Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Reel 40

“I believe in America…”

This week marks the 40th anniversary of THE GODFATHER

In the late 1960’s, the movie industry was dying. Most of the major motion picture studios, including Paramount Pictures, were desperate for a big hit; a hit that would save their own assess while re-installing confidence in the American movie-going public.

Part of the problem in Hollywood those days dealt with a stale environment for filmmakers. Frustrated by such a stifling creative atmosphere, a group of experimental filmmakers which included Francis Ford Coppola and his friend George Lucas, founded their own independent studio which would inspire creative and unconventional approaches to filmmaking.

Approached by Paramount to direct an adaptation of Mario Puzo’s novel, Coppola initially turned down the offer. With THE GODFATHER being a violent story of mafia crime bosses, Coppola, an Italian-American himself, did not want to paint his heritage in a negative light. However, Coppola was convinced by Lucas to take the plunge. Desperate for a money-making hit, Paramount put immense pressure on Coppola during casting and filming, and the director was nearly fired many times. However, Coppola eventually won out on many important decisions; including the casting of Marlon Brando and setting the film in the correct time period, 1945 to 1955.

With a now historic ensemble cast which included Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, and Abe Vigoda, THE GODFATHER was a hit and eventually became a milestone in movie history. It was nominated for eleven Oscars, winning three, including Best Picture. It was selected for preservation in the United States Film Registry in 1990, and is regarded as the second greatest film in American cinematic history; second only to CITIZEN KANE. THE GODFATHER brought greatness back into film, virtually saving the industry and serving as the model for all future crime dramas; GOODFELLAS, THE DEPARTED, and the TV series THE SOPRANOS can all trace their roots back to THE GODFATHER.


Having grown up in a whimsical movie world with thrilling adventures in the forms of STAR WARS and Indiana Jones, this Blogger did not catch up with THE GODFATHER until much later; the film always seemed too dark, too grown-up, and nearly too scary. It wasn’t until college and that Film 101 class where this Blogger was introduced to the film, which then began a new appreciation for movies and provided a method of film and story de-construction. More than a crime drama, THE GODFATHER presents strong themes of loyalty and family in ways that thousands of films have tried and failed to match. It is timeless and important, and always makes us believe in the movies.

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