The Godfather: The Don Has Come

June 14, 2011
The 1972 outstanding classic The Godfather shows a ferocious tale of the Italian mob in New York City. The movie displays a family where their passionate and violent world can distort and vary the pace of the film. Marlon Brando plays the murderous but yet profound “Don” Vito Corleone, who runs the show and leads the way to becoming the most dynamic and global mafia family in the United States. The film was nominated for 10 Oscars, but won only three including Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando) and best-adapted screenplay (Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola). It was the top-grossing film of 1972 with 134 million dollars at the box office.

The Corleone children (Santino Corleone, Fredo Corleone, Michael Corleone and Connie Corleone) resemble their father, showing a similar attitude towards protecting and expanding the family. In a magnificent performance, James Caan plays Vito Corleone’s oldest son, Santino “Sunny” Corleone. Being next in line for the boss, his anxiety can take over his judgment, which can leave him vulnerable in the treacherous mob world. Vito’s second son Fredo Corleone (John Cazale) is not included in the immediate family business. Being the timid brother jealous of his family’s power over him, he leaves for Las Vegas where the family is starting a new business. Vito’s youngest son, Michael Corleone is by far the most reminiscent of his father. He has a bright future as a lieutenant in the US Marine Corp., though in a difficult decision, he demands a spot in the family. The resemblance with his father is shown by sharing the Godfather’s most famous line, “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Al Pacino could not have played a better Michael Corleone. Michael is the violent intellectual, with the patience of his father. His character defines the movie.

You enter the movie at Connie Corleone’s (Talia Shire) wedding. Luxury cars line up in rows of tens outside the party. People are singing, drinking and extravagantly dressed, celebrating this momentous event. All of the family is participating including the wives of the three sons and Michael’s fiancée Kay Adams, the only non-Italian. Then as the credits conclude, you enter a room with Don Corleone, his Consigliere and adopted son (Robert Duval) and Luca Brasi (Lenny Montana) his personal enforcer. You over hear a favor being asked to Vito Corleone. Since it’s the day of his daughter’s wedding, tradition requires he cannot deny any of the favors asked of him. The Tatagglias, the main rival family, asks him to join the modern criminal trade of narcotics. Vito and his men decide to avoid working with the enemy. The refusal causes family loyalty and blood to mix with brutal vengeance including an attempt to kill “Don” Vito Corleone.

Mario Puzo is the original author of The Godfather, and his successful novel was taken to the next level of excellence as a movie. Mario Puzo was born of a small Neapolitan family of immigrants living in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen. Many of his books, including The Godfather, The Sicilian and The Last Don all draw from Puzo’s heritage and life in Hell’s Kitchen. Director Francis Ford Coppola transformed the mob movie genre with The Godfather. He told a tale of a family, not just the mafia. A family that loves and cares for one another that other mob stories never seemed to have told before. It wasn’t a matter of the classic mob story of “Good guy – Bad guy,” where the motto of the film would be “life or death.” But this film told a story of the Corleone’s behind the Tommy-guns and the violent world.

We come to The Godfather like Kay Adams - outsiders uncertain in our expectations - but it doesn't take long for us to be captivated by this family and their passionate and violent world. The film can be viewed on many levels; it’s a family drama, a crime story and a love story. However you choose to think of it, it is undeniably a fantastic American story like no other. The Godfather is long - but it is one hundred seventy minutes well spent.

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