According to my husband, in the past two weeks, my education has become complete. You see, unbeknownst to me, two weeks ago my “movie education” was sadly lacking. Now I am complete. Why? I have just finished watching The Godfather – the entire three part saga, based on Mario Puzo’s mafia novel. Yes, I admit, in my forty years I’d never watched The Godfather trilogy. After completing the Corleone narrative, I can see why it is lauded as one of the best cinematic stories in movie history. And, why it has become a mainstream in our pop culture.
If not for The Godfather would we have had The Sopranos? Or Fat Tony on the Simpsons? Analyze This or That? Countless spoofs and references have been made on television and in movies. From such high ranking shows like Law & Order and NCIS to Saturday Night Live. If you type in “Godfather spoofs” on You Tube, you receive over 51,000 results. I finally understand the full humor of Billy Crystal’s dream sequence in Analyze This. He dreams he is Vito Corleone getting shot in the middle of the street, and Robert De Niro plays the impotent Fredo. Even as recently as this year, The Godfather was referenced in the popular comedy Modern Family, when an enemy of Luke’s wakes up next to a stuffed zebra head. You’ll also find Godfather references on the stage. There’s a one man play called The Godfadda Workout, where a guy acts all the parts, both men and women.
Since I don’t live in a hole, prior to viewing the complete saga, I knew many of the famous Godfather lines and references. Like many who haven’t seen the movies, I may not have known which character to have attributed them to, but I’ve been known to throw some of them out on occasion. One of my favorites is Pacino’s, “Just when I think I’m out-they pull me back in.” Other favorites include:
- “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
- “It’s not personal, it’s business.”
- “Luca Brazzi sleeps with the fishes.”
- “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”
- “Go to the mattresses.”
What surprised me most, was the incredible diversity of the cast, a bunch of young whipper snappers barely known, playing against Hollywood icons. I knew Brando played the Don, and that Pacino and De Niro were in the films, but that was about it. I didn’t realize the cast was as far reaching to include the likes of Duvall, Keaton, Caan, Kirby, Vagoda, and other movie legends, too many to list. In the opening party scene of the first film, I leaned over to my husband and naively asked, “Who’s playing Michael?” He looked at me like I’d grown a second head. “That’s Pacino, honey.” “Seriously?” “Seriously.” In the first film, Pacino’s voice was young and untried. It deepened to a man’s voice by the second, and changed again to a gravelly smoker’s voice by the third. It’s the reason I didn’t recognize it initially. The gravelly smoker’s voice and craggy face I knew from today, was unrecognizable to me in handsome young Michael’s face.
The Godfather is widely recognized as the quintessential MOB movie that changed the history of how modern audiences view organized crime, and how mafia movies are formulated. The compelling story has tentacled its way into modern culture. Did Coppola realize, in 1972, the impact his movie would have on generations of movie goers and TV watchers? Perhaps he got a hint when it won three Oscars for the first, and six for the second movie. The third film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, but won none of them. And though many people poo-poo the third film, I found it an exceptional wrap up of the life of Michael Corleone. A man initially estranged from the “family business,” who becomes one of the most despicably ruthless MOB bosses ever. A man who struggles to keep his family, and those he loves, in his sphere of influence, and in the end alienates all of them and dies alone. Neither murdered by his enemies, nor surrounded by what’s left of his family. A fitting end for a fascinating but merciless character?
I’m glad my cinematic education is complete. Now, I can fully appreciate Godfather references and be a part of those in the know. Tell me, what’s your favorite Godfather line? Is there a scene that sticks in your mind? Even if you haven’t seen the movie, do you understand the references? Do you think it’s one of the best sagas ever made?