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Godfather, The: 50th Anniversary

Running Time

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Godfather, The: 50th Anniversary

Running Time

2hrs 55min

Godfather, The: 50th Anniversary

Running Time

2hrs 55min


This was the first event movie of the 70s, the one multitudes queued up to see, the one whose dialogue, characters and imagery instantly became ingrained in the collective consciousness. It made stars of Pacino and Caan, won Oscars for Picture, Screenplay and Brando, in a triumphant comeback. Shortly after its premiere in 1972 Variety reported, "The Godfather is an historic smash of unprecedented proportions". Not since Warner Brothers crime cycle of the 30s had the underworld so captured the public imagination. Fingering the story's irresistibility, Mario Puzos best-selling novel was, the author considered modestly, "A great combination, the family story and a crime story. And also I made them out to be good guys except they committed murder once in a while". In adapting the book with Puzo, Coppola had a darker, ultimately more profound take: "I looked at it as the story of a king with three sons." It is pulp fiction turned into opera, an epic of gangster patriarchy, of family, of America itself. "I believe in America," are the first words in the film, spoken by the undertaker Bonasera, an immigrant proud of his assimilation and enrichment. But, he says, "for justice we must go to Don Corleone." This landmark remains a masterly work, fully deserving of its reputation. Coppola can be credited with laying the groundwork of 70s cinema with his commanding technical engineering and his audacious, visceral and stately set-pieces (the horses head in the bed, the slaughter of Sonny which Coppola acknowledges was inspired by Arthur Penns climax to Bonnie And Clyde, the interweaving of the sunny wedding party with Don Corleones court indoors, the progress of Michaels respectful Sicilian courtship of Apollonia contrasted with Connie and Carlos explosive domestic life, and, most unforgettably, the dazzling finale of assassinations - that will make Michael undisputed Godfather - carried out against the sacramental rites in which he assumes the role of godfather). But the films finest qualities also reveal Coppolas fluency in the classics, from the superior pulp of the 30s, into 40s noir and social dramas. His authoritative grip on an ordered, fastidiously constructed narrative, Dean Tavoularis richly detailed design, the weight given to a fabulous supporting ensemble (Robert Duvall, Richard Conte, John Cazale, Castellano, Alex Rocco et al.), Gordon Willis striking cinematography, Nino Rotas beautifully melodic score. The one enduring criticism of The Godfather is that it glorifies the Mafia, affection mingled with abhorrence in its expression of the acts and ethos of Vito Corleone and his extended criminal family. The identification - both Coppolas and the audiences - with Pacinos Michael is unreserved. And cold, ruthless, logical Michael is definitely not the "pretty good guy" it amused Puzo to characterise him as. The Godfather continues to entice and entrance, however, for its emphatically mythic exploration of family, be it one cursed in blood and ambition.


Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire


Francis Ford Coppola



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