#2) The Godfather (1972) – Part II

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Previously on #2) The Godfather (1972)… 

Other notes

  • The second half is when James Caan and Robert Duvall really get to shine. Caan has the flashier part, and most of his scenes were cut, but he is a joy to watch as he fully inhabits Sonny. Duvall doesn’t get a lot to do, but he makes the most of it, and the scenes where Tom and Sonny are at each other’s throats feel like a release for the character rather than unnecessary theatrics. The only better performance these two gave was pretending to be happy Joel Grey won their Oscar.
  • The scenes in Sicily offer a literal change of scenery for the film. That being said, Michael and Apollonia have one of the weirder “How We Met” stories. Side note: Simonette Stefanelli was 16 during production. Ick.
  • How long has Connie been pregnant? I’m expecting her to birth an elephant at the end.
  • The scenes of Carlo beating up Connie could not have been fun to shoot, especially if your brother is directing the scene. Thanksgiving at the Coppola household must have been rough that year.
  • And this is why people hate tollbooths. If only Sonny had FasTrak.
  • I think this movie’s alternate title was “A Comprehensive Guide to Ethnic Slurs”.
  • Diane Keaton tries her best, but I just don’t understand why Kay would still want to be with Michael. He’s given her plenty of red flags regarding the family business, and he was back in America for a year before he contacted her. Oh, and HE MARRIED ANOTHER WOMAN. Maybe it’s fleshed out more in the novel, but I question Kay’s motives.
  • Among the film’s other counts of “Seriously, Oscars” are the lack of nominations for Art Direction and Cinematography. Though it turns out that snubbing the brilliant camerawork of Gordon Willis would become an annual tradition at the Oscars (he was only nominated twice – “Zelig” and “The Godfather Part III” – before finally receiving an honorary Oscar in 2009).
  • The juxtaposition between the baptism and the five families being taken out is always a compelling viewing experience. Apparently it didn’t come together until Bach’s “Prelude and Fugue in D major” was added in. Did Bach score any other films?
  • That last shot always gives me chills. There was one final scene in the original cut (Kay praying for Michael in a church, the final scene in the novel), but ending it with the door closing is the perfect choice. Best “Searchers” homage ever.

Legacy

  • “The Godfather” immediately became a runaway hit and a cultural milestone in film. Many filmmakers have cited “The Godfather” as an influence on their careers, but the film did, however, further the stereotype of all Italians being shady mobsters. As someone of Italian descent I am here to tell you; it’s easier to connect me to Kevin Bacon than to the mob.
  • Early response to the film was so strong, a sequel was commissioned before the first one was released. Coppola and Puzo took a subplot from the novel about young Vito’s rise to power, fleshed it out with an original plotline continuing Michael’s dealings in Nevada, and bada-bing, the best sequel ever made.
  • The less said about “The Godfather Part III”, the better.
  • This is the movie that put Francis Ford Coppola on the map, so we have “The Godfather” to blame for “Captain EO”.
  • Everybody’s career benefited from the success of “The Godfather”. Pacino, Duvall, and Keaton all became Oscar winners/screen legends, Caan spent the ‘70s as a movie star and has been in demand ever since, Shire went on to become “Yo, Adrian” in “Rocky”, and Brando…kept on being Brando.
  • Speaking of, Brando rarely talked about his participation in “The Godfather”, but did take the time to spoof his own performance in 1990’s “The Freshman” (not the Harold Lloyd one).
  • “The Godfather” premiered on TV in November 1974, a month before “Part II” hit theaters. In November 1977, both films were re-edited in chronological order with over an hour of additional footage to become the miniseries “The Godfather: A Novel for Television”.
  • Mario Puzo wrote a few follow-up novels that took place in and around the events of the film. The first novel, 1984’s “The Sicilian”, occurs during Michael’s exile in Sicily. The subsequent film version deleted Michael for copyright reasons, and like many a Michael Cimino film, “The Sicilian” was critically savaged, but not without its supporters.
  • For the film’s widespread influence on popular culture, see “Scorsese, The Films of Martin”.
  • Of course without “The Godfather” we wouldn’t have “The Sopranos”. The strip club Tony Soprano conducted business in was called the “Bada Bing”, after James Caan’s line in the film.
  • So many parodies, where to begin? I’ve always been partial to Dom DeLuise’s cameo in “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”.
  • “The Simpsons” has spoofed “The Godfather” many times, including once with special guest star James Caan.
  • One of my personal favorites is this sketch from “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” featuring Robert Duvall and Conan regular Abe Vigoda.
  • Practically every line from “The Godfather” has been quoted and referenced, many of them becoming part of our lexicon. Look no further than 1998’s “You’ve Got Mail”.
  • It amazes me how many films in the Registry inspired video games. “The Godfather” made its way to Xbox and PlayStation 2 in 2006, with Duvall, Caan, Vigoda, and a posthumous Brando all reprising their roles. Both Coppola and the Mario Puzo estate expressed their dislike of the project.
  • And last but not least, the infamous horse’s head (a real head purchased from a dog food company) was auctioned off in 2013 for upwards of $30,000. The photo used for the lot description is the one I use for the blog.

Further Listening: Special mention to “Che La Luna Mezzo Mare”, the song Mama Corleone sings at Connie’s wedding. The Lou Monte recording is the closest I ever got to embracing my Italian heritage as a child. Enjoy.

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