Francis Ford Coppola’s Oscar-winning film, The Godfather, remains an epic masterpiece and one of the greatest cinematic achievements.
At this point, there really isn’t anything else that can be said about the film. Francis Ford Coppola took Mario Puzo’s epic novel and turned it into a masterpiece. More than that, one book would become the basis for three different films. This is before Puzo decided to write a sequel to his novel.
Marlon Brando stars as Don Vito Corleone, the head of the Corleone crime family. When we first meet the family, it’s the day of Connie’s (Talia Shire) wedding to Carlo (Gianni Russo). There is nothing like a wedding when it comes to introducing us to all of the major characters. Coppola delivers a fine balance between family life and the criminal side in showing their rise in power over a period of ten years. The film’s main focus is on Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) as he goes from being a family outsider to replacing his father as boss.
This is one of those films where I don’t feel the need to really dive into plot details. The film not only would make Pacino’s career but Brando got a second life. Coppola is one of the earliest filmmakers to be on his own during the start of New Hollywood. Twelve filmmakers would turn down the directing gig before Coppola signed onto direct. Coppola almost became the thirteenth but he changed his mind.
Much to Paramount’s dismay, Coppola shot the film on location. Moreover, the studio wanted to make drastic changes to the film. They wanted to move the film to a contemporary setting in Kansas City. This would certainly have brought about a lesser film if you ask me. Thankfully, Coppola won out both in shooting on location in New York/Sicily and with the 1945-1955 time period. Even on casting, it’s really hard to watch the film and envision anyone else in the roles. Yet at one point, Al Pacino wasn’t even playing Michael! When everything was settled, Pacino was Michael and James Caan was Sonny. It is always amazing to see how casting evolves from pre-production to just before and even during production.
Overall, the film would earn ten Oscar nominations, winning three for Best Picture, Actor (Marlon Brando), and Adapted Screenplay (Puzo and Coppola). Brando famously boycotted and refused to accept his Oscar win citing the treatment of Native Americans in Hollywood. Pacino, nominated for Supporting Actor, didn’t attend because he had more screen time than Brando. Despite the lead billing, Brando is only in the film for an hour of its three-hour run time. The film also features one of the top movie quotes of all time: “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
DIRECTOR: Francis Ford Coppola
SCREENWRITERS: Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola
CAST: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Conte, Diane Keaton