STARRING: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard S. Castellano, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Gianna Russo, Abe Vigoda, Al Lettieri, Sterling Hayden, Lenny Montana, Richard Conte, Al Martino, John Marley, Alex Rocco, Morgana King, Salvatore Corsitto, Corrado Gaipa, Franco Citti, Angelo Infanti, Johnny Martino, Victor Rendina, Tony Giorgio, Simonetta Stefanelli, Louis Guss, Tom Rosqui, Joe Spinell, Richard Bright, Julie Gregg and Jeannie Linero
EARNED (Worldwide): $245m
AWARDS: 3 Oscars (Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay) and 5 Golden Globes (Best Picture Drama, Best Actor Drama, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Original Score)
The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.
The Godfather takes us to New York to a wedding where we meet ‘Don’ Vito Corleone, the head of the Corleone crime family at his daughters wedding, where his youngest son and decorated war hero Michael returns. A drug baron comes face to face with Vito and not only wishes to have the Don’s investment in his drug business, but also protection through his political connections, which Vito refuses to do. What comes next is a clash of old values from Vito against the new ways, putting Michael in a spot he was most reluctant to be apart of and get involved in a mob war.
The crime genre has been around for verging on close to a decade and yet it’s difficult to find any crime film more influential than Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, bringing us into the world of the Corleone family behind closed doors and focuses on the values of family and especially loyalty as a mob war begins to break out as Vito’s opposition to give up his political connections in exchange for getting involved in the narcotics business, he’s struck down and everything escalates from there. The Don gives an aurora of charm, he may be a crime boss but he has a code of how to do business and doesn’t see a future in drugs as it would just make things messier as society isn’t alarmed by ‘gambling and prostitution’ in comparison to that side of the business. The scene in which he argues this point with the other families is what makes us feel more attached to the family, more relatable to them in that regard and root for them compared to the other four families. Just under any circumstances don’t cross the man. As an assassination attempts fails, we see his two sons come to the forefront in the story. Sonny takes over and is hotheaded on how to handle the situation at hand and who he can even trust, while the returning war hero Michael, who has been reluctant to get involved in the family business side of things slowly weaves his way into the fold and calculates a plan which changes the character forever as we see him and transforms into the Godfather to replace his old man that we follow through the rest of the trilogy. The screenplay from Mario Puzo and Coppola is terrific, especially in setting up scenes for later between throwaway lines towards minor characters for later on to appear in the film, to the cinematography by Gordon Willis, to the score from Nino Rota, to finally the direction by Coppola himself. The cast is terrific especially in the key players with James Caan bringing fire and passion as Sonny, Al Pacino bringing a calculated transformation to his character arc to finally Marlon Brando giving an iconic portrayal as Vito Corleone.
FAVOURITE SCENE: Some might pick Michael’s hit at the restaurant, but for the symbolism and the way the scene is edited/directed is the baptism massacre scene.
FAVOURITE QUOTE: ‘I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.’ – Don Corleone
DID YOU KNOW?: Lenny Montana (Luca Brasi) was so nervous about working with Marlon Brando that, in the first take of their scene together, he flubbed some lines. Francis Ford Coppola liked the genuine nervousness and used it in the final cut. The scenes of Brasi practicing his speech were added later. James Caan improvised the part where he throws the FBI photographer to the ground. The extra’s frightened reaction is genuine. He also came up with the idea of throwing money at the man to make up for breaking his camera. As he put it “Where I came from, you broke something, you replaced it or repaid the owner.” There was intense friction between Francis Ford Coppola and Paramount who frequently tried to have him replaced, citing his inability to stay on schedule, unnecessary expenses and production and casting errors (Coppola actually completed the film ahead of schedule and budget.). Gordon Willis insisted that every shot represent a point of view, usually setting his camera about four feet off the ground, keeping the angle flat and even. Francis Ford Coppola managed to get him to do one aerial shot in the scene when Don Vito Corleone is gunned down, telling Willis that the overhead shot represented God’s point of view. According to Mario Puzo, the character of Johnny Fontane was NOT based on Frank Sinatra. However, everyone assumed that it was, and Sinatra was furious; when he met Puzo at a restaurant he screamed vulgar terms and threats at Puzo. Sinatra was also vehemently opposed to the film. Due to this backlash, Fontane’s role in the film was scaled down to a couple of scenes.