The Godfather (the film)
On a date with my soon to be bride, we went to a quiet out of the way bar for a drink and some small talk. We followed that with dinner at the very first T.G.I. Friday’s in Dallas. Then, the Pièce de résistance, a movie at our local theater titled, “The Godfather”.
This was the year 1972 and many things would happen that year, but, the most important thing that happened in 1972 was the release of The Godfather and my marriage….. not necessarily in that order.
Together, we and The Godfather have turned 40.
Ironically, The Godfather would turn out to be my very favorite film of all time and I still feel the same way today……40 years later. It would be my wife’s second favorite film following Gone With the Wind. Not a bad choice! Of course, my second favorite is Godfather II. The wife and I will watch both of the Godfather films every time we get the chance. (Forget about Godfather III.) They just never get old. Like our marriage, they have lasted forty years and still have a stranglehold on the viewing public.
The introduction to Vito Corleone, alias The Godfather, was beyond magnificent! Can you imagine anyone else playing this role? Marlon Brando drew from deep within his inner soul to bring forth this performance that stands alone in the annals of movie history.
The almost non-understandable speech barely sneaking out from between his lips made you sit up and strain to hear. You surely did not want to miss anything. This soft, but, sure manner of talking was simply Brando's way of drawing you in. Brando stuffed cotton into his mouth to give the appearance of an older, heavier Vito and to change his voice just enough to carry the Sicilian accent.
He was always looking down when being talked to. It was his way of making the other person work harder to maintain his attention. It reminded me of Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca. She always had her eyes lowered and would look up without moving her head. It seemed a dramatic way to communicate her control of the conversation and so it was with Vito Corleone.
Brando's mannerisms were simply perfection. The rubbing of his fingers upward against his cheek was something he came up with on his own. Brilliant!
In the aftermath of it all, Vito Corleone would always be their Godfather.
Sonny.........Oh, my God what a performance! James Caan almost stole the show with his raw, devilish portrayal of the oldest son, Sonny Corleone. What a temper! He would be loving, even kissing on his brother and then abruptly burst into anger and pound his fist into a wall, or, in one case into his brother-in-law. He had quick and hot liaisons with other women than his wife that imitated his abrupt personality changes.
Sonny would have temporary control of the "Family" after his father was gunned down in the street and would take over with a vengeance. This was not the style of Vito Corleone. It would prove fatal for Sonny when he lay bullet riddled in the street after hundreds of bullets pierced his body in an extensively brutal and real scene.
John Cazale was the middle brother and nothing like his sibling brothers. He was weak, indecisive and untrustworthy. He would be simply a brother and left to do minor jobs for the family. However, his performance was terrific and unforgettable as Fredo. His brothers and sister loved him, but, never put a lot of faith into his place in the family business.
Cazale's acting life is a story to itself. He only played in five films before his untimely death from cancer. The two Godfather films, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon and The Deer Hunter would all be nominated for Best Picture and three of them would win the coveted prize. That may well be a unique feat in movie history.
Al Pacino brilliantly played the youngest brother, Michael Corleone. This is an intriguing son who walked the straight and narrow path unlike his brothers. He was college educated. He was polished. He dated a non-Italian/Sicilian girl and he was a war hero.
Suddenly, with very little thought after the shooting of his father, Mikey volunteers to sit at a meeting with an opposing family leader and a bad cop and shoot the both of them at point blank. Sonny was laughing and kissing his little brother as if it were all a joke. But, Mikey was serious and convinced his brother that he could do the job.
After exiling himself for over a year to Sicily while the heat cooled down, Michael returns after learning of Sonny's death and takes over the family business. Even though he is the youngest, there is no way that Fredo can handle such a powerful position. Michael surprises the entire family with his metamorphosis into the hard and ruthless, yet calm Godfather.
And, let me not forget the sound track. Simply amazing! It just goes on and on in my mind. My golfing buddies have to tell me to quit humming it. I am overwhelmed with this great musical score that carried throughout the film and brought every scene more significance.
A must see film for all who are not objectionable to violence.