The Godfather is a 1972 American crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by Albert S. Ruddy, based on Mario Puzo’s best-selling novel of the same name.
Let’s find out some intriguing facts about it!
1. It stars Marlon Brando and Al Pacino as the leaders of a fictional New York crime family. The story, spanning 1945 to 1955, chronicles the family under the patriarch Vito Corleone, focusing on the transformation of Michael Corleone (Pacino) from reluctant family outsider to ruthless mafia boss.
2. Paramount Pictures obtained the rights to the novel before it gained popularity for the price of $80,000. Studio executives had trouble finding a director, as their first few candidates turned down the position. They and Coppola disagreed over who would play several characters, in particular Vito and Michael.
3. Filming was done on location and completed earlier than scheduled. The musical score was composed primarily by Nino Rota with additional pieces by Carmine Coppola.
4. The film was the highest-grossing film of 1972 and was for a time the highest-grossing film ever made.
5. It won the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor (Brando) and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Puzo and Coppola). Its seven other Oscar nominations included Pacino, James Caan, and Robert Duvall for Best Supporting Actor and Coppola for Best Director.
6. It was followed by sequels The Godfather Part II (1974) and The Godfather Part III (1990).
7. The Godfather is widely regarded as one of the greatest films in world cinema and one of the most influential, especially in the gangster genre.
8. It was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 1990, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and is ranked the second-greatest film in American cinema (behind Citizen Kane) by the American Film Institute.
9. In the film’s opening scene, Vito is famously seen holding a cat. Amazingly this was a stray – there was no cat in the original script. Francis Ford Coppola found it while walking through the lot at Paramount Studios and wrote it into the movie. Its ludicrously loud purring muffled some of Brando’s lines, which meant they had to be looped over.
10. Critically regarded as the best film of all time, The Godfather only ranks second in terms of highest ratings on the Internet Movie Database. Surprisingly, The Shawshank Redemption is the only film to rank higher by viewers on IMDB.
11. The Godfather, despite being a bestselling novel, was not a hot property when Paramount decided to make it into a film. In fact, 12 directors turned down the job, including Sergio Leone and Peter Bagdanovich.
12. 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. 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 Francis Ford Coppola’s father Carmine Coppola is the piano player.
13. Even the man who would go on to direct the film to fame and fortune, Francis Ford Coppola, turned the picture down at first. However, he was going through great financial difficulty at the time and reconsidered.
14. 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 and Serpico after The Godfather, Pacino managed to command a $600,000 salary for The Godfather: Part II, as well as a 10 percent cut of the movie’s adjusted-gross income.
15. There are a host of ‘almost cast’ stories but perhaps the biggest is that Orson Welles lobbied to get the part of Don Vito Corleone, offering to lose a good deal of weight in order to get the role. Francis Ford Coppola, a huge Welles fan, had to turn him down because his mind was set on Brando.
16. Coppola was almost fired after only one week of shooting due to an injury to Al Pacino and falling disastrously behind schedule.
17. Associate Producer Gary Fredrickson once said that Lenny Montana (Luca Brasi – pictured) told him he had worked as a Mafia bodyguard and arsonist.
18. Paramount wanted the movie to appeal to a wider audience, so they hired a “violence coach” to help add more blood and guts and bruises to the picture to appeal to…people who want more blood and guts and bruises, apparently.
19. James Caan and Al Pacino were only ten years younger than the American Jazz singer Morgana King, who played their mother. John Cazale (Fredo) was only five years younger than her.
20. Apparently, Brando agreed to play Vito Corleone on the condition that Burt Reynolds – who was being considered for Sonny – would, no longer be considered for Sonny. Brando saw poor old Burt as more of a TV star.
21. Αt that time there was probably no more violent scene in film history than Sonny Corleone’s death in the film. It was the most expensive shot in the movie, costing $100,000. In fact, James Caan wore 127 blood-filled explosive squibs on this body to simulate bullets hitting him.
22. 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.
23. Brando spent three hours in make-up every day being fitted with the steel-bar dentures that sat below and in front of his lower teeth, with blobs of resin (known as ‘plumpers’) at either end to give him that imperious jawline.
24. James Caan also wore dental prosthetics for his role as Sonny Corleone. His ‘fangs’ were built up using quick-setting acrylic to make him look more animalistic.
25. “Mario Puzo had invented the term ‘The Godfather’ for the novel. It didn’t exist,” said author of The Godfather Effect Tom Santopietro. That’s not all that was invented by Puzo. According to Francis Ford Coppola, the term “Don Corleone” is wrong. In Italian, addressing someone as “Don” is the same as addressing them as “Uncle” in English. Correct usage would be “Don Michael” or “Don Vito”. Coppola says that Mario Puzo, who couldn’t speak Italian, made up the idea of using “Don” with a person’s last name and it stuck, totally transcending The Godfather.
26. The film received near-universal praise from critics and viewers. Another genius film director, Stanley Kubrick, said he thought The Godfather was the greatest film ever made.
27. In 1977 created a TV movie version of The Godfather and its sequel that pieced the scenes together in chronological order. It was called The Godfather Saga.