Mary's body in his arms and screams in agony.

Michael remembers all the women he has lost as a montage of Mary, Kay, and Apollonia is shown.

An elderly Michael is sitting in the garden of Don Tommasino's Sicilian villa, eating an orange, a symbol in the Godfather trilogy of coming death. He slumps over in his chair, falls sideways to the ground, and dies alone, with only his dog present.



Coppola felt that the first two films had told the complete Corleone saga. In his audio commentary for Part II, he stated that only a dire financial situation caused by the failure of One from the Heart compelled him to take up Paramount's long-standing offer to make a third installment.[3]

According to an article in Premiere,[citation needed] Coppola and Puzo requested six months to complete a first draft of the script with a release date of Easter 1991. Paramount agreed to give them six weeks for the script and, lacking a holiday movie, a release date of Christmas Day 1990.

Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, and Talia Shire reprised their roles from the first two films. According to Coppola's audio commentary on the film in The Godfather DVD Collection, Robert Duvall refused to take part unless he was paid a salary comparable to Pacino's. On an episode of Inside the Actors Studio,[when?] Duvall said he understood that Pacino was the star but felt insulted by the difference in their salaries, saying "if they paid Pacino twice what they paid me, that's fine, but not three or four times, which is what they did."[4] When Duvall dropped out, Coppola rewrote the screenplay to portray Tom Hagen as having died before the story begins. Coppola created the character B. J. Harrison, played by George Hamilton, to replace the Hagen character in the story. Coppola stated that, to him, the movie feels incomplete "without [Robert] Duvall's participation." According to Coppola, had Duvall agreed to take part in the film, the Hagen character would have been heavily involved in running the Corleone charities. Whilst the death of Marlon Brando's character of Vito Corleone in the first film could not have seen him reprise his role in realistic fashion, Coppola had vowed never to work with him again following his behaviour on the film Apocolypse Now. [5]

The first draft of a script had been written by Dean Riesner in 1979, based on a story by Mario Puzo. This script centered around Michael Corleone's son, Anthony, a naval officer working for the CIA, and the Corleone family's involvement with a plot to assassinate a Central American dictator.[6] Almost none of the elements of this early script carried over to the final film, but one scene from the film – in which two men break into Vincent's house – exists in the Riesner draft and is nearly unchanged.[7]

Coppola says that he felt The Godfather saga was essentially Michael's story, one about how "a good man becomes evil", as the writer/director puts it on the same commentary track referenced above. Coppola says he felt that Michael had not really "paid for his sins" committed in the second film and wanted this final chapter to demonstrate that. In keeping with this theme, Coppola completely re-wrote the script.

Julia Roberts was originally cast as Mary, but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts.[8] Madonna wanted to play the role, but Coppola felt she was too old for the part.[9] Rebecca Schaeffer was set to audition,[10] but she was murdered. Winona Ryder dropped out of the film at the last minute.[8] Ultimately Sofia Coppola, the director's daughter, was given the role of Michael Corleone's daughter. Her much-criticized performance resulted in her father being accused of nepotism, a charge Coppola denies in the commentary track, asserting that, in his opinion, critics, "beginning with an article in Vanity Fair," were "using [my] daughter to attack me," something he finds ironic in light of the film's denouement when the Mary character pays the ultimate price for her father's sins.

As an infant, Sofia Coppola had played Michael Corleone's infant nephew in The Godfather, during the climactic baptism/murder montage at the end of that film. (Sofia Coppola also appeared in The Godfather Part II, as a small immigrant child in the scene where the nine-year-old Vito Corleone arrives by steamer at Ellis Island.) The character of Michael's sister Connie is played by Francis Ford Coppola's sister, Talia Shire (making her both Mary and Sofia's aunt). Other Coppola relatives with cameos in the film included his mother, father (who wrote and conducted much of the music in the film), uncle and granddaughter, Gia.[11] Michele Russo, who plays the son of the assassin Mosca, is also a distant Coppola relative, from the same town as Francis Ford Coppola's great-grandmother.[citation needed] In addition, Coppola cast Catherine Scorsese, mother of Martin Scorsese, in a small part.


Critical response[edit]

The Godfather Part III has received mixed to positive reviews from critics. At Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a mixed response with a 67% rating, based on reviews from 57 critics.[12] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 60, based on 19 reviews, which indicates "mixed or average reviews".[13]

Common criticisms have included Sofia Coppola's acting, the plot being too outlandish and convoluted, and being too based on continuity, rather than just a "stand alone" story.[14][15]

In his review, Roger Ebert stated that it is "not even possible to understand this film without knowing the first two." Nonetheless, Ebert wrote an enthusiastic review, awarding the film three-and-a-half stars, a better rating than he gave The Godfather Part II in an earlier review.[16] In his 2008 re-rating, he gave 4 stars for The Godfather Part II[17] and included it in his list of Great Movies but excluded The Godfather Part III. He also defended the casting of Sofia Coppola, who he felt was not miscast, stating, "There is no way to predict what kind of performance Francis Ford Coppola might have obtained from Winona Ryder, the experienced and talented young actress, who was originally set to play this role. But I think Sofia Coppola brings a quality of her own to Mary Corleone. A certain up-front vulnerability and simplicity that I think are appropriate and right for the role."

Ebert's colleague, Gene Siskel, also highly praised the film and placed it on his list of the ten best films of 1990 (#10). Siskel admitted that the ending was the film's weakest part, citing Al Pacino's makeup as very poor. He also said, “[Another] problem is the casting of Sofia Coppola, who is out of her acting league here. She’s supposed to be Andy Garcia’s love interest but no sparks fly. He’s more like her babysitter.” In response to Ebert’s defense of Sofia, Siskel said: “I know what you’re saying about her being sort of natural and not the polished bombshell, and that would’ve been wrong. There is one, a photographer in the picture, who takes care of that role, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s explained why [Vincent] really comes on to her, unless this guy is the most venal, craven guy, but look who he’s playing around with. He’s playing around with the Godfather’s daughter.” [18]

Leonard Maltin, giving the film three out of four stars, stated that the film is "masterfully told", but that casting Sofia Coppola was an "almost-fatal flaw."[citation needed]

Following the reaction from the 3rd installment, Coppola stated that The Godfather Part IV was never made as Mario Puzo died before they had a chance to write the film, stating he and Puzo discussed a potential script told in a similar narrative to Part II, seeing De Niro reprise his role as a younger Vito Corleone in the 1930s with a young Santino Corleone gaining the families political power, and a latter story featured during the 1980s seeing Andy Garcia reprise his role as Vincent Corleone haunted by the death of his cousin Mary, running the family business through a ten year destructive war eventually losing the families respect and power, seeing one final scene with Michael Corleone before his death.[19] Andy Garcia has since claimed the film's script was nearly produced.[19]


Although reception to the film was mixed to positive, the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Andy García), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Dean Tavoularis, Gary Fettis), Best Music, Song (for Carmine Coppola and John Bettis for "Promise Me You'll Remember").[20][21] It is the only film in the series not to have Al Pacino nominated for an Academy Award (he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather and for Best Actor for The Godfather Part II). It is the only film in the trilogy not to win for Best Picture or any other Academy Award for that matter, as well as the only film in the trilogy not selected for preservation by the U.S. National Film Registry. The trilogy is the first to be nominated for Best Picture in each of its installments.

American Film Institute recognition:

The film was also nominated for seven Golden Globes Awards, but did not win.[23] Sofia Coppola won two Golden Raspberry Awards for both Worst Supporting Actress and Worst New Star.

Award Category Nominee Result
63rd Academy Awards Best Picture Francis Ford Coppola Nominated
Best Director Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Andy García Nominated
Best Music, Original Song "Promise Me You'll Remember" (Music by Carmine Coppola; Lyrics by John Bettis) Nominated
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration Dean Tavoularis and Gary Fettis Nominated
Best Cinematography Gordon Willis Nominated
Best Film Editing Barry Malkin, Lisa Fruchtman, and Walter Murch Nominated
43rd Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Francis Ford Coppola Nominated
48th Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture - Drama Nominated
Best Director - Motion Picture Francis Ford Coppola Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama Al Pacino Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture Andy García Nominated
Best Screenplay - Motion Picture Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo Nominated
Best Original Score - Motion Picture Carmine Coppola Nominated
Best Original Song - Motion Picture "Promise Me You'll Remember" (Music by Carmine Coppola; Lyrics by John Bettis) Nominated
11th Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Supporting Actress Sofia Coppola Won
Worst New Star Won

Historical background[edit]

Parts of the film are very loosely based on real historical events concerning the ending of the papacy of Paul VI, and the very short duration of John Paul I in 1978, and the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano in 1982. Like the character Cardinal Lamberto, who becomes John Paul I, the historical John Paul I, Albino Luciani, reigned for only a very short time before being found dead in his bed.

Journalist David Yallop argues that Luciani was planning a reform of Vatican finances and that he died by poisoning; these claims are reflected in the film.[24] Yallop also names as a suspect Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, who was the head of the Vatican bank, like the character Archbishop Gilday in the film. However, while Marcinkus was noted for his muscular physique and Chicago origins, Gilday is a mild Irishman. The character has also drawn comparisons to Cardinal Giuseppe Caprio, as he was in charge of the Vatican finances during the approximate period in which the movie was based.[25]

The character of Frederick Keinszig, the Swiss banker who is murdered and left hanging under a bridge, mirrors the fate (and physical appearance) of Roberto Calvi, the Italian head of the Banco Ambrosiano who was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982 (It was unclear whether it was a case of suicide or, as the Italian idiom has it, "being suicided" – in other words murder. Courts in Italy have recently ruled the latter.) [26] The name "Keinszig" is taken from Manuela Kleinszig, the girlfriend of Flavio Carbone who was indicted as one of Roberto Calvi's murderers in 2005.[27]

On the audio commentary of the DVD, Francis Ford Coppola states that the character of Don Licio Lucchesi would be very recognizable for Italian citizens. The thick-rimmed glasses, the official police bodyguard while Michael meets the Don in Sicily, and a single quote at the end of the movie are supposedly clues that Don Lucchesi is (at least partly) based on Giulio Andreotti.

The killing of Joey Zasa is reminiscent of the shooting of Joseph Colombo in a street parade.


The film's soundtrack received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Score.[28] Also, the film's love theme, Promise Me You'll Remember (subtitled "Love Theme from The Godfather Part III") sung by Harry Connick, Jr., received Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Song.

Al Martino, Johnny Fontane in The Godfather and The Godfather Part III, sings "To Each His Own".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "THE GODFATHER PART III". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved December 20, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "The Godfather Part III (1990)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 16, 2013. 
  3. ^ The Godfather Part II DVD commentary featuring Francis Ford Coppola, [2005]
  4. ^ Robert Duvall – Biography
  5. ^ "Telluride: Francis Ford Coppola Spills 'Apocalypse Now' Secrets on 35th Anniversary" (PDF). 2014-08-30. Retrieved 2015-03-23. 
  6. ^ "The Godfather Part III (1979 script)" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-03-04. 
  7. ^ "The Godfather Part III (1979 script), pp 53-57" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-03-04. 
  8. ^ a b "Death in the family". The Guardian. April 15, 2000. Retrieved August 22, 2013. 
  9. ^ Nick Browne, ed. (2000). Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Trilogy. Cambridge University Press. p. 48. ISBN 9780521559508. 
  10. ^ Ojumu, Akin (February 16, 2003). "Brad Silbering: The family that grieves together...". The Observer. Retrieved August 22, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Coppola Family Cameos". Destination Hollywood. Retrieved August 22, 2013. 
  12. ^ "The Godfather, Part III (1990)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. 
  13. ^ "The Godfather: Part III Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  14. ^ New York Times Retrieved March 2009; The Godfather Part III (1990)
  15. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (November 12, 2004). "You Think You're Out, but They Try to Pull You Back In". The New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2013. 
  16. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 25, 1990). "The Godfather, Part III Movie Review (1990)". Retrieved August 22, 2013. 
  17. ^ Roger Ebert The Godfather, Part II Movie Review (1974) October 2, 2008
  18. ^ "YouTube". YouTube. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  19. ^ a b[dead link]
  20. ^ "The 63rd Academy Awards (1991) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-02. 
  21. ^ "Academy Awards, Retrieved March 2009". Retrieved 2010-03-04. 
  22. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  23. ^ The Godfather Part III, 7 Nomination(s) | 0 Win(s) | 1991. Retrieved April 30, 2010.
  24. ^ The 80 greatest conspiracies of all time: history's biggest mysteries, coverups, and cabals, By Jonathan Vankin, John Whalen; Published by Citadel Press, 2004; ISBN 0-8065-2531-2, ISBN 978-0-8065-2531-0 page 172-174
  25. ^ The 80 greatest conspiracies of all time: history's biggest mysteries, coverups, and cabals, By Jonathan Vankin, John Whalen; Published by Citadel Press, 2004; ISBN 0-8065-2531-2, ISBN 978-0-8065-2531-0 page 178-179
  26. ^ The Economist, Published by The Economist Newspaper Ltd., 1843; Item notes: v. 286-289, Original from the University of California
  27. ^ Civil Liability for Pure Economic Loss: Proceedings of the Annual International Colloquium of the United Kingdom National, Committee of Comparative Law Held in Norwich, September, 1994, By Efstathios K. Banakas, United Kingdom National Committee of Comparative Law; Contributor Efstathios K. Banakas; Published by Kluwer Law International, 1996; ISBN 90-411-0908-0, ISBN 978-90-411-0908-8
  28. ^ Retrieved March 2009 The Godfather: Part III (1990) Soundtrack


  • Rupert Cornwell, God's Banker: The Life and Death of Roberto Calvi, Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1984.
  • David Yallop, In God's Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I, Corgi, 1987
  • Director's Commentary track on The Godfather Part III DVD by Francis Ford Coppola; included in The Godfather DVD Collection

External links[edit]