On this date 50 years ago, the movie “The Godfather” opened in cinemas nationwide. It was a smash hit, and today it’s shown on TV or in cinemas almost every single day, somewhere in the world. Its popularity is astronomical.
It’s had an overwhelming impact on cinema and acting since its release. I can’t think of a single gangster or crime movie I’ve watched since then that doesn’t owe at least something to The Godfather in terms of its ethos.
Today, fifty years on, let’s be grateful for the team of geniuses (genii?) who gave birth to The Godfather, and left us so enduring a legacy. In their honor, here are a few excerpts from the movie.
A classic indeed.
One of the most subtle but powerful scenes in The Godfather happens so fast that many people miss it. It's right after the baptism scene when the family is on the steps of the church, and Michael gets word that the killings have taken place. At that moment, his eyes turn to Rizzi, who is oblivious to the look….and you know in that instant that Rizzi is doomed.
That is such a goid movie.
That and untouchables are my 2 favorite ganster movies
I like the second one best.
I have never seen a second of it. Just not interesting.
It's well known that 'The Godfather' went out of its way to paint the Mob in a flattering light just so that it could even get made. What is less clear, I believe, is whether the "more nuanced" portrayal of La Cosa Nostra in movies like 'Goodfellas' or TV series like 'Sopranos' sufficiently corrected for this bias.
A little known novel titled 'La Famiglia Bianco' by Apollo Dante (obvious pseudonym) paints an entirely different picture. Limitless cruelty. Gratuitous brutality and sadism, including towards total innocents. No trace of the "code of honor" touted by the fanbois in the Youtube comments sections. Corruption and depravity in everyone linked to the Mob, including and especially the Catholic priesthood.
It's tempting to think of that portrayal to be so "over the top" as to be implausible. However, some of the torture-murder videos from the Mexican cartels show that organized crime is perfectly capable of operating with limitless cruelty — and taking limitless delight in it.
A few years ago, I read a description of how they got the attention of people that were not meeting their obligations. They would send someone out to attempt to run over a family member with a car. If they survived, the message was still delivered. If they died, tough, they still expected to be paid.
That happened to me. I was about 8 years old, about 1960, in a suburb of Philly. I was held late at school, and released after every other kid was gone. Riding my bicycle home, I noticed an old car sitting on the opposite shoulder, maybe a 100-200 yards ahead. This stretch of road was basically rural, trees and fields. The car started moving, and then moved over to my side of the road. When he got close, he moved over to put the tires near the edge of the ditch that bordered the road, maybe 8 ft deep. When he got very close, I rode over the edge into the ditch.
When I got home, my parents were both at the dinner table. When I explained why I was late, and what happened, mom blew it off. She didn't believe me. However, dad's face got very frightened, and then he got angry. He didn't say anything, and nothing was ever said about it later. I wish I had thought to bring it up before he died back in the 00's. I would have liked to know what happened to cause it, and if he retaliated in some fashion. Dad was an autobodyman, and it was clear to me that there was a lot of criminal activity in the auto business back then, and probably still is to some extent.
A firearm going off in a car is really loud.
I'm with Birdchaser. I had to self-quarantine in January because I came into contact with a niece who tested positive for the you-know-what and decided to watch the first two. I was underwhelmed. I've been told not to even bother with the third one because Copolla's daughter ruined it.
1) They are movies, not documentaries.
Just like every other movie ever made by Hollywood studios for the last 100+ years.
By a remarkable coincidence, the industry term for "documentary" in Hollywood is "documentary", not "motion picture".
2) On that basis, they are cinematic classics. Yes, they glorify the Mafia, and romanticize it.
Just as Birth Of A Nation glamorized racism. Just as Sergeant York glamorized mass homicide. Just as 1776 glamorized treason. Just as Gunga Din, The Four Feathers, Zulu! and Lawrence Of Arabia glamorized rampant colonialism.
And if you find yourself as underwhelmed by screen legends Michael Caine or Peter O'Toole in their film debuts in those last two pics as you were by Al Pacino or Robert Deniro in the first two Godfather flicks, your cinematic taste is in your feet, and you don't know jack about great movies. (And that's okay – no, really, it is – because no one ever said you have to appreciate anything you don't want to, any more than you have to be a poodle or cigar or wine or baseball aficionado either.)
3) Coppola's genius was exactly that romanticization, because he understood that everyone is the hero of their own movie, and the Godfather flicks were undeniably told from the inside. Told from the outside, they look exactly like the newspapers of the time portray them: a bunch of sociopathic and tribal thugs, desperately in need of capital punishment on a wide scale.
4) Anybody who thinks the movies soft-soaped the senseless brutality of the Mob is advertising that they never watched them, and clearly didn't pay attention to the first movie for even the 15 minutes or so it took for Mr. Woltz to wake up the morning after dinner with Tom Hagen.
If that cinematic moment didn't get your full attention, and show you exactly what you were dealing with vividly, you're quite simply hopeless.
I remember asking uncle Tony about the movie, he shook his head and wouldn't say anything. Great uncle Antonio emigrated to the US from Sicily as a child, most of his village was brought over. According to him, they were told they were needed as farmers, but once there they found that they were going to the mines as strikebreakers.
Now, Sicily had two sets of rulers, the official nobility imposed on them and the local mafioso. In this case, their local Don was on the losing side and made a deal to get his people and him away from bad consequences. Once here, the Don looked at the mines and decided that was a bad deal, so was searching for another way for his people to live. Prohibition was passed, and his men were skilled smugglers, already organized, and so they became rich beyond their wildest dreams.
Great uncle Tony said that success destroyed them. He was a runner as a boy, but met and married my great aunt Jo, moved from New Jersey to California and became a butcher. He died when I was still young, and didn't talk much about those times. He did say that the Don from the old country mostly held to their code of honor, but only mostly.