“Play It Again” is a series devoted to the review of great American films before 1980.
The Godfather, 1972 – Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
The Godfather was instantly recognized by both audiences and critics as a magnificent film, nominated for nine Oscars and won Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Writing of a Screenplay Based on Material from another medium. The film also won five Golden Globes Awards including Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Motion Picture Actor (Drama), Best Screenplay and Best Original Score.
So okay, the film won many awards, but why? All great films have some common elements that make them stick out. The Godfather hits all the marks. The story is rich, with well-developed characters, the directing was outstanding, and the acting was exceptional.
The story takes place in the years just after World War II and opens at the wedding of Connie Corleone, the daughter of the crime boss, Godfather Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando.
As the wedding celebration continues outside, the Godfather sits in his study and calmly listens to requests for assistance from desperate men. One of whom is Johnny Fontaine, a famous singer and wannabe actor. He asks the Godfather for help. Johnny wants the leading role in an upcoming movie being produced by Jack Woltz, a no-nonsense studio head in Los Angeles. The Godfather tells Johnny that he will make Jack Woltz an offer he can’t refuse. When Jack Woltz rudely declines the offer from the Godfather, he wakes up with the head of his prized stallion at the foot of his bed.
The Godfather’s youngest son, Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, attends the wedding dressed in his Marine Corps uniform and introduces his girlfriend, Kay Adams, played by Diane Keaton, to the Corleone family. The Godfather’s oldest son, Sonny, played by James Caan, escapes the watchful eyes of his wife to spend a little alone time with his mistress just upstairs from the wedding party. Virgil “the Turk” Sollozzo, backed by the Tattaglia crime family, asks the Godfather for an investment and protection for his narcotics business. The Godfather declines, not wanting to get involved in the nasty drug business. The Godfather sends his most trusted man, Luca Brasi, to spy on The Turk. Luca is caught and killed. The Corleone family than receives two dead fish wrapped in the bullet-proof vest of Brasi, a Sicilian message meaning Luca “sleeps with the fishes.”
The Turk later orders the Godfather gunned down in the street, but the Godfather lives and is taken to the hospital to recover. The Captain of the NYPD, who is also Turk’s personal bodyguard, plans an attempt to kill the Godfather in the hospital. Michael Corleone arrives at the hospital, suspicious when he finds the hospital nearly empty with none of the bodyguards in place. Michael plots and successfully kills both the Turk and the Captain, with the hope of settling the dispute. After the hit, Michael must escape to Sicily. Sonny Corleone takes over the family business, and the five crime families erupt into open warfare. Sonny is later ambushed and killed, making Michael Corleone the new Godfather.
The Godfather is one of those classic films ingrained in our culture. The film was honored in 1990, when it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being deemed, culturally, historically and aesthetically significant.
You owe it to yourself to watch this great American film. Also, the Godfather Part II (1974), is the best sequel in American film history, having won many awards of its own. I strongly recommend that you treat yourself, and your “family” to a Godfather double feature. Enjoy and play it again.