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The Godfather (1972) Poster

(1972)

Trivia

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Al Pacino boycotted the Academy Awards ceremony, angry that he was nominated for the Academy Award Supporting Actor, noting that his character had more screen time than his costar, Best Lead Actor nominee (and winner) Marlon Brando.
During an early shot of the scene where Vito Corleone returns home and his people carry him up the stairs, Marlon Brando put weights under his body on the bed as a prank, to make it harder to lift him.
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.
Al Pacino's maternal grandparents emigrated to America from Corleone, Sicily, just as Vito Corleone had.
During filming, James Caan and Gianni Russo did not get along and were frequently at loggerheads. During filming Sonny's beating on Carlo, Caan nearly hit Russo with the stick he threw at him, and actually broke two of Russo's ribs and chipped his elbow.
Marlon Brando wanted to make Don Corleone "look "like a bulldog," so he stuffed his cheeks with cotton wool for the audition. For actual filming, he wore a mouthpiece made by a dentist; this appliance is on display in the American Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York.
The smack that Vito gives Johnny Fontane was not in the script. Marlon Brando improvised the smack and Al Martino's confused reaction was real. According to James Caan, "Martino didn't know whether to laugh or cry."
In 1974, The Godfather (1972) premiered on NBC over 2 nights - Saturday November 16th, and Monday November 18th, from 9-11pm. Both nights, at 11pm, New York City's Municipal Water Authorities had some overflow problems from all the toilets flushing around the same time.
The early buzz on the film was so positive that a sequel was planned before the film was finished filming.
James Caan improvised the part where he throws the FBI photographer to the ground. The extra's frightened reaction is genuine.
For the scene where Clemenza is cooking, Francis Ford Coppola originally wrote in the script, "Clemenza browns some sausage". Upon seeing this, Mario Puzo crossed out "browns" and replaced it with "fries", writing in the margin, "Gangsters don't brown."
According to Francis Ford Coppola, the term "Don Corleone" is actually incorrect Italian parlance. In Italian, addressing someone as "Don" would be like addressing them as "Uncle" in English, so the correct parlance would be "Don Michael" or "Don Vito". Coppola says that Mario Puzo, who couldn't speak Italian, simply made up the idea of using "Don" with a person's last name, and it has now become a pop culture staple.
Note the attention to detail: most of the cars have wooden bumpers, as they did just after the war as car manufacturers handed over the chrome that was supposed to be used on bumpers for the war effort.
The scene where Sonny beats up Carlo (Connie's husband) took four days to shoot and featured more than 700 extras. The use of the garbage can lid was improvised by James Caan.
At the meeting in the restaurant, Sollozzo speaks to Michael in Sicilian so rapid subtitles could not be used. He begins with: "I am sorry. What happened to your father was business. I have much respect for your father. But your father, his thinking is old-fashioned. You must understand why I had to do that. Now let's work through where we go from here." When Michael returns from the bathroom, he continues in Sicilian with: "Everything all right? I respect myself, understand, and cannot allow another man to hold me back. What happened was unavoidable. I had the unspoken support of the other Family dons. If your father were in better health, without his eldest son running things, no disrespect intended, we wouldn't have this nonsense. We will stop fighting until your father is well and can resume bargaining. No vengeance will be taken. We will have peace. But your Family should interfere no longer."
The scenes in which Enzo comes to visit Vito Corleone in the hospital were shot in reverse with the outside scene shot first. Gabriele Torrei, the actor who plays Enzo, had never acted in front of a camera before and his nervous shaking after the car drives away was real.
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.
Marlon Brando did not memorize most of his lines and read from cue cards during most of the film.
The cat held by Marlon Brando in the opening scene was a stray the actor found while on the lot at Paramount, and was not originally called for in the script. So content was the cat that its purring muffled some of Brando's dialogue, and, as a result, most of his lines had to be looped.
According to Al Pacino, those were real tears in Marlon Brando's eyes when Michael pledges himself to his father in the hospital scene.
James Caan originally heard the phrase "bada-bing!" from his acquaintance, the real-life mobster Carmine Persico, and improvised its use in the film.
Orson Welles lobbied to get the part of Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972), even offering to lose a good deal of weight in order to get the role. Francis Ford Coppola, a Welles fan, had to turn him down because he already had Marlon Brando in mind for the role and felt Welles wouldn't be right for it.
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.
Gianni Russo used his organized crime connections to secure the role of Carlo Rizzi, going so far as to get a camera crew to film his own audition and send it to the producers. However, Marlon Brando was initially against having Russo, who had never acted before, in the film; this made Russo furious and he went to threaten Brando. However, this reckless act proved to be a blessing in disguise: Brando thought Russo was acting and was convinced he would be good for the role.
Radio personality Howard Stern has said that he would gladly have any cast member of this film as his guest and they can show up at his studio unannounced. Though over the years cast members such as Robert Duvall and James Caan were pre-scheduled guests, his "just show up" policy was never taken up until Gianni Russo arrived one day. Stern immediately had him escorted into his studio, even though he was in the midst of other guests at the time and interviewed him.
The character Moe Greene was modeled after Jewish mobster Bugsy Siegel, although Siegel was not known for wearing glasses. Both were assassinated with a shot through the eye, with the glasses worn by Greene being necessary in order to accomplish the special effect eye shot.
Although there are many claims of real Mafiosi as cast members Francis Ford Coppola stated in a May 2009 interview with Howard Stern that no organized crime members were cast or used as consultants. Coppola went on to explain there are expectations of reciprocity once one is provided a "favor" by an organized crime member or otherwise involved in a business action with the same. He specifically denied the connection of Gianni Russo to organized crime. The closest Coppola claims to have come to a real gangster during production, at least to his knowledge, was an interaction with Lenny Montana, who played Luca Brasi. Coppola said when he asked if Montana knew how to spin the cylinder of the revolver Montana replied "You kiddin'?".
Francis Ford Coppola was reluctant to let his sister Talia Shire audition for the role of Connie. He felt she was too pretty for the part and did not want to be accused of nepotism. Only at Mario Puzo's request did Shire get a chance to audition.
Al Pacino wore a foam latex facial appliance that covered his entire left cheek and was made up with colors to match his skin tone and give the effect of bruising, to simulate the effect of having his jaw broken by Captain McCluskey.
A young Sylvester Stallone auditioned for the roles of Paulie Gatto and Carlo Rizzi, but was not cast for either. Stallone instead decided to try his hand at writing, first completing the screenplay for the modestly successful The Lord's of Flatbush (1974). He would later get his break in Rocky (1976), alongside Talia Shire, who portrays Connie Corleone in this film.
When Marlon Brando won the Best Actor Oscar for this movie, he sent Sacheen Littlefeather to represent him at the awards ceremonies. The presenters of the award were Roger Moore and Liv Ullmann. When Moore offered the statuette to Littlefeather, she snubbed him and proceeded with her speech about the film industry's mistreatment of American Indians.
The three-year-old child actor Anthony Gounaris responded best when his real name was used while shooting the film. That's why Michael's son's name is Anthony.
Al Pacino, James Caan and Diane Keaton were all paid $35,000 for their work on the film.
George Lucas put together the "Mattress Sequence" (the montage of crime scene photos and headlines about the war between the five families) as a favor to Francis Ford Coppola for helping him fund American Graffiti (1973). He asked not to be credited.
When Vito Corleone has his brush with death, there is a poster of Jake LaMotta hanging on a building wall behind the fruit vendor. Robert De Niro later won an Oscar for playing both of those characters on film (see The Godfather: Part II (1974)). In addition, the final scene of Raging Bull (1980) features DeNiro, as LaMotta, repeating Marlon Brando's monologue from the end of On the Waterfront (1954). That role, like this one, earned Brando an Oscar.
Director Francis Ford Coppola worked with relatives in this film, (making it a family film in many contexts). In chronological order of appearance:
  • his sister Talia Shire portrayed Connie Corleone throughout the trilogy


  • his mother Italia Coppola serves as an extra in the restaurant meeting


  • his father Carmine Coppola is the piano player in the Mattress sequence and composed the music


  • his sons Gian-Carlo Coppola and Roman Coppola can be seen as extras in the scene where Sonny beats up Carlo, and at the funeral


  • and his daughter Sofia Coppola is the baby Michael Rizzi in the baptism (she was three weeks old at the time of shooting).


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.)
The line "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse" was selected by the American Film Institute on it's list as one of the top 100 movie quotes, it was at #2 right behind "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn" from Gone with the Wind (1939).
During pre-production, Francis Ford Coppola shot his own unofficial screen tests with Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Diane Keaton at his home in San Francisco. Robert Evans was unimpressed by them and insisted that official screen tests be held. The studio spent $420,000 on the screen tests but in the end, the actors Coppola originally wanted were hired.
The only comment Robert Duvall will make about his performance is that he wished "they would have made a better hairpiece" for his character.
According to Albert S. Ruddy's assistant, Bettye McCartt, Ruddy was warned by police that the Mafia was following his car. Ruddy would switch cars with McCartt in an effort to lose them. One night, McCartt found her car with the windows shot out and a note that read "Shut down the movie or else."
Cinematographer Gordon Willis earned himself the nickname '"The Prince of Darkness" because his sets were so underlit. Paramount executives initially thought that the footage was too dark, until persuaded otherwise by Willis and Francis Ford Coppola that it was to emphasize the shadiness of the Corleone family's dealings.
Sergio Leone was approached to direct the film, but turned it down since he felt the story, which glorified the Mafia, was not interesting enough. He later regretted refusing the offer, but would go on to direct his own critically acclaimed gangster film, Once Upon a Time in America (1984).
One of the reasons why Francis Ford Coppola finally agreed to direct the film was because he was in debt to Warner Brothers following $400,000 budget overruns on George Lucas's THX 1138 (1971). Lucas urged him to take the job.
Don Vito Corleone's distinctive voice was based on real-life mobster Frank Costello. Marlon Brando had seen him on TV during the Estes Kefauver hearings in 1951 and imitated his husky whisper in the film.
Jewish actors James Caan and Abe Vigoda portray Italian characters (Santino Corleone, Salvatore Tessio), while Italian Alex Rocco, portrays a Jewish character (Moe Greene).
According to Richard S. Castellano, he defended Gordon Willis during a disagreement Willis was having with Coppola. Coppola got revenge on Castellano by making him do twenty takes of the shots of Clemenza walking up four flight of stairs.
James Caan actually hung out with various disreputable characters in order to better understand the underworld lifestyle.
Mafia crime boss Joe Colombo and his organization The Italian-American Civil Rights League started a campaign to stop the film from being made. According to Robert Evans in his autobiography, Colombo called his home and threatened him and his family. Paramount received many letters during pre-production from Italian-Americans - including politicians - decrying the film as anti-Italian. They threatened to protest and disrupt filming. Producer Albert S. Ruddy met with Colombo who demanded that the terms "Mafia" and "Cosa Nostra" not be used in the film. Ruddy gave them the right to review the script and make changes. He also agreed to hire League members (read: mobsters) as extras and advisers. The angry letters ceased after this agreement was made. Paramount owner Charlie Bluhdorn read about the agreement in The New York Times and was so outraged that he fired Ruddy and shut down production. But Evans convinced Bluhdorn that the agreement was beneficial for the film and Ruddy was rehired.
According to Francis Ford Coppola, the film took 62 days to shoot.
George Lucas used photos from real crime scenes in the Mattress Sequence. One of the most prominent photos shows two cops kneeling beside what looks like a man sleeping on the ground with his head propped up against a fence. That man is "The Enforcer" Frank Nitti, Al Capone's right-hand man who had, in fact, committed suicide with a gunshot to the head.
Francis Ford Coppola insisted on the film being called "Mario Puzo's The Godfather" rather than just The Godfather (1972), because his original draft of the screenplay was so faithful to Puzo's novel he thought Puzo deserved the credit for it.
Richard S. Castellano ad-libbed the line "Take the cannoli".
Martin Sheen and Dean Stockwell auditioned for the role of Michael Corleone. Oscar-winner Rod Steiger campaigned hard for the role of Michael, even though he was too old for the part. Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, and Dustin Hoffman were all offered the part of Michael Corleone, but all refused. (Beatty was also offered directing and producing duties.) Suggestions of Alain Delon and Burt Reynolds were rejected by Francis Ford Coppola. Paramount production chief Robert Evans wanted Robert Redford to be cast in the part, but Coppola demurred as he was too WASPy. Evans explained that Redford could fit the role as he could be perceived as "northern Italian". Evans eventually lost the struggle over the actor he derided as "The Midget". The Irish-American Ryan O'Neal then became the front-runner for the part, though it eventually devolved onto James Caan. Before being cast as Michael, Al Pacino was committed to starring in The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight (1971). Coppola, in a 2003 "Cigar Aficionado" interview, said that Paramount pulled some strings and managed to get Pacino released. The Paramount brass, particularly Evans, were adamantly opposed to casting Pacino, who did poorly in screen tests, until they saw his excellent performance in The Panic in Needle Park (1971). Caan went back to his original role of Sonny when Pacino came on board. Robert De Niro tested for both Michael and Sonny and was almost cast as Carlo before being cast as Paulie. Then, De Niro was offered Pacino's former role in "Gang". With Coppola's blessing, De Niro backed out to take the part. This, in turn, enabled De Niro to star as a young Vito in the sequel, which won him an Oscar and made his career.
According to Francis Ford Coppola in the DVD commentary, in the scene where Captain MacCluskey confronts Michael in front of the hospital, the officer who balks at arresting Michael ("He's clean, Captain. He's a war hero.") is NYPD Detective Sonny Grosso, one of the detectives made famous by his involvement in breaking the "French Connection" case.
Stanley Kubrick rated The Godfather (1972) as one of the greatest movies ever made.
Cinematographer Gordon Willis was forced to use overhead lighting for Marlon Brando's scenes because of his makeup. He decided to extend it throughout, which is one reason the movie is so dark. Source: Visions of Light (1992).
The only scene that Marlon Brando shared with Diane Keaton was the family photo taken at Connie's wedding.
Because Corleone, Sicily, was too developed even in the early 1970s, the Sicilian town of Savoca, outside Taormina, was used for shooting the scenes where Michael is in exile in Italy.
Paramount executive Peter Bart bought the film rights to Mario Puzo's "The Godfather" before it was even finished. It was still only a 20-page outline.
The meeting between the heads of the Mafioso was filmed in the boardroom of the Penn-Central Railroad. This explains the train mural seen behind Don Barzini (Richard Conte).
In reality, all the actors who played Marlon Brando's sons (Robert Duvall, John Cazale, James Caan, and Al Pacino) were only between six and 16 years younger than Brando, and Caan's character, Santino, supposed to be older than Pacino's character, Michael, are actually the same age, being born only one month apart in 1940.
The very first scene to be shot was the one where Michael and Kay go Christmas shopping.
The film makes use of a variety of Italian words:
  • Paulie says "sfortunato", which means "unlucky guy".


  • Michael explains that Tom is a "consigliere," or counselor;


  • Vito calls Johnny Fontane a "finocchio," an offensive term for a homosexual


  • Sonny refers to Paulie as a "stronzo," a term equivalent to "asshole"


  • Carlo and Connie both say "vaffanculo" during their fight, which means "fuck you"


  • Don Zaluchi says the sale of drugs to children is an "infamia," or an infamy


  • Both the Dons Corleone use the word "pezzonovante," which means ".90 caliber," or more accurately an idiom meaning "big shot".


Al Pacino's first Oscar nomination marks his first of 4 consecutive nominations, a feat he shares with Jennifer Jones (1943-46), Thelma Ritter (1950-53), Marlon Brando (1951-54) and Elizabeth Taylor (1957-60) and Susan Sarandon 1992-1996.
The film's opening scene, a three-minute zoom-out of Amerigo Bonasera and Don Corleone, was achieved with a computer-controlled zoom lens which had earlier been used in Silent Running (1972).
Francis Ford Coppola turned in an initial director's cut running 126 minutes. Paramount production chief Robert Evans rejected this version and demanded a longer cut with more scenes about the family. The final release version was nearly 50 minutes longer than Coppola's initial cut.
Paramount was in severe financial trouble in the early 1970s and really needed a big hit. They specifically asked Francis Ford Coppola to make the film more explicitly violent.
The film was set and shot in New York, at over 100 locations. Originally the entire film was to be shot in the Hollywood back lots in order to save production costs; however production designer Dean Tavoularis threatened to add two stories to each back lot building in order to replicate the look of New York City, the studio relented and allowed for shooting in New York.
Ernest Borgnine, Edward G. Robinson, Orson Welles, Danny Thomas, Richard Conte, Anthony Quinn, Don Ameche and George C. Scott were considered by Paramount Pictures for the role of Vito Corleone. Burt Lancaster wanted the role but was never considered. When Paramount considered casting Italian producer Carlo Ponti, director Francis Ford Coppola objected as Vito had lived in America since childhood and thus wouldn't speak with Ponti's Italian accent. When asked his opinion by the Paramount brass, Coppola said he wanted to cast either Laurence Olivier or Marlon Brando as the Don. In a September/October 2003 "Cigar Aficionado" magazine cover story, Coppola said, "I wanted either an Italian-American or an actor who's so great that he can portray an Italian-American. So, they said, 'Who do you suggest?' I said, 'Lookit, I don't know, but who are the two greatest actors in the world? Laurence Olivier and Marlon Brando. Well, Laurence Olivier is English. He looked just like Vito Genovese. His face is great.' I said, 'I could see Olivier playing the guy, and putting it on.' [And] Brando is my hero of heroes. I'd do anything to just meet him. But he's 47, he's a young, good-looking guy. So, we first inquired about Olivier and they said, 'Olivier is not taking any jobs. He's very sick. He's gonna die soon and he's not interested.' So, I said, 'Why don't we reach out for Brando?'" Frank Sinatra, despite his reported distaste for the novel and opposition to the film, had discussions with Coppola about playing the role himself and at one point actually offered his services. Coppola, however, was adamant in his conviction that Brando take the role instead. This would be the third time Brando performed in a part sought by Sinatra, after playing Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954) and Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls (1955). Brando's previous film, Burn! (1969), had been a terrible flop and he could not get work in American pictures, being considered by many producers as "washed up". Paramount executives initially would offer Marlon Brando only union scale for the role of Don Corleone. Finally, the studio relented and paid Brando $300,000, according to Coppola's account. In his autobiography The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002), former Paramount production chief Robert Evans claims that Brando was paid $50,000, plus points, and sold back his points to Paramount before the release of the picture for an additional $100,000 because he had female-related money troubles. Realizing the film was going to be a huge hit, Paramount was happy to oblige. This financial fleecing of Brando, according to Evans, is the reason he refused to do publicity for the picture or appear in The Godfather: Part II (1974).
While Sonny is driving alone in his car, he's listening to the 3 October 1951 radio broadcast of Russ Hodges calling the Dodgers-Giants playoff - a half-inning before Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World."
Frankie Avalon and Vic Damone, both established and experienced singers, auditioned for the role of Johnny Fontane. Francis Ford Coppola was most impressed with Damone and gave the role to him, but Al Martino was cast by the producers, and used his organized crime connections to ensure he kept the part. Ironically, Fontane sings "I Have But One Heart," which was Damone's first hit song.
August 1971: According to an article by Nicholas Pileggi in The New York Times, Paramount planned to release a line of spaghetti sauce bearing The Godfather (1972) logo to promote the film. It also planned Godfather restaurant franchises that would sell pizza, hero sandwiches, Italian ices and Italian breads and pastries. A spin-off television series was also planned but none of these ideas came to fruition.
Francis Ford Coppola had a background in theater, and used it to prepare the script. He would take pages out of the book and paste them into a notebook, which gave him room enough to make detailed notes on the scenes he wanted to use, what he had to do to make them work, and what pitfalls to avoid. (One example: "Italians who-a talk-a like-a dis.")
This is the fourth of five films as of 2014 in which three actors were competing for the same Oscar for the same film, which were Al Pacino , James Caan and Robert Duvall . The other films were: Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) in which Clark Gable , Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone competed for best actor, On the Waterfront (1954) in which Lee J. Cobb , Karl Malden and Rod Steiger competed for best supporting actor, Tom Jones (1963) in which Diane Cilento , Edith Evans and Joyce Redman competed for best supporting actress, and The Godfather: Part II (1974) in which Robert De Niro , Michael V. Gazzo and Lee Strasberg competed for best supporting actor (which De Niro won).
Paramount's original idea was to make this a low-budget gangster film set in the present rather than a period piece set in the 1940s and 1950s. Francis Ford Coppola rejected Mario Puzo's original script based on this idea.
James Caan and Al Pacino were only ten years younger than Morgana King who plays their mother. John Cazale was only five years younger.
The scenes of Michael and Kay at the wedding at the beginning were actually shot at night. Due to the rushed schedule, Francis Ford Coppola had to get their scenes in the bag. Cinematographer Gordon Willis was furious at having to rig up so many lights.
Paramount senior management, dissatisfied with the early rushes, considered replacing Francis Ford Coppola with Elia Kazan with the hope that Kazan would be able to work with the notoriously difficult Marlon Brando. Brando announced that he would quit the film if Coppola was fired and the studio backed down. Paramount brass apparently did not know of Brando's dismay with Kazan over his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s. (See also On the Waterfront (1954).)
The ribbons on Michael Corleone's Marine Corps uniform are the Silver Star, the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, and the Purple Heart on the top row, and the Asiatic/Pacific Campaign Medal with a service star and an arrowhead, the European/African/Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with a service star, and the World War II Victory Medal on the bottom row. In The Godfather: Part II (1974), however, Michael tells a congressional committee that he was awarded the Navy Cross during the war.
1990: This film was selected for the National Film Registry, Library of Congress.
There are approximately 61 scenes in the film that feature people eating/drinking, or just food.
Mario Puzo gave Vito's eldest son the nickname of "Sonny" after the nickname given to the son of Al Capone. The similarities end there. Sonny Capone did not enter his father's business.
Marlon Brando based some of his performance on Al Lettieri who plays Sollozzo. While preparing for On the Waterfront (1954), Brando became friendly with Lettieri, whose relative was a real-life Mafioso. Brando and Lettieri would later co-star in The Night of the Following Day (1968). Lettieri also helped Brando prepare for his Godfather role by bringing him to his relative's house for a family dinner.
The Don's wife, Carmella Corleone, is seen singing at the wedding. Morgana King, who played Carmella, was a gifted opera singer of long experience, and portraying Carmella was actually her film debut, as well as her non-operatic acting debut.
Though Coppola wanted to portray Italians authentically, he cast many actors in the Corleone family who were not Italian: Marlon Brando is of Dutch ancestry, James Caan is German and Jewish, and Abe Vigoda is Russian-Jewish. Nevertheless, he wanted someone with Sicilian looks to play Michael, which is why he fought for Al Pacino, despite a strong desire on Paramount's part to cast a "name" like Ryan O'Neal or Robert Redford - and Coppola's own concession that many Italians are blonde-haired and blue eyes, like Redford and O'Neal.
The opening wedding celebrations were filmed over a period of a week and employed over 750 extras.
After Robert Evans insisted that James Caan be cast as Michael, Carmine Caridi was cast in the role of Sonny. According to Evans, he told Francis Ford Coppola that he could cast Al Pacino as Michael as long as he cast Caan as Sonny. Although Caan had been Coppola's first choice, he decided that Caridi was better for the role and did not want to recast Caan. Evans insisted on Caan because he wanted at least one "name" actor to play one of the brothers and because the 6'4" Caridi would tower over Pacino on screen. Caridi was later given a small part in The Godfather: Part II (1974). There is a rumor that Burt Reynolds was originally cast as Sonny Corleone but Marlon Brando wouldn't act with him, considering him more a TV star.
According to Ardell Sheridan, Mafia captain (and future boss) Paul Castellano visited the set and spoke with Richard S. Castellano. It was not until after Paul was killed in 1985 did Richard reveal to her that Paul was his uncle.
Tommy Lee Jones was considered for the role of Michael Corleone.
James Caan credits the stage persona of "insult comic" Don Rickles for inspiring his characterization of Santino Corleone.
When Sonny beats up Carlo, a truck in the background and a wooden box on the sidewalk are strategically placed to hide anachronistic objects in the background.
The character of Hollywood mogul Jack Woltz's was patterned after Warner Bros. chief Jack L. Warner. His personality was based on MGM head Louis B. Mayer, who was a great racing aficionado and owned a racing stable. Mayer abandoned the sport, reportedly after his son-in-law William Goetz, who was his partner in the stable, got involved with the Mafia and fixed a race Mayer's horse was the favorite to win.
Mario Puzo modeled the character of Don Vito Corleone on New York mob bosses Joe Profaci and Vito Genovese. Many of the events of his novel are based on actual incidents that occurred in the lives of Profaci, Genovese and their families. Puzo based Don Vito's personality on his own mother's.
Although the dark photography of Gordon Willis was eventually copied by many other films, when the developed film came back from the lab, Paramount executives thought the look was a mistake. They ordered a different look but Willis and director Francis Ford Coppola refused.
The baptism was filmed in two churches: the interior shots were filmed at St. Patrick's Old Cathedral in New York; and the exterior shots were filmed at the Mount Loretto Church in Pleasant Plains, Staten Island.
Robert Evans hated Nino Rota's original stab at the score. Francis Ford Coppola threatened to quit over this, until Evans backed down.
Both Anna Magnani and Anne Bancroft turned down the role of Mama Corleone.
Diane Keaton based much of her portrayal of Kay Adams on Francis Ford Coppola's wife, Eleanor Coppola.
Production began on March 29, 1971, but Marlon Brando worked on the film for 35 days between April 12 and May 28 so he could honor his commitment to the film Last Tango in Paris (1972).
Mia Farrow auditioned for the part of Kay.
The name of the traditional Sicilian hat (worn, for instance, by Michael's bodyguards) is "coppola".
Originally Francis Ford Coppola was against directing the film, as he felt it glorified the Mafia and violence and would reflect poorly on his Italian-Sicilian heritage. However, he eagerly took the job once he thought of making it an allegory of American capitalism.
The 45th Academy Award winner as Best Picture, it was the first winner to be even partially set in Los Angeles, the first to depict the film industry, and the first in which an Oscar statuette is visible.
In the novel, Don Cuneo's first name is Ottileo, but in the film he was known as Carmine Cuneo as homage to Carmine Coppola.
Anthony Perkins auditioned for the role of Sonny Corleone.
Robert Duvall received $36,000 for eight weeks work.
Nino Rota was originally nominated for an Oscar for his score (and would probably have won) but the nomination was withdrawn when it was realized that he had substantially re-worked parts of his earlier score for Fortunella (1958).
Jerry Van Dyke, Bruce Dern, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and James Caan auditioned for the role of Tom Hagen.
According to Associate Producer Gary Fredrickson, Lenny Montana (Luca Brasi) had worked as a Mafia bodyguard, and had also bragged to Frederickson about working for the Mafia as an arsonist.
According to an August 1971 article by Nicholas Pileggi in The New York Times, a supporting cast member became so committed to his role that he accompanied a group of Mafia enforcers on a trip to beat up strike breakers during a labor dispute. But the enforcers had the wrong address and were unable to find the strike breakers. The actor's name was not revealed.
James Caan was at first considered to play first Tom Hagen (what he actually auditioned for), and then Michael Corleone, before being eventually being cast as Sonny Corleone.
Apart from as required by his Marine Corps uniform, Michael Corleone does not wear a hat until he becomes involved in the family business.
The mansion of Jack Woltz was also used as the mansion of Alan Stanwyk in Fletch (1985).
Along with Mario Puzo's source novel, Francis Ford Coppola based many of the characters on members of his own family.
At one point during filming, Paramount production chief Robert Evans felt the film had too little action and considered hiring an action director to finish the job. To satisfy Evans, Francis Ford Coppola and his son Gian-Carlo Coppola developed the scene in which Connie and Carlo have their long fight. As a result, Evans was pleased enough to let Coppola finish the film.
Franco Corsaro filmed a scene as the dying consigliere Genco Abbandando but it was deleted. In the scene, which takes place after the wedding, Vito Corleone and his sons go to the hospital to pay their respects to Genco who is dying of cancer. They attempt to console him and Genco begs Vito to stay with him as he is dying. The scene does appear in some TV airings of the film (in place of edited versions of the murder scenes) and is in The Godfather: A Novel for Television (1977).
Francis Ford Coppola wanted to cast actor Timothy Carey but Carey turned the part down so he could film a television pilot.
In the scene where Carlo is beaten by Sonny, a poster bearing the name "Thomas Dewey" can be seen on a wall. Thomas E. Dewey was first the appointed Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and later elected District Attorney of New York County in 1937. Dewey successfully pursued gangsters in both jobs. He was elected Governor of New York in 1942, and was serving as governor during the period portrayed in this film. Dewey lost the elections for President of the United States in 1944 and 1948.
John Martino ad-libbed the words "Madon'" (Madonna) and "sfortunato" (unfortunate) when Paulie talks about stealing the wedding purse.
William Devane was in the running for the part of Moe Greene.
The "Wedding Scene" due to its size was filmed on several locations on the same street that the house used for the exterior shots of the "Corleone Family Compound" is located on Longfellow Ave, Todt Hill, Staten Island, New York. The home had a low stone perimeter fence, which was enlarged to give the impression of a "Family Compound". The famous gate that marks the entrance to the Corleone compound was built for the film & torn down after shooting.
David Carradine and Dean Stockwell screen-tested for the role of Michael Corleone.
The film took 77 days to shoot, 6 days less then the 83 days original schedule.
In the novel Bonasera (Salvatore Corsitto) is the last person who is allowed to see Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) while Nazorine The Baker (Vito Scotti) was first. The change to Bonasera being first for the film was to show the way that Nazorine requests a favor is the more appropriate and to suggest that Nazorne heard about Bonasera's lack of respect.
This was voted the "Greatest Film of All Time" by Entertainment Weekly.
Voted #2 on AFI's 100 Greatest Movies 10th Anniversary Edition.
Francis Ford Coppola was hired by Robert Evans to direct the movie after Peter Bogdanovich, among others, turned it down.
When Michael and Kay are having dinner together, the song on the radio is Irving Berlin's "All of My Life".
A diary about the film's production, "The Godfather Journal" by Ira Zuckerman, was published as a mass market paperback by Manor in 1972.
Peter Donat, Martin Sheen, Roy Thinnes, Barry Primus, Robert Vaughn, Richard Mulligan, Keir Dullea, Dean Stockwell, Jack Nicholson and James Caan were considered for the role of Tom Hagen. John Cassavetes and Peter Falk also sought the role. Of those actors, only Donat ultimately appeared in one of the Godfather trilogy, when he was cast in The Godfather: Part II (1974) in the role of Questadt.
The movie's line "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse." was voted as the #10 of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007.
Of the main cast, four pairs of actors share a birthday: Al Pacino and Talia Shire (April 25), Diane Keaton and Robert Duvall (January 5), James Caan and Sterling Hayden (March 26), and Abe Vigoda and Al Lettieri (February 24).
Voted #7 in TV Guide Magazine's list "50 Greatest Movies on TV and Video" (August 8-14, 1998 issue). The sequel The Godfather: Part II (1974) took top honors, ranking #1.
Screenwriter Robert Towne wrote the scene on the patio between Don Corleone and his son Michael.
In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #2 Greatest Movie of All Time.
According to Francis Ford Coppola in his "Cigar Aficionado" magazine interview, he had a meeting at his home in 1969 with producers Albert S. Ruddy and Gray Frederickson to discuss The Conversation (1974). He had sent the script to Marlon Brando who called him during the meeting to politely turn it down. Right before the meeting, Coppola took note of a newspaper advertisement for an upcoming novel titled "The Godfather" by Mario Puzo. Just a few months later, all five people would meet to discuss a film version of the novel.
Ardell Sheridan, who plays Mrs. Clemenza, was Richard S. Castellano's girlfriend at the time, and Castellano had lobbied Francis Ford Coppola for her to get the role, Sheridan's film debut. Sheridan and Castellano also portrayed husband and wife in the short-lived series The Super (1972) later in 1972, later marrying in real life too.
The British Daily Telegraph newspaper recently described The Godfather (1972) as "a vision of the hollowness of American capitalism and its effect on the family - like Death of a Salesman with spaghetti and a criminal empire."
Frank Sivero appears as an extra in the scene where Sonny beats up Carlo Rizzi. He would later appear in The Godfather: Part II (1974) as Genco Abbandando.
Voted #1 On Empire's 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time (September 2008)
The casting of Richard Conte was an idea by the mother of Martin Scorsese, who asked Francis Ford Coppola if he could be in the movie.
Nino Rota composed a piece titled "The Pickup" which was to play during Tom Hagen's arrival in Hollywood. The studio felt the piece did not fit the scene and had it replaced with a jazz standard titled "Manhattan Serenade". Rota's original piece appeared on the soundtrack album.
In the scene where Vito Corleone is shot, a poster advertising a Jake LaMotta fight can be seen. Both Vito and LaMotta would later be played by Robert De Niro.
Olivia Hussey was considered by casting director Fred Roos for the role of Apollonia. Francis Ford Coppola originally wanted Stefania Sandrelli, but she turned it down.
Francis Ford Coppola's mother Italia Coppola had a scene as a Genco Olive Oil Company switchboard operator, but it ended up on the cutting room floor.
Charles Bludhorn, the president of Gulf + Western, wanted Charles Bronson to play Michael Corleone.
Voted #3 on AFI's 100 Greatest Movies.
A promotional board game titled "The Godfather Game" was released in 1971.
Ranked #1 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Gangster" in June 2008.
Film debut for Joe Spinell, in the uncredited role of Willi Cicci.
Frank Puglia was originally cast as Bonasera but had to back out due to illness.
Francis Ford Coppola initially offered the part of Don Vito Corleone to retired Maltese actor Joseph Calleia but the offer was turned down by Calleia due to health reasons.
William Reynolds edited the first half of the film, Peter Zinner the second.
Aram Avakian was originally hired as the film's editor but was fired after disagreements with Coppola.
Final American studio film of Richard Conte.
Robert Evans apparently screened the films about gangsters that Paramount had released before he arrived at the studio, including The Brotherhood (1968). He noticed that most of the films were unsuccessful and also that they had not been written or directed by Italian-Americans, and said that he hired Francis Ford Coppola in part because he wanted to "smell the spaghetti".
Marlon Brando was only 47 when he played Don Vito Corleone. Despite heavy make up, some critics felt he still looked too young for the part.
James Caan was felt by some to be miscast as he did not look Italian.
Film debut of Morgana King, who portrayed Mama Carmella Corleone.
Luis García Berlanga directed the Spanish Castilian dubbing.
The hospital scenes were filmed in two different locations: the exterior scenes were filmed at a side entrance to the Bellevue Hospital; and the interior shots were filmed at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary in Manhattan, New York City.
Bill Butler did some uncredited cinematography for the film, namely in the scenes shot in LA as the main director of photography Gordon Willis was busy filming in the main locations in New York.
Both Marlon Brando and James Caan had to wear lifts for the movie.
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Aldo Ray was considered for the role of Sonny Corleone.
Sidney J. Furie was originally in line to direct "The Godfather". Producer Albert S. Ruddy had just come off "Little Fauss and Big Halsy" with Furie, and was handed the task of producing "The Godfather" after that film had been brought in under-budget and under-schedule. Ruddy personally requested Furie to direct the picture, but Francis Ford Coppola's Italian heritage won the day.

Cameo 

Gray Frederickson:  the film's Associate Producer as the cowboy in the studio when Tom Hagen encounters Studio Head Woltz for the first time.

Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

During rehearsals, a false horse's head was used for the bedroom scene. For the actual shot, a real horse's head was used, acquired from a dog-food factory. According to John Marley, his scream of horror was real as he was not informed that a real head was going to be used.
Body count: 18 (including the horse).
During the scene in the study when the family decides Michael Corleone needs to kill Sollozzo and McCluskey, Santino Corleone is seen idly toying with a cane. The cane belonged to Al Pacino, who had badly injured his leg while filming Michael's escape from the restaurant.
According to Francis Ford Coppola on the DVD commentary, the intercutting of the baptism scene with the gang killings during the movie's climax did not really work until editor Peter Zinner added the organ soundtrack.
McCluskey's death was achieved by building a fake forehead onto actor Sterling Hayden's head. A gap was cut in the center and filled with fake blood, then capped off with a plug of prosthetic flesh. When the scene was being filmed, the plug was quickly yanked out using monofilament fishing line which doesn't show up on film. The effect was to make it look like a bloody hole suddenly appeared on Hayden's head.
According to interviews in the Coppola Restoration DVD set, the film was originally planned with an intermission due to its three-hour length. The intermission would have happened immediately after Michael murders Solozzo and McClusky, which explains the operatic instrumental that begins playing when Michael is shown fleeing the restaurant, as well as the ensuing "newspaper" montage, which would have been the first scene post-intermission.
Don Corleone's death scene, while it featured in the novel, was originally not to appear in the film because studio executives felt that the audience would see the funeral and know what had happened. Francis Ford Coppola shot the scene with three cameras in a private residence in Long Island (the makeshift garden itself was created from scratch and torn down immediately after shooting), with Marlon Brando ad-libbing his lines.
The presence of oranges in the Godfather trilogy indicates that a death-related event will soon occur (even though production designer Dean Tavoularis claimed the oranges were simply used to brighten up the darkly shot film). In chronological order of such events:
  • Hagen and Woltz negotiate Johnny Fontane's position at a table with a bowl of oranges on it, and later Woltz discovers his horse's severed head


  • Don Corleone buys oranges right before he is shot. He does not die, but his missing driver/bodyguard, Paulie, does die;


  • Sonny drives past an advertisement for Florida Oranges before he is assassinated;


  • At the Mafioso summit, bowls of oranges are placed on the table (specifically in front of those Dons who will be assassinated);


  • Michael eats an orange while discussing his plans with Hagen for assassinating the other dons;


  • Before Don Corleone dies, he puts an orange peel in his mouth to playfully scare his grandson;


  • Tessio, who is executed for attempting to betray Michael, plays with an orange at Connie's wedding;


  • And in a slight twist, there are no real oranges for Carlo Rizzi, but Rizzi does wear an orange suit right before Sonny beats him up, then helps to arrange Sonny's death, and is himself garrotted in retribution for Sonny's death later.


- The only deaths in the film that don't appear to have oranges foreshadowing them are the assassinations of Sollozzo, McCluskey and Apollonia. It appears as if oranges do not presage Paulie's death, but they do, when he is 'out sick' as the driver/bodyguard for Don Corleone, and the don decides to buy oranges before the attempted, but unsuccessful, assassination, thereby causing Santino to order Paulie's death.
Fabrizio, Michael's Sicilian bodyguard who planted the bomb that killed Appolonia, was supposed to be found by Michael at a pizza parlor he opens in America and subsequently blown away with a shotgun at the end of the movie as per "The Godfather" novel. This scene was filmed but ultimately cut because the makeup artists plastered Angelo Infanti with so much fake blood that the scene looked ridiculous. Photos of Michael Corleone with a hat, shotgun blazing, appeared in many magazines, despite the scene's eventual excision. Fabrizio's death was filmed again, for The Godfather: Part II (1974), this time by car bomb (as the ultimate form of poetic justice), but that scene was also deleted from the theatrical version. It was restored in The Godfather: A Novel for Television (1977).
Moe Green's execution by a bullet through his eye was accomplished by a hidden pellet shooter in the glasses' frame that smashed the lens outward.
Robert De Niro was originally cast as the ill-fated driver Paulie, while Al Pacino had accepted a role in Bang the Drum Slowly (1973). Francis Ford Coppola wanted Pacino so badly for the role of Michael that he persuaded the producers of the other film to release him from his contract. This meant he had to provide a replacement, so De Niro was released from his contract on this film.
Sonny Corleone's death scene at a highway toll booth was to take place on the Jones Beach Causeway, but was actually filmed on a small airport runway at Mitchell Field on Long Island, which was then called the Floyd Bennett Field. The scene was the most expensive in the movie to set up and film for it cost over $100,000 to set up and was finished in just one take from four or five different camera angles. The large billboard next to the toll booth was set up to hide the appearance of a modern high-rise building in the background. According to Joe Gelmis, 110 brass casings containing gunpowder squibs and sacks of blood were deployed all over James Caan's body. Plus there were over 200 pre-drilled holes in his car, a 1941 Lincoln, filled with squibs to simulate the ambush attack.
According to Al Pacino in The Godfather Family: A Look Inside (1990), he nearly got fired midway through filming. At the time Paramount execs only saw the early scenes of Michael at the wedding and were exclaiming, "When is he going to do something?" When they finally saw the scene where Michael shoots Sollozzo and McCluskey in the restaurant, they changed their minds and Pacino got to keep his job.
Francis Ford Coppola shot Sonny's assassination scene in one take with different cameras positioned at each shot. This was because there were 149 squibs taped onto James Caan's body to simulate the effect of rapid machine-gun fire, and they couldn't shoot another take.
At Connie's wedding, Sonny is seen in close quarters with Lucy Mancini (Jeannie Linero) Connie's maid of honour at the event (wearing a pink dress). According to the novel, Sonny takes Lucy as his mistress (she is "that young girl" Don Corleone mentions to Sonny; she is also seen before Sonny visits Connie). The novel and film trilogy differ on her fate, though: in the film she eventually moves on, settling down with a Las Vegas doctor; she is briefly seen in The Godfather: Part III (1990), with her son Vincent playing a major role.

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