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The Godfather (1972) Poster

(1972)

Trivia

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.
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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. Director Francis Ford Coppola liked the genuine nervousness and used it in the final cut. The scenes of Luca practicing his speech were added later.
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.
Marlon Brando wanted to make Don Corleone "look like a bulldog," so he stuffed his cheeks with cotton wool for the audition. For the 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 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.
There was intense friction between Francis Ford Coppola and Paramount, in which [Paramount] frequently tried to have Coppola 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).
James Caan improvised the part where he throws the FBI photographer to the ground. The extra's frightened reaction is genuine. Caan 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."
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.
Marlon Brando did not memorize most of his lines and read from cue cards during most of the film.
According to Al Pacino, the tears in Marlon Brando's eyes were real, in the hospital scene when Michael pledges himself to his father.
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 co-star, Best Lead Actor nominee (and winner) Marlon Brando.
Note the attention to detail: most of the cars have wooden bumpers. Bumpers were removed by car owners during the war and replaced with wooden ones. The chrome ones were turned in to help with the war effort. After the war, it took years for them to be replaced.
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."
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.
The film's cinematographer, 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. Director 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, it was widely 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.
According to Francis Ford Coppola, the film took 62 days to shoot.
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.
The early buzz on The Godfather (1972) was so positive that a sequel was planned before the film was even finished filming.
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'?"
The three-year-old child actor, Anthony Gounaris, responded best when his real name was used while shooting the film. That is why Michael's son's name is Anthony.
Cinematographer Gordon Willis earned himself the nickname '"The Prince of Darkness," since 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.
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. Lucas used photos from real crime scenes. The one pictured is Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti, Al Capone's right-hand man who had not been murdered, but actually shot himself. During the scene Coppola's father Carmine Coppola is the piano player.
Al Pacino's maternal grandparents emigrated to America from Corleone, Sicily, just as Vito Corleone had.
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.
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."
Animal rights activists protested the horse's head scene. Francis Ford Coppola told Variety, "There were many people killed in that movie, but everyone worries about the horse. It was the same on the set. When the head arrived, it upset many crew members who are animal lovers, who like little doggies. What they don't know is that we got the head from a pet food manufacturer who slaughters two hundred horses a day just to feed those little doggies."
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 Richard S. Castellano, he defended Gordon Willis during a disagreement Willis was having with Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola got revenge on Castellano by making him do twenty takes of the shots of Clemenza walking up four flight of stairs.
The line "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse" was selected by the American Film Institute on its 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).
In 1974, The Godfather (1972) premiered on NBC over two nights: Saturday, November 16th, and Monday, November 18th, from 9-11 PM. Both nights, at 11 PM, New York City's Municipal Water Authorities had some overflow problems from all the toilets flushing around the same time.
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.
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.
At the meeting in the restaurant, Sollozzo speaks to Michael in Sicilian so rapidly that 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 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.
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 Lords of Flatbush (1974). He would later get his break in Rocky (1976), alongside Talia Shire, who portrays Connie Corleone in this film.
Whenever oranges appear in the film, they foreshadow death or a near death.
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, he 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 he is 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).
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, because Brando thought Russo was acting and was convinced he would be good for the role.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Al Pacino, James Caan and Diane Keaton were all paid $35,000 for their work on the film.
According to Francis Ford Coppola in the DVD commentary, in the scene where Captain McCluskey 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.
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.
Richard S. Castellano ad-libbed the line "Take the cannoli."
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, and the studio relented and allowed for shooting in New York.
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.
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.
Al Pacino's first Oscar nomination marks his first of four consecutive nominations, a feat he shares with Jennifer Jones (1943-1946), Thelma Ritter (1950-1953), Marlon Brando (1951-1954), Elizabeth Taylor (1957-1960), and Susan Sarandon (1992-1996).
Mario Puzo modeled the character of Don Vito Corleone on New York mob bosses Joe Profaci and Vito Genovese. Many of the events in 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.
James Caan originally heard the phrase "bada-bing!" from his acquaintance, the real-life mobster Carmine Persico, and improvised its use in the film.
The very first scene to be shot was the one where Michael and Kay go Christmas shopping.
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.
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.
The only comment Robert Duvall made about his performance was that he wished "they would have made a better hairpiece" for his character.
When Marlon Brando won the Best Actor Oscar for this movie, he sent Sacheen Littlefeather (née Marie Louise Cruz) 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 Native Americans.
Jewish actors James Caan and Abe Vigoda portray Italian characters (Santino Corleone and Salvatore Tessio), while Italian Alex Rocco portrays a Jewish character (Moe Greene).
The Don's wife, Carmella Corleone, is seen singing at the wedding. Morgana King, who played Carmella, was a gifted jazz singer, and portraying Carmella was actually her film debut, as well as her acting debut.
Stanley Kubrick thought the film had the best cast ever and could be the best movie ever made.
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 sixteen years younger than Brando, and Caan's character, Santino, is supposed to be older than Pacino's character, Michael. Caan and Pacino are actually the same age, being born only one month apart in 1940.
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 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."
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 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.
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).
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 WASP-y. 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.
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).
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.
James Caan actually hung out with various disreputable characters, in order to better understand the underworld lifestyle.
There was a great deal of mooning on set, started by James Caan and Robert Duvall. In an effort to break some tension during a rehearsal for the first scene, the pair mooned Francis Ford Coppola, Marlon Brando and Salvatore Corsitto. Caan told Time Magazine, "My best moon was on Second Avenue. Bob Duvall and I were in one car and Brando was in another, so we drove up beside him and I pulled down my pants and stuck my ass out the window. Brando fell down in the car with laughter." Richard Bright claimed that it got to the point where every time you turned opened a door, you expected to see someone's behind. Even Al Pacino got in on the act, as he told Ladies' Home Journal, "In a scene where I sit behind a desk, wardrobe made a big fuss about getting me a shirt with a smaller collar. So while everyone was looking at the shirt, I took off my pants. When I came out from behind the desk, I got a laugh, even though we had to do the scene over." The ultimate moon came when Brando and Duvall mooned 400 cast and crew members. They planned it carefully and Caan, who overheard the plan, started to shout, "No, no, not here!" Everyone working on the production and most of the extras roared with laughter (some of the older ladies didn't appreciate the view). Eventually, Brando was crowned best prankster, designated by a heavyweight-style leather belt with the title, "Moon Champion."
Marlon Brando was only 47 years old when he played Don Vito Corleone. Despite heavy make up, some critics felt he still looked too young for the part.
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.
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.
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.
While Sonny is driving alone in his car, he listens 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."
The only scene that Marlon Brando shared with Diane Keaton in the film was the scene with the family photo taken at Connie's wedding.
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 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).
Originally, Francis Ford Coppola was against directing the film, as he felt it glorified the Mafia and violence, and it 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.
James Caan and Al Pacino were only ten years younger than Morgana King, who plays their mother. John Cazale was only five years younger.
Both Anna Magnani and Anne Bancroft turned down the role of Mama Corleone.
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 Don Corleones use the word "pezzonovante," which means ".90 caliber," or more accurately an idiom meaning "big shot."
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 in The Godfather Part II (1974) and Raging Bull (1980).
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.
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.
In many of the Sicily scenes, Michael wipes his nose with a handkerchief. The novel explains that McCluskey's punch did damage to his sinuses.
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.
There are approximately 61 scenes in the film that feature people eating/drinking, or just food.
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.
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.
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.
Marlon Brando wanted Al Martino replaced, as he felt the singer's acting was wooden.
John Cazale, who plays Fredo, appeared in 5 feature-length movies; all were nominated for Best Picture
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 enough room 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.")
The baptism scene 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.
Both Marlon Brando and James Caan had to wear lifts for the movie.
Tommy Lee Jones was considered for the role of Michael Corleone.
Mia Farrow auditioned for the part of Kay.
John Martino ad-libbed the words "Marone'" (Madonna) and "sfortunato" (unfortunate), when Paulie talks about stealing the wedding purse.
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 for 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).
Along with Mario Puzo's source novel, Francis Ford Coppola based many of the characters on members of his own family.
Despite lead billing, Marlon Brando's total screen time in the film is less than one hour. That's less than a third of the running time.
According to Albert S. Ruddy, Marlon Brando "loved the people on Mott Street and they loved him". An enormous crowd gathered to witness the scene of the Don's attempted assassination. When he collapsed, those assembled gasped, then cheered wildly. Reports suggest that the scene had to be reshot numerous times, as the audience couldn't control their applause at Brando's performance. When it was completed, Brando bowed to a cheering crowd.
During filming, Francis Ford Coppola complained about the station wagon that picked him up, so he and Robert Evans made a bet that if the film made $50 million, Paramount would spring for a new car. As the film's grosses climbed, Coppola and George Lucas went car shopping and bought a Mercedes Benz 600 stretch limousine, instructing the salesman to send the bill to Paramount. The car appears in the opening scene of American Graffiti (1973).
The opening wedding celebrations were filmed over a period of a week and employed over 750 extras.
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). Genco is still mentioned in the film, when Sonny complains to Tom about not having a wartime consigliere.
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.
When writing the novel, Mario Puzo either directly or indirectly borrowed ideas from real life Mafia stories. Specifically, he borrowed a lot of from the life of New York gangster "Crazy" Joe Gallo, including the dynamics of he and his brothers. In the movie, Sonny is the "hot head" (Like Crazy Joe), Michael is the thoughtful and intelligent one (Like Larry Gallo), and Fredo is the dimwit (Like Michael Gallo). Also terms like "Sleeping with the fishes" and "Hitting the mattresses" came from the lives of the Gallos. An associate of the Gallos was killed while on a fishing trip with friends and the Gallos were sent a fish wrapped in a box just as when Sonny gets Luca Brasi's bulletproof vest with a fish. When the Gallos revolted against their boss, Joe Profaci, they went to war and rented apartments stocked with mattresses. In real life, after Joe Gallo saw the movie, he actually considered suing Mario Puzo and Paramount Pictures for ripping off details of his life for their story. However, this never came to pass as "Crazy" Joe Gallo was murdered on April 7, 1972, almost a full month after the movie's New York premiere.
The technicians who attached the squibs to James Caan's body told him he had never attached that many squibs to anyone before. Caan replied "You didn't have to tell me that right now."
Francis Ford Coppola didn't care for the horse head scene in the novel, but recognized that it was too iconic to delete.
Michael's speech to Apollonia's father was originally written to be in Sicilian, as it was in the novel. Al Pacino, however, did not speak Sicilian fluently, and could not learn such a lengthy speech. Francis Ford Coppola rewrote the scene at the last minute to have Michael speak English and have Fabrizio translate for him.
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.
James Caan credits the stage persona of "insult comic" Don Rickles for inspiring his characterization of Santino Corleone.
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.
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.
Robert Duvall received $36,000 for eight weeks work.
Jerry Van Dyke, Bruce Dern, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and James Caan auditioned for the role of Tom Hagen.
Nino Rota was originally nominated for an Oscar for his score but the nomination was withdrawn when it was realized that he had substantially re-worked parts of his earlier score for Fortunella (1958).
The mansion of Jack Woltz was also used as the mansion of Alan Stanwyk in Fletch (1985).
Francis Ford Coppola's protégé, George Lucas, who also served as co-editor on this film, admits to having paid homage to two scenes in his Star Wars series. First, the garroting death of Luca Brasi was the inspiration for Princess Leia strangling Jabba the Hutt in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983). Secondly, the Baptism scene, in which Michael's vows are inter-cut with the murders of the rival dons, inspired the scene in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005), in which Palpatine declares the formation of his Empire while Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader kills the separatist leaders. The infant in the original scene is Sofia Coppola, who also appeared as a handmaiden in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999), and who directed Hayden Christensen in The Virgin Suicides (1999).
Al Martino was generally felt to be too old to play teen idol Johnny Fontane.
James Caan was angry that scenes giving Sonny more depth (such as his reaction to his father's shooting) were cut from the film. He confronted Robert Evans at the premiere and yelled at him, "Hey, you cut my whole fuckin' part out". Caan claimed that forty-five minutes of his character were cut.
Diane Keaton based much of her portrayal of Kay Adams on Francis Ford Coppola's wife, Eleanor Coppola.
The name of the traditional Sicilian hat (worn, for instance, by Michael's bodyguards) is "coppola."
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.
Though Francis Ford 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 film took 77 days to shoot, 6 days less than the original schedule of 83 days.
1990: This film was selected for the National Film Registry, Library of Congress.
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 nm0162284, [link=nm0262725, 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).
After Marlon Brando's death, his own annotated script for the film fetched $12, 800 at a New York auction - the highest amount ever paid for a film script.
Francis Ford Coppola inserted the detail of people eating Chinese food out of white takeout containers - a memory from his childhood.
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Anthony Perkins auditioned for the role of Sonny Corleone.
Each of the weddings guests who makes a request of Vito Corleone is called upon later in the film to return the favor. Nazorine the Baker asks for help arranging for Enzo to stay in America and marry his daughter. Enzo himself later arrives at the hospital, first with flowers, and then helps Michael to bluff McCluskey's assassination attempt. Johnny Fontaine, in return for a film role that revives his career, is signed to appear at Michael's casinos. Bonasera, who comes to avenge the attempted rape and beating of his daughter, is called upon to prepare Sonny's body for his funeral.
Francis Ford Coppola wanted to cast actor Timothy Carey but Carey turned the part down so he could film a television pilot.
In the original novel, the sequence of Don Corleone granting people requests on his daughter's wedding day is extended and has more people asking for favors. Interestingly, one of the people seeking an audience with the Don looking for money to run a pizza restaurant has the surname of Coppola.
While filming a scene with Marlon Brando, Lenny Montana opened his mouth to speak and stuck out his tongue, which had on it a "fuck you" note. Brando, always one for a good joke, laughed uproariously.
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.
The film takes place from 1945 to 1955.
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.
In his 1994 autobiography "Songs My Mother Taught Me", Marlon Brando said he turned the film down repeatedly because he did not want to glamorize the Mafia.
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For the long exterior shots of Tom entering the studio lot, and Tom and Jack Woltz walking around the grounds, the second unit filmed extras with wigs and hats in order to avoid having to pay Robert Duvall and John Marley.
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Burt Reynolds was considered for the part of Sonny Corleone by director Coppola, but Marlon Brando refused to work with him, considering him a second-rate actor. Also there was supposed animosity dating back to when Reynolds did an episode of the Twilight Zone years earlier, in which he spoofed Brando's persona; Brando reportedly was not amused by the episode and had never liked Reynolds since.
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The Corleones are based on the Borgias, a Spanish family that emigrated to Rome in 15th century Europe. The patriarch, Rodrigo, became Pope Alexander VI. Rome at that time, like New York in the 1940s, had five powerful families. The other families in Rome were the Colonna family, the Medici family, the Orsini family and the Sforza family. The real New York families were the Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Lucchese families.
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).
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.
Robert Evans hated Nino Rota's original stab at the score. Francis Ford Coppola threatened to quit over this, until Evans backed down.
Producer Al Ruddy later said that "It was the most miserable film I can think of to make. Nobody enjoyed one day of it."
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Francis Ford Coppola cast Simonetta Stefanelli after skipping away from her screen-test like a young girl. She summed up her part, "I met him, I married him, I died".
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One of Marlon Brando's first scenes was the meeting with Sollozzo at his office. Paramount executives were not impressed with his acting in that scene, and complained to Francis Ford Coppola about it. However, when he asked if they wanted him to re-shoot the scene, they declined. Coppola feared that he was about to be fired, but also knew that he would not be fired until the weekend. It being a Wednesday, he knew he had time to recover. He identified four crew members; including an assistant director; who he thought might have been reporting on him to the studio, and fired them. With new crew members, he re-shot the scene.
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David Carradine and Dean Stockwell screen-tested for the role of Michael Corleone.
Screenwriter Robert Towne wrote the scene on the patio between Don Corleone and his son Michael.
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.
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The scene where Michael visits his father in the hospital was scheduled to be Marlon Brando's first. However, he missed his plane and arrived on set at 2 p.m., much too late to film a scene, with two or three hours of face makeup prep alone. According to Robert Evans, when Paramount sent Brando a check for $12, 000 for looping the film, Brando called to inform them that they had given him $4,000 too much because of his missed day and asked where to send it back.
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Voted #2 on AFI's 100 Greatest Movies 10th Anniversary Edition.
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.
William Devane was in the running for the part of Moe Greene.
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."
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," which 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 and was torn down after shooting.
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.
Francis Ford Coppola hired Dean Tavoularis as production designer having been impressed with his work on Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Little Big Man (1970).
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When Michael and Kay are having dinner together, the song on the radio is Irving Berlin's "All of My Life."
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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.
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Mario Puzo was very proud of one particular line from the novel - "A lawyer with a briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns". He was adamant that it be used in the film, but Marlon Brando felt it was too preachy and it was excised.
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Francis Ford Coppola was hired by Robert Evans to direct the movie after Peter Bogdanovich, among others, turned it down.
Of the cast, there's several groups of actors who 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, Saro Urzì and Al Lettieri (February 24). Dominic Chianese, who appears in the 2nd movie, also has a birthday on February 24.
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."
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The slow camera movement that opens the film, which starts with a close-up of Bonasera's face and ends up behind Vito's head, takes more than two minutes to complete. This was created with a recently invented computer-timed lens, which could be programmed to zoom for specific time increments. There are actually very few zoom shots in the picture, as Francis Ford Coppola and Gordon Willis eschewed them for dramatic effect.
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There is a fish etching on the front door of the nightclub, foreshadowing Luca Brasi's fate.
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While filming the hospital scenes, doctors and nurses kept sneaking through for a peek at Marlon Brando.
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While filming the scene in which Carlo beats her, Talia Shire lost a shoe. Not wanting to have to restore the set and wait for the camera to be set up for a second time, she simply continued to play through the scene, even at the risk of cutting her foot on all the ceramics she had just destroyed.
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Film debut for Joe Spinell, in the uncredited role of Willi Cicci.
Staten Island actor Frank Albanese, who played Uncle Pat Blundetto in The Sopranos (1999) and the smiling lawyer for a young Henry Hill in Goodfellas (1990), is one of the two hitmen (with a machine gun) who jumps into the bedroom, rubbing out one of the dons with his mistress, while Michael eliminates the other dons during the baptisim.
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Although James Caan (Sonny Corleone) plays the elder brother of John Cazale (Fredo Corleone), he is five years his junior in real life.
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The novel delves more into the roots and history of the Sicilian Mafia: Corleone had the highest murder rate in the world. In Mario Puzo's first draft, Apollonia gave Michael a running commentary on the ways of the Sicilian Mafia as they walk through the region.
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This was voted the "Greatest Film of All Time" by Entertainment Weekly.
The movie's line "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse" was voted as #10 of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007.
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.
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.
Film debut of Morgana King, who portrayed Mama Carmella Corleone.
A diary about the film's production, "The Godfather Journal" by Ira Zuckerman, was published as a mass market paperback by Manor in 1972.
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The hospital scenes were filmed in two different locations: the exterior scenes were filmed at a side entrance to the Bellevue Hospital; the interior shots were filmed at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary in Manhattan, New York City.
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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.
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Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and Kay Adams (Diane Keaton) go to see The Bells of St. Mary's (1945). The sequel to Going My Way (1944), it was the first sequel to be nominated for Best Picture. The second was The Godfather: Part II (1974).
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While filming Sonny's tryst with Lucy, Eleanor Coppola went into labour. Francis Ford Coppola went to the hospital after the scene was completed and Sofia Coppola was born.
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Voted #1 on Empire's 500 Greatest Movies of All Time (September 2008).
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.
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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, which would be Sheridan's film debut. Sheridan and Castellano also portrayed husband and wife in the short-lived series The Super (1972) later in 1972, and they would later marry in real life too.
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When Mrs. Corleone is being coaxed into singing, for a split second a bald man with a moustache is seen. Michael V. Gazzo, the bald man with the moustache, played Frank Pentangeli in The Godfather: Part II (1974).
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James Caan was felt by some to be miscast as he did not look Italian.
Two other orange references can be seen in the wedding scene. Clemenza drinks from a jug of wine with orange slices floating in it, while telling Paulie to "do his job." Clemenza later takes Paulie out to be killed for not doing his job. When Sonny runs off to have sex with Lucy Mancini, there is a shot of his wife gesturing with her hands (demonstrating the size of his genitals). In front of her is a dish of oranges. Sonny is of course killed later in the film.
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Voted #3 on AFI's 100 Greatest Movies.
Francis Ford Coppola originally planned to open the film with the wedding, immediately introducing all the characters. Then a friend pointed out how interestingly he had written the opening scene of Patton (1970). Coppola then rewrote the opening with the Bonasera scene.
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Before the sit-down meeting and before the journey in the car to "New Jersey", the group meets in front of a restaurant called Dempsey's Manassa Restaurant. Jack Dempsey, the "Manassa Mauler" was born in Manassa, Colorado, lending the town's name and part of his nickname to the restaurant.
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Sonny's death scene offers up a clue to the fact that Carlo set him up. When Sonny beat up Carlo, he finished by kicking him in the face. After Sonny has been shot dead, one of his killers kicks his across the face.
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This was Richard Conte's final American studio film before his death on April 15, 1975 at the age of 65.
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The Lumen Martin Winter mural of Empire Express 999 seen during the meeting of the five families in the old New York Central Rail Road boardroom had been in the possession of The Pennsylvania State Historical and Museum Commission. In the fall of 2014, it was deaccessioned by the commission and put up for auction. It was purchased by an avid fan of the movie and is now in his private residence.
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According to Francis Ford Coppola, Marlon Brando considered Salvatore Corsitto's performance to be the best in the film, because it was the most genuine.
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Originally, Vito was supposed to grab Johnny by the hair. Because Al Martino wore a toupee, it was changed to slapping his face.
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The scene between Tom and Sollozzo was shot in an abandoned diner. The snowstorm when they exit the diner was real.
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According to Francis Ford Coppola, it was George Lucas who helped him problem-solve the lack of filmed empty corridors in the hospital scene by using the ends of shots that had been filmed after Coppola had called, "Cut".
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Fred Roos cast John Cazale after seeing him in an off-Broadway play called "Life", which co-starred Richard Dreyfuss (who invited Roos). Roos recalled, "We were looking for a Fredo at that time, and I had no idea who John Cazale was. He knocked me out. First chance I got, I brought him in and I said, 'Francis, this is Fredo, we don't need to look any further, this is him'".
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Visitors to the set often assumed Abe Vigoda was a Mafioso.
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According to Talia Shire her therapist urged her to start asserting herself in the family, which is why she tried out for the film.
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In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #2 Greatest Movie of All Time, after Citizen Kane (1941).
A promotional board game titled "The Godfather Game" was released in 1971.
According to Alex Rocco, he originally auditioned for the role of Al Neri but Francis Ford Coppola insisted that he play Moe Greene instead. Rocco, an Italian-American, felt that he would not be able to play a person of Jewish descent. According to Rocco, Coppola told him "'The Italians do this,' and he punches his fingers up. 'And the Jews do this,' and his hand's extended, the palm flat. Greatest piece of direction I ever got. I've been playing Jews ever since."
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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.
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In the scene in Jack Woltz's bedroom with the bloody horse head, there is an Oscar statue sitting on his bedside table.
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Richard Conte appears in only four scenes, and only has dialogue in one: the meeting of the Dons.
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Michael's description of how his father launched Johnny Fontaine's singing career was not in the shooting script, nor was Fredo's introduction.
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Al Martino had a rough time on set. Because of his inability to conjure up emotion, his lines were constantly being rewritten and most of his scenes were shot from behind.
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Th actual backstage of the Corleone house set served as the set for the backstage of Woltz International Pictures.
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In the novel, when pleading his case to the Don, Johnny explicitly explains why Woltz doesn't like him. Francis Ford Coppola changed this, preferring to have the explanation come from Woltz's tirade.
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In both the novel and the shooting script, Luca Brasi's death is a flashback.
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No cannolis are mentioned in the novel or the shooting script. Francis Ford Coppola included this detail from his memories of the particular white boxes of cannolis that his father would bring home from work.
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The Mount Loretto Church in Staten Island, where the exteriors for the baptism scene were filmed, burned down in 1973.
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The series of human murders committed during the film starts and ends with a strangulation.
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Michael and Kay reconcile in 1951. This is judging by the fact that in The Godfather: Part II (1974), Kay refers to his promise to make the family legitimate, stating that it was seven years ago.
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Moe Greene's death scene was inspired by Battleship Potemkin (1925).
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Ranked #1 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Gangster" in June 2008.
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Frank Puglia was originally cast as Bonasera but had to back out due to illness.
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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.
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The film that inspired Chris Columbus to become a filmmaker when he first saw it at the age of 15.
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Al Pacino made just $35,000 for starring in the film (the same as James Caan and Diane Keaton and $1,000 less than Robert Duvall). However, having made runaway hits Scarecrow (1973) and Serpico (1973), Pacino managed to command a $600,000 salary for The Godfather: Part II (1974), as well as a 10 percent cut of the movie's adjusted-gross income
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Associate Producer Gary Fredrickson once said that Lenny Montana told him he had worked as a Mafia bodyguard and arsonist.
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Francis Ford Coppola held improvisational rehearsal sessions that simply consisted of the main cast sitting down in character for a family meal. The actors couldn't break character, which Coppola saw as a way for the cast to organically establish the family roles seen in the final film.
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Paramount wanted the film to appeal to a wide audience and threatened Francis Ford Coppola with a "violence coach" to make the film more exciting. Coppola added a few more violent scenes to keep the studio happy. The scene in which Connie smashes crockery after finding out Carlo has been cheating was added for this reason.
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To add a sense of reality to the wedding scene (and because he only had two days to shoot it), Francis Ford Coppola had the cast freely act out and improvise in the background of the wedding scene. He then shot specific vignettes amongst the action.
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Francis Ford Coppola cast Diane Keaton for the role of Kay Adams due to her reputation for being eccentric.
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Real-life gangsters responded enthusiastically to the film, with many of them feeling it was a portrayal of how they were supposed to act. Salvatore "Sammy the Bull" Gravano, the former underboss in the Gambino crime family, stated: "I left the movie stunned ... I mean I floated out of the theater. Maybe it was fiction, but for me, then, that was our life. It was incredible. I remember talking to a multitude of guys, made guys, who felt exactly the same way. " According to Anthony Fiato after seeing the film, Patriarca crime family members Paulie Intiso and Nicky Giso altered their speech patterns closer to that of Vito Corleone's. Intiso would frequently swear and use poor grammar; but after the movie came out, he started to articulate and philosophize more.
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Francis Ford Coppola invited Italian superstar singer Mina to play Kay Adams. She turned down the offer as she was not interested in an acting career. The role ultimately went to Diane Keaton.
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William Reynolds edited the first half of the film, Peter Zinner the second.
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10% of the film was shot on soundstages at Filmways Studio lot in New York.
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Six cameras were used to shoot the wedding sequences, including four in the garden to capture cinema verite shots, as well as a soundman wandering around to record improvised dialogue. There was also a camera in a helicopter, but many of these shots were too jumpy and weren't used.
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The Woltz International Pictures lot is actually Paramount's lot in Hollywood. This was not production designer Dean Tavoularis' choice - he detested the look of it and even suggested the Warner Bros. lot as an alternative, but it was used for budgetary reasons. It was also the location for the Paramount backlot scenes in Sunset Boulevard (1950).
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Exterior shots of the Woltz estate are actually Harold Lloyd's house. Interior scenes were shot at the Guggenheim estate in Long Island. Guards had to be hired for the priceless art. And, needless to say, the bed was a rental.
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The scene of Michael and Kay Christmas shopping required 143 extras, in addition to period cars. The streetlights were replaced to match the period at $1,000 a pop, as well as street signs. Sixty crew members were present.
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Vito's assassination attempt was originally meant to be a flashback. Michael and Kay would see the newspaper announcing the shooting, which would lead to the event.
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Clemenza's wife is played by Richard S. Castellano's real life wife Ardell Sheridan.
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Robert Evans originally wanted Henry Mancini to do the music.
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Elvis Presley, an avid fan of the book, auditioned for the role of Tom Hagen, though he really wanted to play Vito Corleone.
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Vic Damone was originally cast as Johnny Fontaine, but dropped out, ostensibly because he couldn't in good conscience play a character so anti-Italian American. He later revealed it was because of the poor pay.
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While filming in Little Italy, Marlon Brando developed a taste for the spicy squid with hot sauce from Vincent's. In the scene where Vito leans over Sonny's dead body, Brando is holding a carton of the delicacy out of range.
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For the Don's funeral, twenty limos and 150 extras were used, with flowers costing over $1,000 each.
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Abe Vigoda got the part of Tessio by answering an open casting call and beat out hundreds of other actors.
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First Act ends at 00:45:15. Second Act ends at 02:16:32.
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Charles Bludhorn, the president of Gulf + Western, wanted Charles Bronson to play Michael Corleone.
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Sidney J. Furie was originally in line to direct. Producer Albert S. Ruddy had just come off Little Fauss and Big Halsy (1970) with Furie, and was handed the task of producing 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.
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Two nights after the hospital exterior scenes were shot, Francis Ford Coppola won an Oscar for co-writing Patton (1970), but he did not attend the ceremony.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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According to a production assistant, between takes of the restaurant scene, Sterling Hayden snacked on fruit and milk, as he only ate natural foods. He read "Dear Theo", a collection of Van Gough's letters to his brother. Then, he mysteriously disappeared. He'd taken a stroll, fallen asleep down by the river and was awakened by boys throwing rocks at him.
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Salvatore Corsitto was hired from an open casting call.
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Aram Avakian was originally hired as the film's editor but was fired after disagreements with Coppola.
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Many interludes were written, but do not appear in the film:

. Tom Hagen on the plane to California. . Carlo and Connie's wedding night. . Sonny visiting Lucy Mancini's apartment. . A close-up of Vito thinking. . Michael and Kay on a train to New Hampshire. . Luca Brasi taking the subway to his meeting with Tattaglia. . Vito embracing Tom as his new consigliere.
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The film cast includes seven Oscar winners: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Sofia Coppola, Carmine Coppola and Gray Frederickson; and five Oscar nominees: Talia Shire, James Caan', John Marley, Richard S. Castellano and Roman Coppola.
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The Corleone home was constructed for the film to include two stories, complete with a living room, dining room, full kitchen, panelled study and a foyer with stairs leading to the bedroom.
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According to Francis Ford Coppola, Gordon Willis' favourite shot was an overhead shot of the Sicilian countryside.
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Voted #2 on Empire magazines top 301 films of all time [July 2014]
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Public Enemy sampled the line, "They're animals anyway, so let them lose their souls" for their song "1 Million Bottlebags" on their 1991 album "Apocalypse 91...The Enemy Strikes Black."
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The police captain's death was considered unrealistic. He would not have remained conscious after being shot in the brain.
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The studio originally wanted to scrap the now-iconic "puppet strings" logo (which was first created by graphic designer S. Neil Fujita for the novel's release) with Mario Puzo's name above the title for the movie release, but Francis Ford Coppola insisted on keeping it because Puzo co-wrote the script with him.
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Before the film was in production, Paramount had been going through an unsuccessful period. Their latest mafia based movie, The Brotherhood (1968), had been a box office bomb. In addition, the studio had usurped their budget for their recent films: Darling Lili (1970), -Paint Your Wagon (1969) and Waterloo (1970). The budget for the film was originally $2.5 million but as the book grew in popularity and Coppola argued for a larger budget, the budget was raised to $6 million.
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Cinematographer Gordon Willis initially turned down the opportunity to work on the film, because the production seemed "chaotic" to him. After Willis later accepted the offer, he and Francis Ford Coppola agreed to not use any modern filming devices, helicopters, or zoom lenses. Willis chose to use top-light in the majority of the scenes due to Marlon Brando's eye make-up. He made use of shadows throughout the film and applied sepia tones to several scenes. Willis and Coppola agreed to interplay light and dark scenes throughout the film.
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Laurence Olivier was originally offered to play Vito Corleone. Unfortunately due to his failing health he had to decline leading to Marlon Brando being casted.
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Despite the fading light, Francis Ford Coppola was under orders from Paramount to keep shooting. The shot in which Michael appears to the right of Kay were all shot at night, with lamps blazing down to keep continuity with the bright sunlight of other shots.
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Aldo Ray was considered for the role of Sonny Corleone.
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In both the novel and the screenplay, Sonny's death was a flashback. Sonny drives to the tollbooths, then Tom calls Bobasera to reclaim the Don's favour and then the assassination occurs.
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Don Corleone's (Marlon Brando) slap on his godson (Al Martino) at Connie Corleone's (Talia Shire) wedding wasn't originally in the script, but the director (Francis Ford Coppola) kept it in the film.
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Luis García Berlanga directed the Spanish Castilian dubbing.
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In both the novel and the shooting script, it is Michael who tells Kay about the Sicilian tradition of never refusing a request on a daughter's wedding day.
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There is only one scene where Don Vito Corleone holds the cat.
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Rudy Vallee coveted the part of Tom Hagen, but was deemed too old.
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George Lucas put together the "Mattress Sequence" (this montage of crime scene snaps and headlines) as a thank you to Francis Ford Coppola for helping him fund American Graffiti (1973). Lucas used photos from real crime scenes. The one pictured is Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti, Al Capone's right-hand man who had not been murdered, but actually shot himself. During the scene Coppola's father Carmine Coppola is the piano player.
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Orson Welles lobbied for the role of Vito Corleone, even offering to lose weight for the role, but Francis Ford Coppola, despite being a fan of Welles, felt that he would not be convincing as the aging Mafia boss and had his mind set on Marlon Brando.. Welles later lamented that he would have given his soul to be in the film
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James Caan and Al Pacino were only ten years younger than the American Jazz singer Morgana King, who played their mother. John Cazale was only five years younger than her.
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If you look carefully on the store window behind Don Corleone as he is buying the oranges (just before the approach of the gunmen), you'll see a yellow boxing flyer advertising a boxing match featuring Jake LaMotta. Ironically, Robert De Niro, who portrays the young Don Corleone in The Godfather: Part II (1974), also portrayed LaMotta in Raging Bull (1980).
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Al Pacino really had his jaw wired shut for the first part of the shoot after Michael is punched in the face.
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Peter Bogdanovich was approached but he also declined the offer because he was not interested in the mafia. In addition, Richard Brooks, Sidney J. Furie, Costa-Gavras, Lewis Gilbert, Larry Peerce, Otto Preminger, Franklin J. Schaffner and Fred Zinnemann were all offered the position, but declined.
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Screenwriter Robert Towne did uncredited work on the script, particularly on the garden scene between Vito and Michael.
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When Vito was getting fruit, there's a poster in the background promoting a boxing match with Jake La Motta. Robert de Niro, who played Vito in The Godfather Part II, would go on to play Jake La Motta in Raging Bull (1980).
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Franco Nero met with Francis Ford Coppola in London over playing Sollozzo.
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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.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

During filming, James Caan and Gianni Russo did not get along and were frequently at loggerheads. During filming Sonny's beating of Carlo, Caan nearly hit Russo with the stick he threw at him, and actually broke two of Russo's ribs and chipped his elbow.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Body count: 18 (including the horse).
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.
To add suspense to the scene where Michael shoots Sollozzo and McCluskey, there are several instances in that scene where Michael fails to follow Clemenza's instructions. Clemenza tells him to "come out blasting" after retrieving the gun, instead he sits down and continues to listen to Sollozzo. Clemenza tells him "two shots in the head apiece." Michael kills Sollozzo with a single shot, then fails to kill McCluskey with the first shot, requiring a second. Clemenza tells him "don't look nobody in the eye, but don't look away neither." Michael actually makes eye contact with several patrons in the restaurant. Clemenza tells him to "drop the gun right away." Michael actually takes several steps with the gun still in his hand before he drops it. Finally, Clemenza instructs him to let the gun drop from his fingers so people will still think he has it. Michael flicks the gun away as though he'd forgotten to leave it.
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.
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. 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.
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. In fact, he reaches across the table to grab it, indicating that he will "cross" the Corleones;


  • 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 garroted 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. In Paulie's first scene, he gives Clemenza a pitcher of wine with oranges floating in it. Clemenza, who tells him to "do his job," also takes him on the drive where he is killed for not doing his job faithfully.
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.
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.
The relationship between Francis Ford Coppola and Gordon Willis was highly combustible. They would often have screaming rows, with a few broken props as a result. After one incident, such a loud noise exploded from Coppola's office that the crew thought that Coppola had shot himself (he had only broken a door). They also conflicted because Willis was very hard on the actors about hitting their marks - with his low lighting scheme, if they missed, they would be filmed in total darkness. Coppola, on the other hand, considered himself a protector of actors. He felt that he could get the most out of them by nurturing them.
Don Vito Corleone died on July 29, 1955.
Sonny's death scene was inspired by the ending of Bonnie and Clyde (1967).
Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo and Captain Marc McCluskey were murdered in January 1946.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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