“The Godfather” written on a black background in stylized white lettering, above it a hand holds puppet strings
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Produced by Albert S. Ruddy
Francis Ford Coppola
Based on The Godfather
by Mario Puzo
Music by Nino Rota
Cinematography Gordon Willis
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
March 15, 1972 (Loew’s State Theatre)
March 24, 1972 (United States)
Country United States
Budget $5–6.5 million[N 1
Box office $245–286 million
The Godfather is a 1972 American crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by Albert S. Ruddy, based on Mario Puzo’s best-selling novel of the same name. It stars Marlon Brando and Al Pacino as the leaders of a fictional New York crime family. The story, spanning 1945 to 1955, chronicles the family under the patriarch Vito Corleone (Brando), focusing on the transformation of Michael Corleone (Pacino) from reluctant family outsider to ruthless mafia boss.
Paramount Pictures obtained the rights to the novel for the price of $80,000, before it gained popularity. Studio executives had trouble finding a director; their first few candidates turned down the position. They and Coppola disagreed over who would play several characters, in particular, Vito and Michael. Filming took place on location, primarily around New York and in Sicily, and was completed ahead of schedule. The musical score was principally composed by Nino Rota, with additional pieces by Carmine Coppola.
The film was the highest-grossing film of 1972 and was for a time the highest-grossing film ever made. It won the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor (Brando) and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Puzo and Coppola). Its seven other Oscar nominations included Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall (Best Supporting Actor), and Coppola for Best Director.
The Godfather is widely regarded as one of the greatest films in world cinema and one of the most influential, especially in the gangster genre. It was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 1990, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and is ranked the second-greatest film in American cinema (behind Citizen Kane) by the American Film Institute. It was followed by sequels The Godfather Part II (1974) and The Godfather Part III (1990).
In 1945, at his daughter Connie’s wedding to Carlo Rizzi, Don Vito Corleone hears requests in his role as head of a New York crime family. His youngest son, Michael, who was a Marine during World War II, introduces his girlfriend, Kay Adams, to his family at the reception. Johnny Fontane, a famous singer and Vito’s godson, seeks Vito’s help in securing a movie role; Vito dispatches his consigliere, Tom Hagen, to Los Angeles to persuade studio head Jack Woltz to give Johnny the part. Woltz refuses until he wakes up in bed with the severed head of his prized stallion.
Shortly before Christmas, drug baron Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo, backed by the Tattaglia crime family, asks Vito for investment in his narcotics business and protection through his political connections. Wary of involvement in a dangerous new trade that risks alienating political insiders, Vito declines. Suspicious, Vito sends his enforcer, Luca Brasi, to spy on them. Brasi is garroted during his first meeting with Bruno Tattaglia and Sollozzo. Later Sollozzo has Vito gunned down in the street, then kidnaps Hagen. With Corleone first-born Sonny in command, Sollozzo pressures Hagen to persuade Sonny to accept Sollozzo’s deal, then releases him. The family receives fish wrapped in Brasi’s bullet-proof vest, indicating that Luca “sleeps with the fishes.” Vito survives, and at the hospital Michael thwarts another attempt on his father; Michael’s jaw is broken by NYPD Captain Marc McCluskey, Sollozzo’s unofficial bodyguard. Sonny retaliates with a hit on Bruno Tattaglia. Michael plots to murder Sollozzo and McCluskey: on the deception of settling the dispute, Michael meets them in a Bronx restaurant. There, retrieving a planted handgun, he kills both men.
Despite a clampdown by the authorities, the Five Families erupt in open warfare and Vito fears for his sons’ safety. Michael takes refuge in Sicily and Fredo is sheltered by Moe Greene in Las Vegas. Sonny attacks Carlo on the street for abusing Connie, and threatens to kill him if it happens again. When it does, Sonny speeds to their home, but is ambushed at a highway toll booth and riddled with submachine gun fire. While in Sicily, Michael meets and marries Apollonia Vitelli, but a car bomb intended for him takes her life.
Devastated by Sonny’s death and realizing that the Tattaglias are controlled by the now-dominant Don Emilio Barzini, Vito attempts to end the feud. He assures the Five Families that he will withdraw his opposition to their heroin business and forgo avenging Sonny’s murder. His safety guaranteed, Michael returns home to enter the family business and marry Kay, promising her that the business will be legitimate within five years. Kay gives birth to two children by the early 1950s, and with his father at the end of his career and his brother too weak, Michael takes the family reins. He insists Hagen relocate to Las Vegas and relinquish his role to Vito because Tom is not a “wartime consigliere”; Vito agrees Tom should “have no part in what will happen” in the coming battles with rival families. Michael travels to Las Vegas to buy out Greene’s stake in the family’s casinos. Michael is dismayed to see that Fredo has fallen under Greene’s sway.
In 1955, Vito suffers a fatal heart attack. At the funeral, Tessio, a Corleone capo, asks Michael to meet with Don Barzini, signalling the betrayal that Vito had forewarned. The meeting is set for the same day as the baptism of Connie’s baby. While Michael stands at the altar as the child’s godfather, Corleone assassins murder the other New York dons and Moe Greene. Tessio is executed for his treachery and Michael extracts Carlo’s confession to his complicity in setting up Sonny’s murder for Barzini. A Corleone capo, Clemenza, garrotes Carlo with a wire. Connie accuses Michael of the murder, telling Kay that Michael ordered all the killings. Kay is relieved when Michael finally denies it, but when the capos arrive, they address her husband as Don Corleone and she watches as they close the door on her.
A screenshot of Michael and Vito Corleone in The Godfather
Al Pacino as Michael Corleone and Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone
The Corleone Family
Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone patriarch of the family, born Vito Andolini in Sicily
Morgana King as Carmela Corleone, Vito’s wife
James Caan as Sonny Corleone, his oldest son and designated heir at the start of the film
John Cazale as Fredo Corleone, his second son
Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, his youngest son, a war hero just returned home who is distanced from the family business
Talia Shire as Connie Corleone, his daughter and youngest child, whose wedding opens the film
Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen, his adopted son, who serves as the family lawyer and consigliere.
Diane Keaton as Kay Adams, Michael’s girlfriend and later second wife
Gianni Russo as Carlo Rizzi, Connie’s husband
Richard Castellano as Peter Clemenza, caporegime (main lieutenant) of Vito Corleone
Abe Vigoda as Salvatore Tessio, caporegime
Lenny Montana as Luca Brasi, Vito’s bodyguard and enforcer
Richard Bright as Al Neri, Michael’s bodyguard and enforcer
Johnny Martino as Paulie Gatto, Clemenza’s lackey
Al Martino as Johnny Fontane, an actor and singer who is friends with the family and enlists Vito’s help in landing a film role
Alex Rocco as Moe Greene, a casino manager from Las Vegas
Simonetta Stefanelli as Apollonia Vitelli-Corleone, Michael’s first wife
Al Lettieri as Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo, a drug dealer and associate of the rival Tattaglia family
Sterling Hayden as Captain Mark McCluskey, a corrupt police captain in the pay of the Tattaglia family
John Marley as Jack Woltz, the head of a film studio who refuses to grant a role to Johnny Fontane
Richard Conte as Emilio Barzini, another New York-based crime boss
Victor Rendina as Philip Tattaglia, another New York-based crime boss
Tony Giorgio as Bruno Tattaglia, Philip’s son
Corrado Gaipa as Don Tommasino, a Sicilian crime boss
Franco Citti as Calò, one of Tommasino’s soldiers
Angelo Infanti as Fabrizio, one of Tommasino’s soldiers
The film is based on Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, which remained on The New York Times Best Seller list for 67 weeks and sold over nine million copies in two years.Published in 1969, it became the best selling published work in history for several years.Paramount Pictures originally found out about Puzo’s novel in 1967 when a literary scout for the company contacted then Paramount Vice President of Production Peter Bart about Puzo’s unfinished sixty-page manuscript. Bart believed the work was “much beyond a Mafia story” and offered Puzo a $12,500 option for the work, with an option for $80,000 if the finished work were made into a film.[Despite Puzo’s agent telling him to turn down the offer, Puzo was desperate for money and accepted the deal.Paramount’s Robert Evans relates that, when they met in early 1968, it was he who offered Puzo the $12,500 deal for the 60-page manuscript titled Mafia after the author confided in him that he urgently needed $10,000 to pay off gambling debts.
In March 1967, Paramount announced that they backed Puzo’s upcoming work in the hopes of making a film. In 1969, Paramount confirmed their intentions to make a film out of the novel for the price of $80,000,[N with aims to have the film released on Christmas Day in 1971.On March 23, 1970, Albert S. Ruddy was officially announced as the film’s producer, in part because studio executives were impressed with his interview and because he was known for bringing his films in under budget.
Francis Ford Coppola (pictured in 2011) was selected as director. Paramount wanted the picture to be directed by an Italian American to make the film “ethnic to the core”.
Evans wanted the picture to be directed by an Italian American to make the film “ethnic to the core”. Paramount’s latest mafia based movie, The Brotherhood, had been a box office bomb;Evans believed that the reason for its failure was its almost complete lack of cast members or creative personnel of Italian descent (the director Martin Ritt and star Kirk Douglas were both Jewish). Sergio Leone was Paramount’s first choice to direct the film. Leone turned down the option, in order to work on his own gangster film Once Upon a Time in America.Peter Bogdanovich was then approached but he also declined the offer because he was not interested in the mafia.In addition, Peter Yates, Richard Brooks, Arthur Penn, Costa-Gavras, and Otto Preminger were all offered the position and declined. Evans’ chief assistant Peter Bart suggested Francis Ford Coppola, as a director of Italian ancestry who would work for a low sum and budget after the poor reception of his latest film The Rain People. Coppola initially turned down the job because he found Puzo’s novel sleazy and sensationalist, describing it as “pretty cheap stuff”. At the time Coppola’s studio, American Zoetrope, owed over $400,000 to Warner Bros. for budget overruns with the film THX 1138 and when coupled with his poor financial standing, along with advice from friends and family, Coppola reversed his initial decision and took the job.Coppola was officially announced as director of the film on September 28, 1970. Paramount had offered twelve other directors the job with The Godfather before Coppola agreed. Coppola agreed to receive $125,000 and six percent of the gross rentals.
Coppola and Paramount
Before The Godfather was in production, Paramount had been going through an unsuccessful period. In addition to the failure of The Brotherhood, the studio had usurped their budget for their recent films: Darling Lili, Paint Your Wagon, and Waterloo. The budget for the film was originally $2.5 million but as the book grew in popularity Coppola argued for and ultimately received a larger budget.[N 1]Paramount executives wanted the movie to be set in then modern-day Kansas City and shot in the studio backlot in order to cut down on costs. Coppola objected and wanted to set the movie in the same time period as its eponymous novel, the 1940s and 1950s Coppola’s reasons included: Michael Corleone’s Marine Corps stint, the emergence of corporate America, and America in the years after World War II. The novel was becoming increasingly successful and so Coppola’s wishes were eventually agreed to. The studio heads subsequently let Coppola film on location in New York City and Sicily.
Gulf & Western executive Charles Bluhdorn was frustrated with Coppola over the number of screen tests he had performed without finding a person to play the various roles. Production quickly fell behind because of Coppola’s indecisiveness and conflicts with Paramount, which led to costs being around $40,000 per day. With the rising costs, Paramount had then Vice President Jack Ballard keep a close eye on production costs.While filming, Coppola stated that he felt he could be fired at any point as he knew Paramount executives were not happy with many of the decisions he had made. Coppola was aware that Evans had asked Elia Kazan to take over directing the film, because he feared that Coppola was too inexperienced to cope with the increased size of the production. Coppola was also convinced that the film editor, Aram Avakian, and the assistant director, Steve Kestner, were conspiring to get him fired. Avakian complained to Evans that he could not edit the scenes correctly because Coppola was not shooting enough footage. Evans however was satisfied with the footage being sent to the west coast, and authorized Coppola to fire them both. Coppola later explained: “Like the godfather, I fired people as a preemptory strike. The people who were angling the most to have me fired, I had fired.” Brando threatened to quit if Coppola was fired.
Paramount 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.
On April 14, 1970, it was revealed that Puzo was hired by Paramount for $100,000, along with a percentage of the film’s profits, to work on the screenplay for the film.Working from the book, Coppola wanted to have the themes of culture, character, power, and family at the forefront of the film, whereas Puzo wanted to retain aspects from his novel and his initial draft of 150 pages was finished on August 10, 1970.After Coppola was hired as director, both Puzo and Coppola worked on the screenplay, but separately. Puzo worked on his draft in Los Angeles, while Coppola wrote his version in San Francisco. Coppola created a book where he tore pages out of Puzo’s book and pasted them into his book. There, he made notes about each of the book’s fifty scenes, which related to major themes prevalent in the scene, whether the scene should be included in the film, along with ideas and concepts that could be used when filming to make the film true to Italian culture.The two remained in contact while they wrote their respective screenplays and made decisions on what to include and what to remove for the final version. A second draft was completed on March 1, 1971, and was 173 pages long. The final screenplay was finished on March 29, 1971,wound up being 163 pages long, 440 pages over what Paramount had asked for. When filming, Coppola referred to the notebook he had created over the final draft of the screenplay. Screenwriter Robert Towne did uncredited work on the script, particularly on the Pacino-Brando garden scene. Despite finishing the third draft, some scenes in the film were still not written yet and were written during production.
The Italian-American Civil Rights League wanted all uses of the words “mafia” and “Cosa Nostra” to be removed from the script, in addition to feeling that the film emphasized stereotypes about Italian-Americans.The league also requested that all the money earned from the premiere be donated to the league’s fund to build a new hospital. Coppola claimed that Puzo’s screenplay only contained two instances of the word “mafia” being used, while “Cosa Nostra” was not used at all. Those two uses were removed and replaced with other terms, which Coppola felt did not change the story at all The league eventually gave its support for the script.
Puzo was first to show interest in having Marlon Brando portray Don Vito Corleone by sending a letter to Brando in which he stated Brando was the “only actor who can play the Godfather.” Despite Puzo’s wishes, the executives at Paramount were against having Brando, partly due to the poor performance of his recent films and also his short temper. Coppola favored Brando or Laurence Olivier for the role, but Olivier’s agent refused the role claiming Olivier was sick; however, Olivier went on to star in Sleuth later that year. The studio mainly pushed for Ernest Borgnine to receive the part. Other considerations were George C. Scott, Richard Conte, Anthony Quinn, and Orson Welles.
After months of debate between Coppola and Paramount over Brando, the two finalists for the role were Borgnine and Brando, the latter of whom Paramount president Stanley Jaffe required to perform a screen test.Coppola did not want to offend Brando and stated that he needed to test equipment in order to set up the screen test at Brando’s California residence. For make-up, Brando stuck cotton balls in his cheeks, put shoe polish in his hair to darken it, and rolled his collar. Coppola placed Brando’s audition tape in the middle of the videos of the audition tapes as the Paramount executives watched them. The executives were impressed with Brando’s efforts and allowed Coppola to cast Brando for the role if Brando accepted a lower salary and put up a bond to ensure he would not cause any delays in production.
From the start of production, Coppola wanted Robert Duvall to play the part of Tom Hagen.After screen testing several other actors, Coppola eventually got his wish and Duvall was awarded the part of Tom Hagen. Al Martino, a then famed singer in nightclubs, was notified of the character Johnny Fontane by a friend who read the eponymous novel and felt Martino represented the character of Johnny Fontane. Martino then contacted producer Al Ruddy, who gave him the part. However, Martino was stripped of the part after Coppola became director and then awarded the role to Italian singer Vic Damone. Damone eventually dropped the role because he did not want to play an anti-Italian American character, in addition to being paid too little.According to Martino, after being stripped of the role, he went to his godfather and crime boss Russ Bufalino who then orchestrated the publication of various news articles that talked of how Coppola was unaware of Ruddy giving Martino the part; that, when coupled with pressure from the mafia who felt Martino deserved the role, led Damone to quit as Fontane. Either way, the part of Johnny Fontane ended up with Martino.
The world premiere for The Godfather took place in New York City on March 14, 1972, almost three months after the planned release date of Christmas Day in 1971,with profits from the premiere donated to The Boys Club of New York. Before the film premiered, the film had already made $15 million from rentals from over 400 theaters.The following day, the film opened in New York at five theaters Next was Los Angeles at two theaters on March 22The Godfather was commercially released on March 24, 1972, throughout the rest of the United States.The film reached 316 theaters around the country five days later.
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 the US and Canada 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; this record 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, jumped from 77 cents per share to $3.30 a share for the year, according to a Los Angeles Times article, dated December 13, 1972. To date[when?, it has grossed between $245 million and $286 million in worldwide box office receipts,and adjusted for ticket price inflation in North America, ranks among the top 25 highest-grossing films.
The Godfather had five nominations for awards at the 26th British Academy Film Awards. The nominees were: Pacino for Most Promising Newcomer, Rota for the Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music, Duvall for Best Supporting Actor, and Brando for Best Actor, the film’s costume designer Anna Hill Johnstone for Best Costume Design. All of The Godfather’s nominations failed to win except for Rota.
American Film Institute recognition
1998 AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies – No. 3
2001 AFI’s 100 Years…100 Thrills – No. 11
2005 AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes:
“I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” – No. 2
2006 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 heavy infusion of Italian culture and stereotypes, and his portrayal of mobsters as characters of considerable psychological depth and complexity was unprecedented.Coppola took it further with The Godfather Part II, and the success of those two films, critically, artistically and financially, opened the doors for numerous other depictions of Italian Americans as mobsters, including films such as Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas and TV series such as David Chase’s The Sopranos. A comprehensive study of Italian American culture on film, conducted from 1996 to 2001 by the Italic Institute of America, showed that close to 300 movies featuring Italian Americans as mobsters (mostly fictitious) have been produced since The Godfather, an average of nine per year.
The Godfather epic, encompassing the original trilogy and the additional footage Coppola incorporated later, is by now thoroughly integrated into American life and, together with a succession of mob-theme imitators, has led to a highly stereotyped concept of Italian American culture. The first film had the largest impact and, unlike any film before it, its depiction of Italians who immigrated to the United States in the early decades of the 20th century is perhaps attributable to the Italian American director, presenting his own understanding of their experience. The films explain through their action the integration of fictional Italian American criminals into American society. Though the story is set in the period of mass immigration to the U.S., it is rooted in the specific circumstances of the Corleones, a family that lives outside of the law. Although some critics have refashioned the Corleone story into one of universality of immigration, other critics have posited that it leads the viewer to identify organized crime with Italian American culture. 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 Godfather increased Hollywood’s negative portrayals of immigrant Italians in the aftermath of the film and was a recruiting tool for organized crime.
The concept of a mafia “Godfather” was an invention of Mario Puzo and the film’s effect was to add the fictional nomenclature to the language. Similarly, Don Vito Corleone’s unforgettable “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”—voted the second-most memorable line in cinema history in AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movie Quotes by the American Film Institute— was adopted by actual gangsters. In the French novel Le Père Goriot, Honoré de Balzac wrote of Vautrin telling Eugene: “In that case I will make you an offer that no one would decline.”
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.
The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration
During the film’s original theatrical release, the original negatives were worn down due to the reel being printed so much to meet demand. addition, the duplicate negative was lost in Paramount archives. In 2006 Coppola contacted Steven Spielberg—whose studio DreamWorks had recently been bought out by Paramount—about restoring The Godfather.Robert A. Harris was hired to oversee the restoration of The Godfather and its two sequels, with the film’s cinematographer Willis participating in the restoration. Work began in November 2006 by repairing the negatives so they could go through a digital scanner to produce high resolution 4K files.f a negative were damaged and discolored, work was done digitally to restore it to its original look.After a year and a half of working on the restoration, the project was complete. Paramount called the finished product The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration and released it to the public on September 23, 2008, on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc. Dave Kehr of The New York Times believed the restoration brought back the “golden glow of their original theatrical screenings As a whole, the restoration of the film was well received by critics and Coppola. The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration contains several new special features that play in high definition, along with additional scenes.
Johnny Fontane: [discussing his problems] I don’t know what to do, Godfather. My voice is weak, it’s weak. Anyway, if I had this part in the picture, it puts me right back on top, you know. But this… this man out there. He won’t give it to me, the head of the studio.
Don Corleone: What’s his name?
Don Corleone: Woltz. He said there’s no chance, no chance…
[Meanwhile, Hagen finds Sonny and summons him]
Johnny Fontane: A month ago he bought the rights to this book, a best seller. The main character is a guy just like me. I wouldn’t even have to act, just be myself. Oh, Godfather, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do…
[All of a sudden, Don Corleone rises from his chair and gives Fontane a savage shake]
Don Corleone: YOU CAN ACT LIKE A MAN!
[gives a quick slap to Fontane]
Don Corleone: What’s the matter with you? Is this what you’ve become, a Hollywood finocchio who cries like a woman? “Oh, what do I do? What do I do?” What is that nonsense? Ridiculous!
[the Don’s unexpected mimicry makes Hagen and even Fontane laugh; around this time Sonny comes in]
Don Corleone: Tell me, do you spend time with your family?
Johnny Fontane: Sure I do.
Don Corleone: Good. Because a man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.
[gives a quick look at Sonny and affectionately embraces Fontane]
Don Corleone: You look terrible. I want you to eat, I want you to rest well. And a month from now this Hollywood big shot’s gonna give you what you want.
Johnny Fontane: Too late. They start shooting in a week.
Don Corleone: I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse. Okay? I want you to leave it all to me. Go on, go back to the party.
Kay Adams: Michael, you never told me you knew Johnny Fontane!
Michael: Sure, you want to meet him?
Kay Adams: Well, yeah! Sure.
Michael: My father helped him with his career.
Kay Adams: How did he do that?
Michael: …Let’s listen to the song.
Kay Adams: [after listening to Johnny for a while] Tell me, Michael. Please.
Michael: Well, when Johnny was first starting out, he was signed to a personal services contract with this big-band leader. And as his career got better and better, he wanted to get out of it. But the band leader wouldn’t let him. Now, Johnny is my father’s godson. So my father went to see this bandleader and offered him $10,000 to let Johnny go, but the bandleader said no. So the next day, my father went back, only this time with Luca Brasi. Within an hour, he had a signed release for a certified check of $1000.
Kay Adams: How did he do that?
Michael: My father made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Kay Adams: What was that?
Michael: Luca Brasi held a gun to his head, and my father assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract.
Kay Adams: …
Michael: …That’s a true story.
[cut to Johnny singing again for about 10 more seconds before going back to Michael]
Michael: That’s my family Kay, that’s not me.
Popularly viewed as one of the best American films ever made, the multi-generational crime saga The Godfather is a touchstone of cinema: one of the most widely imitated, quoted, and lampooned movies of all time. Marlon Brando and Al Pacino star as Vito Corleone and his youngest son, Michael, respectively. It is the late 1940s in New York and Corleone is, in the parlance of organized crime, a “godfather” or “don,” the head of a Mafia family. Michael, a free thinker who defied his father by enlisting in the Marines to fight in World War II, has returned a captain and a war hero. Having long ago rejected the family business, Michael shows up at the wedding of his sister, Connie (Talia Shire), with his non-Italian girlfriend, Kay (Diane Keaton), who learns for the first time about the family “business.” A few months later at Christmas time, the don barely survives being shot by gunmen in the employ of a drug-trafficking rival whose request for aid from the Corleones’ political connections was rejected. After saving his father from a second assassination attempt, Michael persuades his hotheaded eldest brother, Sonny (James Caan), and family advisors Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) and Sal Tessio (Abe Vigoda) that he should be the one to exact revenge on the men responsible. After murdering a corrupt police captain and the drug trafficker, Michael hides out in Sicily while a gang war erupts at home. Falling in love with a local girl, Michael marries her, but she is later slain by Corleone enemies in an attempt on Michael’s life. Sonny is also butchered, having been betrayed by Connie’s husband. As Michael returns home and convinces Kay to marry him, his father recovers and makes peace with his rivals, realizing that another powerful don was pulling the strings behind the narcotics endeavor that began the gang warfare. Once Michael has been groomed as the new don, he leads the family to a new era of prosperity, then launches a campaign of murderous revenge against those who once tried to wipe out the Corleones, consolidating his family’s power and completing his own moral downfall. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards and winning for Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay, The Godfather was followed by a pair of sequels. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi
Birthday: Apr 3, 1924
Birthplace: Omaha, Nebraska, USA
Marlon Brando was quite simply one of the most celebrated and influential screen and stage actors of the postwar era; he rewrote the rules of performing, and nothing was ever the same again. Brooding, lusty, and intense, his greatest contribution was popularizing Method acting, a highly interpretive performance style which brought unforeseen dimensions of power and depth to the craft; in comparison, most other screen icons appeared shallow, even a little silly. A combative and often contradictory man, Brando refused to play by the rules of the Hollywood game, openly expressing his loathing for the film industry and for the very nature of celebrity, yet often exploiting his fame to bring attention to political causes and later accepting any role offered him as long as the price was right. He is one of the screen’s greatest enigmas, and there will never be another quite like him. Born April 3, 1924, in Omaha, NE, Brando’s rebellious streak manifested itself early, resulting in his expulsion from military school. His first career was as a ditch digger, but his father ultimately grew so frustrated with his son’s seeming lack of ambition that he offered to finance whatever more meaningful path the young man chose to pursue. Brando opted to become an actor — his mother operated a local theatrical group — and he soon relocated to New York City to study the Stanislavsky method under Stella Adler. He later worked at the Actors’ Studio under the tutelage of Lee Strasberg, and his dedication to the principles of Method acting was to become absolute. After making his professional debut in 1943’s Bobino, Brando bowed on Broadway a year later in I Remember Mama; for 1946’s Truckline Cafe, the critics voted him Broadway’s Most Promising Actor.Brando’s groundbreaking star turn in the 1947 production of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire delivered on all of that promise and much, much more; as the inarticulate brute Stanley Kowalski, Brando stunned audiences with a performance of remarkable honesty, sexuality, and intensity, and overnight he became the rage of Broadway. Hollywood quickly came calling, but he resisted the studios’ overtures with characteristic contempt — he was a new breed of star, an anti-star, really, and he refused to play ball, dismissing influential critics and making no concessions toward glamour or decorum. It all only served to make Hollywood want him more, of course, and in 1950 Brando agreed to star in the independent Stanley Kramer production The Men as a paraplegic war victim; in typical Method fashion, he spent a month in an actual veteran’s hospital in preparation for the role.While The Men was not a commercial hit, critics tripped over themselves in their attempts to praise Brando’s performance, and in 1951 it was announced that he and director Elia Kazan were set to reprise their earlier work for a screen adaptation of Streetcar. The results were hugely successful, the picture winning an Academy Award for Best Film; Brando earned his first Best Actor nomination, but lost despite Oscars for his co-stars, Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden, and Kim Hunter. Again with Kazan, he next starred in the title role of 1952’s Viva Zapata! After walking out of the French production Le Rouge et le Noir over a dispute with director Claude Autant-Lara, Brando portrayed Mark Antony in the 1953 MGM production of Julius Caesar, sparking considerable controversy over his idiosyncratic approach to the Bard and earning a third consecutive Oscar bid. In 1954, The Wild One was another curve ball, casting Brando as the rebellious leader of a motorcycle gang and forever establishing him as a poster boy for attitude, angst, and anomie. That same year, he delivered perhaps his definitive screen performance as a washed-up boxer in Kazan’s visceral On the Waterfront. On his fourth attempt, Brando finally won an Academy Award, and the film itself also garnered Best Picture honors. However, his next picture, Desiree, was his first disappo