The Godfather is a 1972 American crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who co-wrote the screenplay with Mario Puzo, based on Puzo's best-selling 1969 novel of the same title. The film stars Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Conte, and Diane Keaton. It is the first installment in The Godfather trilogy, chronicling the Corleone family under patriarch Vito Corleone (Brando) from 1945 to 1955. It focuses on the transformation of his youngest son, Michael Corleone (Pacino), from reluctant family outsider to ruthless mafia boss.
The Godfather premiered at the Loew's State Theatre on March 14, 1972, and was widely released in the United States on March 24, 1972. It was the highest-grossing film of 1972, and was for a time the highest-grossing film ever made, earning between $250 and $291 million at the box office. The film received universal acclaim from critics and audiences, with praise for the performances, particularly those of Brando and Pacino, direction, screenplay, cinematography, editing, score, and portrayal of the mafia. The Godfather acted as a catalyst for the successful careers of Coppola, Pacino, and other relative newcomers in the cast and crew. The film also revitalized Brando's career, which had declined in the 1960s, and he went on to star in films such as Last Tango in Paris, Superman, and Apocalypse Now. At the 45th Academy Awards, the film won Best Picture, Best Actor (Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Puzo and Coppola). In addition, the seven other Oscar nominations included Pacino, Caan, and Duvall all for Best Supporting Actor, and Coppola for Best Director.
The Godfather is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential films ever made, as well as a landmark of the gangster genre. 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. It was followed by sequels The Godfather Part II (1974) and The Godfather Part III (1990).
Devastated by Sonny's death and tired of war, Vito sets a meeting with the Five Families. He assures them that he will withdraw his opposition to their narcotics business and forgo avenging Sonny's murder. His safety guaranteed, Michael returns home to enter the family business and marry Kay. Kay gives birth to two children in the early 1950s. With his father nearing the end of his life and Fredo not suited to lead, Michael assumes the position of head of the Corleone family. Vito reveals to Michael that it was Don Barzini who ordered the hit on Sonny and warns him that Barzini would try to kill him at a meeting organized by a traitorous Corleone capo. With Vito's support, Michael relegates Hagen to managing operations in Las Vegas as he is not a "wartime consigliere". Michael travels to Las Vegas to buy out Greene's stake in the family's casinos and is dismayed to see that Fredo is more loyal to Greene than to his own family.
In 1955, Vito dies of a heart attack while playing with his grandchild. At Vito's funeral, Tessio asks Michael to meet with Barzini, signaling his betrayal. The meeting is set for the same day as the baptism of Connie's baby. While Michael stands at the altar as the child's godfather, Corleone hitmen murder the dons of the Five Families, plus Greene, and Tessio is executed (offscreen) for his treachery. Michael extracts Carlo's confession to playing a part in Sonny's murder, assuring Carlo he is only being exiled, not murdered; afterward, Clemenza garrotes Carlo. Connie confronts Michael about Carlo's death while Kay is in the room. Kay asks Michael if Connie is telling the truth and is relieved when he denies it. As Kay leaves, capos enter the office and pay reverence to Michael as "Don Corleone" before closing the door.
The film is based on Mario Puzo's The Godfather, which remained on The New York Times Best Seller list for 67 weeks and sold over nine million copies in two years. Published in 1969, it became the best selling published work in history for several years. Paramount Pictures originally found out about Puzo's novel in 1967 when a literary scout for the company contacted then Paramount Vice President of Production Peter Bart about Puzo's unfinished sixty-page manuscript titled Mafia. Bart believed the work was "much beyond a Mafia story" and offered Puzo a $12,500 option for the work, with an option for $80,000 if the finished work were to be made into a film. Despite Puzo's agent telling him to turn down the offer, Puzo was desperate for money and accepted the deal. Paramount's Robert Evans relates that, when they met in early 1968, he offered Puzo the deal after the author confided in him that he urgently needed $10,000 to pay off gambling debts.
Before The Godfather was in production, Paramount had been going through an unsuccessful period. In addition to the failure of The Brotherhood, other recent films that were produced or co-produced by Paramount had greatly exceeded their budgets: Darling Lili, Paint Your Wagon, and Waterloo. The budget for the film was originally $2.5 million but as the book grew in popularity Coppola argued for and ultimately received a larger budget.[N 1] Paramount executives wanted the movie to be set in contemporary Kansas City and shot in the studio backlot in order to cut down on costs. Coppola objected and wanted to set the movie in the same time period as the novel, the 1940s and 1950s; Coppola's reasons included: Michael Corleone's Marine Corps stint, the emergence of corporate America, and America in the years after World War II. The novel was becoming increasingly successful and so Coppola's wishes were eventually granted. The studio heads subsequently let Coppola film on location in New York City and Sicily.
Gulf+Western executive Charles Bluhdorn was frustrated with Coppola over the number of screen tests he had performed without finding a person to play the various roles. Production quickly fell behind because of Coppola's indecisiveness and conflicts with Paramount, which led to costs being around $40,000 per day. With costs rising, Paramount had then-Vice President Jack Ballard keep a close eye on production expenses. While filming, Coppola stated that he felt he could be fired at any point as he knew Paramount executives were not happy with many of the decisions he had made. Coppola was aware that Evans had asked Elia Kazan to take over directing the film because he feared that Coppola was too inexperienced to cope with the increased size of the production. Coppola was also convinced that the film editor, Aram Avakian, and the assistant director, Steve Kestner, were conspiring to get him fired. Avakian complained to Evans that he could not edit the scenes correctly because Coppola was not shooting enough footage. Evans was satisfied with the footage being sent to the West Coast and authorized Coppola to fire them both. Coppola later explained: "Like the godfather, I fired people as a preemptory strike. The people who were angling the most to have me fired, I had fired." Brando threatened to quit if Coppola was fired.
Paramount wanted The Godfather to appeal to a wide audience and threatened 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.
Puzo was first to show interest in having Marlon Brando portray Don Vito Corleone by sending a letter to Brando in which he stated Brando was the "only actor who can play the Godfather". Despite Puzo's wishes, the executives at Paramount were against having Brando, partly because of the poor performance of his recent films and also his short temper. Coppola favored Brando or Laurence Olivier for the role, but Olivier's agent refused the role claiming Olivier was sick; however, Olivier went on to star in Sleuth later that year. The studio mainly pushed for Ernest Borgnine to receive the part. Others considered were George C. Scott, Richard Conte, Anthony Quinn and Orson Welles. Welles was Paramount's preferred choice for the role.
From the start of production, Coppola wanted Robert Duvall to play the part of Tom Hagen. After screen testing several other actors, Coppola eventually got his wish and Duvall was awarded the part. Al Martino, a then famed singer in nightclubs, was notified of the character Johnny Fontane by a friend who read the novel and felt Martino represented the character of Johnny Fontane. Martino then contacted producer Albert S. Ruddy, who gave him the part. However, Martino was stripped of the part after Coppola became director and then awarded the role to singer Vic Damone. According to Martino, after being stripped of the role, he went to Russell Bufalino, his godfather and a crime boss, who then orchestrated the publication of various news articles that claimed Coppola was unaware of Ruddy giving Martino the part. Damone eventually dropped the role because he did not want to provoke the mob, in addition to being paid too little. Ultimately, the part of Johnny Fontane was given to Martino.
Robert De Niro originally was given the part of Paulie Gatto. A spot in The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight opened up after Al Pacino quit the project in favor of The Godfather, which led De Niro to audition for the role and leave The Godfather after receiving the part. De Niro also cast for the role of Sonny Corleone. After De Niro quit, Johnny Martino was given the role of Gatto. Coppola cast Diane Keaton for the role of Kay Adams owing to her reputation for being eccentric. John Cazale was given the part of Fredo Corleone after Coppola saw him perform in an Off Broadway production. Gianni Russo was given the role of Carlo Rizzi after he was asked to perform a screen test in which he acted out the fight between Rizzi and Connie. 041b061a72