When speaking of great cinema, one cannot go without mentioning “The Godfather”. Withstanding the test of time, it continues to entice new generations. A true classic, the film was able to translate the core of Mario Puzo’s novel exceptionally well onto the big screen.
The family business or “Cosa Nostra” and the crimes instigated in the name of honor and power depicted in the film gave us a glimpse into the way things are run in this Sicilian clan. All the characters were played astoundingly well by the actors in the films, which I think is what gives the trilogy that smooth flow. There’s not one character I see and say, “Oh, that should’ve been played by so and so”. They were for the most part all high caliber performances. Brando as the mob boss Vito Corleone exudes respectability despite the business he’s in. You really can’t feel contempt for the guy. Somehow all his actions seem justified.
In the second installment, Robert De Niro played Don Vito in his youth and we get to see his initiation into the mafia. You cheer for the guy, even though what he does is illegal. He gives to the poor, protects those that can’t stand up for themselves, like when he had a ‘talk’ with the old lady’s landlord. Impossible not to like the guy, despite the fact! De Niro in all his Italian maleness effortlessly carries the character.
Now Al Pacino’s Michael is someone who you love and hate. Torn between living a normal, American life and his obligation as a good son he chooses the latter. We all know that in this family duty and loyalty come first. After the murder attempt on Don Vito it was impossible for him not to make that descent into the gritty mobster scene. He was the obvious choice since neither Sonny (James Caan) nor Fredo (John Cazale) had the smarts to take over the family business.
Once he marries Kay, played by Diane Keaton, the drama escalates. She was basically dragged into a life she didn’t ask for, by her husband of all people. With two children, she is infuriated with Michael for risking their lives and exposing them to such a violent world. The scene where she tells him she’s leaving him and on top of that lets him know she aborted a male son is so powerful. Him deciding not to let her see their children makes him pretty despicable, it’s exasperating that he can’t see her point of view. And then you think, well what can the poor guy do, he is his father’s son after all. Unlike his father though, in the end Michael dies alone.
A family affair onscreen and off, Coppola involved several of his relatives in the films. His father, Carmine Coppola composed the score, his mother played an operator on a scene that didn’t make the final cut, and his daughter Sofia made an appearance in each of the three films. And let’s not forget his sister Talia Shire who played Connie Corleone. Her most memorable scene is when she poisons Altobello, her godfather, with a cannoli when the family learns he put a hit on Michael.
Unfortunate for some, there will not be a fourth installment. After Puzo’s death Francis Coppola expressed that he had no interest in adding another sequel. So we’ll just have to wonder what happened with Vincent (Andy Garcia) and the rest of the clan. It was rumored that Leo Di Caprio was interested in starring in the project if it ever became a reality. I personally would love to see Benicio Del Toro in it as well. Alright, that’s just wishful thinking.
The truth is, we have this amazing trilogy to enjoy for years to come. The brilliant Director/Writer team formed by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo catapulted the film to cult status. Between the two, along with an all-star cast, they crafted a masterpiece.