Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Francis Ford Coppola|
|Produced by||Albert S. Ruddy|
|Based on||The Godfather
by Mario Puzo
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||175 minutes|
|Box office||$245–286 million|
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 fictional New York crime family. The story, spanning the years 1945 to 1955, centers on the transformation of Michael Corleone from reluctant family outsider to ruthless Mafia boss while also chronicling the family under the patriarch Vito Corleone.
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.
- 1 Plot
- 2 Cast
- 3 Production
- 4 Reception
- 5 Cinematic influence
- 6 Releases for television and video
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
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 "The Turk" 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 that 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; his jaw is broken by Police Captain McCluskey, who is also Sollozzo's bodyguard. Sonny retaliates for the attacks on his father by having Tattaglia's son killed. Michael comes up with a plan to hit Sollozzo and McCluskey: on the pretext of settling the dispute, Michael accepts their offer to meet in a Bronx 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 submachine gun fire. Michael's time abroad has led to marriage to Apollonia Vitelli. Their euphoria is shattered when a car bomb intended for him takes her life.
Vito, saddened to learn that, despite his hopes, Michael has become involved in the family business, decides to end the feuds. Believing that the Tattaglias were under orders of the now dominant Don Emilio Barzini, he promises, before the heads of the Five Families, to withdraw his opposition to their heroin business and forgo revenge for Sonny's murder. His safety guaranteed, Michael returns home and over a year later marries Kay.
With his father at the end of his career and his surviving brother too weak, Michael takes the reins of the family, promising his wife to make the business legitimate within five years. With that in mind, he insists Hagen relocate to Las Vegas and relinquish his role to Vito because Tom is not a "wartime Consigliere"; the older man agrees Tom should "have no part in what will happen" in the coming battles with rival families. 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.
- Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, formerly known as Vito Andolini, who is the Don (the "boss") of the Corleone family. He is a native Sicilian married to Carmela Corleone. Vito is the father of Sonny, Fredo, Michael, and Connie.
- Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, the Don's youngest son, recently returned from World War II. The only college-educated member of the family, Michael initially wants nothing to do with the "family business". He is the main protagonist of the story and his evolution from doe-eyed outsider to ruthless boss is the key plotline of the film.
- James Caan as Santino "Sonny" Corleone, Don Corleone's hot-headed eldest son. As underboss, he is being groomed to succeed his father as head of the Corleone family.
- Richard S. Castellano as Peter Clemenza, a caporegime for the Corleone family. He is also an old friend of Vito Corleone and Salvatore Tessio.
- Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen, Don Corleone's informally adopted son, he is the family lawyer and consigliere (counselor). Unlike the Corleones, he is of German-Irish descent, not Sicilian.
- Diane Keaton as Kay Adams-Corleone, initially Michael's non-Italian girlfriend and then his second wife and the mother of his two children.
- John Cazale as Frederico "Fredo" Corleone, the middle son of the Corleone family. Deeply insecure and not very bright, he is considered the weakest of the Corleone brothers.
- Talia Shire as Constanzia "Connie" Corleone, the youngest child and only daughter of the Corleone family. She marries Carlo Rizzi at the beginning of the film.
- Abe Vigoda as Salvatore Tessio, a caporegime for the family. He is also an old friend of Vito Corleone and Peter Clemenza.
- Al Lettieri as Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo, a heroin dealer associated with the Tattaglia family. He asks Don Corleone to protect the Tattaglia family's heroin business through his political connections.
- Gianni Russo as Carlo Rizzi, introduced to the Corleone family by Sonny; became Connie's husband. Ultimately he betrays Sonny to the Barzini family.
- Sterling Hayden as Captain McCluskey, a corrupt police captain on Sollozzo's payroll.
- Lenny Montana as Luca Brasi, a loyal enforcer utilized by Vito Corleone.
- Richard Conte as Emilio Barzini, Don of the Barzini family.
- Al Martino as Johnny Fontane, a world-famous popular singer and godson of Vito, loosely based on Frank Sinatra.
- John Marley as Jack Woltz, a powerful Hollywood producer.
- Alex Rocco as Moe Greene, a longtime associate of the Corleone family who owns a Las Vegas hotel, based on Bugsy Siegel.
- Morgana King as Carmela Corleone, Vito's wife and mother of Sonny, Fredo, Michael, and Connie, and adoptive mother to Tom Hagen.
- Corrado Gaipa as Don Tommasino, an old friend of Vito Corleone, who shelters Michael during his exile in Sicily.
- Franco Citti as Calò, Michael's loyal bodyguard in Sicily.
- Johnny Martino as Paulie Gatto, a soldier under Peter Clemenza and Vito's driver.
- Victor Rendina as Philip Tattaglia, Don of the Tattaglia family.
- Tony Giorgio as Bruno Tattaglia, son and underboss. Sonny Corleone has him assassinated in retaliation for the shooting of Vito Corleone.
- Simonetta Stefanelli as Apollonia Vitelli-Corleone, a young girl Michael meets and marries while in Sicily.
- Louis Guss as Don Zaluchi, Don of the Zaluchi family of Detroit.
- Tom Rosqui as Rocco Lampone, a soldier under Clemenza who eventually becomes a caporegime in the Corleone family.
- Joe Spinell as Willi Cicci, a soldier in the Corleone family.
- Richard Bright as Al Neri, Michael Corleone's personal bodyguard who eventually becomes a caporegime.
- Julie Gregg as Sandra Corleone, the wife and, later, widow of Sonny.
- Jeannie Linero as Lucy Mancini, Sonny's mistress.
- Sofia Coppola (uncredited) as Michael Francis Rizzi, godchild of Michael Corleone.
Coppola and Paramount
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, "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.
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.
The scene of Michael driving with McCluskey and Sollozzo avoided the cost of back-projection. Instead, technicians moved lights behind the car to create the illusion.
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.
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 shooting of Moe Greene 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 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.
The equally 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 and expensive scene to film was the death of Sonny Corleone at the Jones Beach Causeway toll plaza midway through the film. Filmed for more than $100,000 on a small Long Island airport runway at the former Mitchel Field (though some sources claim the location was Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn), it was accomplished in just one take with at least four cameras. Caan's suit, rigged with 127 squibs of fake blood, and 200 squib-filled holes in the small toll booth building and the 1941 Lincoln auto, simulated the submachine gun ambush.
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, shown 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 wedding 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. Coppola revealed in the extras DVD released in 2008 that if you look really close, some of the "daytime" scenes were actually shot at night, with almost blinding backlighting used to simulate the afternoon environment. The production scheduling required this, since this location was on an actual community street and time didn't permit extra days to shoot in daylight.
Two churches were used to film the baptism scene. The interior shots were filmed at Old St. Patrick's 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 funeral scene was filmed at Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens. 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 music to the film. 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).
Box office performance
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 belongs 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 between $245 and 286 million in international box office receipts, and adjusted for ticket price inflation in North America, ranks among the top 25 highest-grossing films.
Since its release, The Godfather has received 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)
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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.
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". Two years before, Roger Ebert wrote in his journal that it "comes closest to being a film everyone agrees... is unquestionably great."
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, all were defeated by Joel Grey in Cabaret. The awards for the Best Director, Best Sound and Best Film Editing also went 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.
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
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 is ranked 5th 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.
- Currently 2nd on IMDB's top 250 movies list, with its sequel occupying the 3rd position.
American Film Institute
- 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 preceded The Godfather, Coppola's nuanced treatment of the Corleone family and their associates, and his portrayal of mobsters as characters of considerable psychological depth and complexity was an innovation. He took it further 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 Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas and TV series such as David Chase's The Sopranos.
The image of the Mafia as a feudal organization with the Don as both the protector of the small fry and the collector of obligations from them for his services is now a commonplace trope which The Godfather helped to popularize. Similarly, the recasting of the Don's family as a figurative "royal family" has spread beyond fictional boundaries into the real world as well – (cf. John Gotti – the "Dapper Don", and his celebrity family.) This portrayal is echoed in the more sordid reality of lower level Mafia "familial" entanglements 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 DVD commentary for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, George Lucas states that the interwoven scenes of Anakin Skywalker killing Separatist leaders and Palpatine announcing the beginning of the Galactic Empire was an homage to the christening and assassination sequence in The Godfather.
In popular culture
The Godfather epic, encompassing the original trilogy and the additional footage Coppola incorporated later, is by now thoroughly integrated into American life, and the first film had the largest impact. Unlike any film before it, its depiction of Italians who immigrated to the United States in the first half of the twentieth century is perhaps attributable to the director, himself an Italian-American, presenting his own understanding of their experience. Setting aside the stereotypes of the criminal element and the simple peasant, the films explain through their action the uneven integration of a particular population into a new milieu. Ironically, The Godfather increased Hollywood's unsavory depictions of immigrant Italians in the aftermath of the film and was a recruiting tool for organized crime. Still, the story is of a piece with all immigrant experience as much as it is rooted in the specific circumstances of the Corleones, a family of privilege who live outside the law, are not robbed of their universality yet assume a heroic aspect that is at once admirable and repellent. Released in a period of intense national cynicism and self-criticism, the American film struck a chord about the dual identities inherent in a nation of immigrants.
The concept of a mafia "Godfather" was an invention of Mario Puzo's and the film's effect was to add the fictional nomenclature to the language. Similarly, actual gangsters adopted Don Vito Corleone's unforgettable "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse" for themselves. That line, voted the second most memorable line in cinema history in AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes by the American Film Institute originates in the French novel Le Père Goriot, by Honoré de Balzac, where 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.
References to the film are abundant. In the 1999 film Analyze 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 the most unlikely homages 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.
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.
- "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 tollbooth scene is also parodied in "Mr. Plow," except Bart is ambushed by a barrage of snowballs by Nelson, and other students lie in wait behind a snow fortress (in place of the tollbooth). 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."
An episode of SCTV satirizes the film as a story about how the five American TV networks of the time (ABC, CBS, NBC, & PBS) are run like the Mob, with SCTV president Guy Caballero being asked to invest in a pay-TV channel by the Ugatzo family as a way to control of TV; when Caballero refuses, a 'network war' starts, with many of the scenes in the episode being similar to that of the film.
Releases for television and video
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 restoration of the first two films, The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on September 23, 2008 from a transfer by Robert A. Harris of Film Preserve. Coppola's first response to the new transfer, from a question-and-answer session for The Godfather Part III: "terrific."
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). Other extras are held over from Paramount's 2001 DVD release, although slight differences obtain between the repurposed extras on the DVD and Blu-ray Disc sets; the HD box has 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
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 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.
- Marc Laub and Murray Solomon are listed as uncredited editors by some sources; see Allmovie Production credits
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- Further reading
- Nourmand, Tony; Alison Aitchison (2007). The Godfather in Pictures: An Unofficial Companion. London: Boxtree. ISBN 978-0-7522-2637-8. OCLC 253189772.
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- Official website
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