OK, I’ll just come right out and say it: I never understood the fuss about The Godfather.
As a supposed critique of capitalism/the American Dream/family values and relations, it’s pretty tame. Nobody comes away from watching The Godfather going, “Wow, the scales have certainly fallen from my eyes!”
No, they say, “Heh — ‘leave the gun, take the canolli‘! That was hilarious, dude!!”
Except it wasn’t hilarious. What does it even mean? Taking the canolli I get, but leaving the gun? Are you an idiot?
And note to the director: the past wasn’t actually sepia, m’kay?
Plus one minute, Michael is all “I hate my father’s business” and the next, he’s the new crime lord. Why??? Crappy character development.
Yes, I am prejudiced. If I want to see a bunch of loud Italians hugging and yelling I’ll move back to Hamilton.
Admit it: The Godfather isn’t that great a movie. If you dig the macho vibe and the violence and the atmospherics and the exotic touches, just admit it.
But don’t excuse your affection for this workmanlike soap opera by calling it the greatest film of all time.
Anyway, this article by Mario Puzo provides a disenchanting peek into a typical professional writer’s life and mind. Sorry in advance if this makes you think any less of us:
I was 45 years old and tired of being an artist. Besides, I owed $20,000 to relatives, finance companies, banks, and assorted bookmakers and shylocks. It was time to grow up and sell out, as Lenny Bruce once advised.
Naturally, as soon as I got my hands on their money, I didn’t work on the book. (Luckily part of the advance was payable on the handing in of the complete manuscript or I would never have finished it.) The thing is, I didn’t really want to write The Godfather. It took me three years to finish.
I’m ashamed to admit that I wrote it entirely from research. I never met a real, honest-to-God gangster. I knew the gambling world pretty well, but that’s all.
I finally had to finish The Godfather in July 1968 because I needed the final $1,200 advance payment to take my wife and kids to Europe. My wife had not seen her family for 20 years, and I had promised her that this was the year, so I handed in the rough manuscript. Before leaving for Europe, I told my publisher not to show the book to anybody; it had to be polished.
When we finally got home, I owed $8,000 on credit cards. I wasn’t worried. If the worst came to the worst, we could always sell our house. Or I could go to jail. Hell, better writers had gone to jail. No sweat.
Earlier that year, my agent had called to ask that I come to meet John Foreman, who produced most of the Paul Newman movies. John Foreman was dynamic. For three hours he talked about my book – how he loved it, how he was determined to do it as a movie. He quoted all the best parts. He liked all the right things. The movie was definitely on. He said he would call my agent the next day and arrange the financial details of the contract.
Nobody ever heard from him again.
The best part of the story for me was the way Puzo’s “normal” family just doesn’t “get” what a big deal The Godfather is, and refuses to believe that someone is paying him (their silly little Mario) $400,000 — “no Momma, not $40,000!!” — for the MS.
A writer’s family is dreadful tiresome thing. Mine are all dead now. I get a LOT more work done.