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Godfather trilogy: idealistic depiction of the mafia?

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  • Godfather trilogy: idealistic depiction of the mafia?

    I recently watched the Godfather Trilogy with Coppola's directors commentary. It's invaluable however it left me with the impression that a lot was improvised on the set and people decades since have extensively over-analyzed the themes of the film, including putting those that aren't there. Coppola was just 30 when he directed Godfather I and a bit older with he did II. Godfather III was a mess of sorts (with Coppola aware of it) however, it was thematically ambitious and fell very short of the mark. I and II were developed along the lines of intriguing themes however the detail and depth of his personal vision wasn't as much as people may think.


    Also striking is the difference between the tone and characterization of the film and say, Goodfellas (1990), Gotti (1996), and the Sopronos vs the Mafia in the Godfather I and II . An Italian -American interest group had to OK the script for Godfather I for anti-racism purposes.

    The mobsters in the Godfather I and II are much more emphatic (eg. You have Tom Hagen and Michael Coreleone as being college educated, cerebral men and Don Vito being presented as 95% a hero) than the mobsters of later films and shows. They don't even say much in terms of profanity and could be ordinary italian-american people rather than the over-the top thugs that have become the staple of the genre.

  • slick_miester
    replied
    Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post
    Also striking is the difference between the tone and characterization of the film and say, Goodfellas (1990), Gotti (1996), and the Sopronos vs the Mafia in the Godfather I and II . An Italian -American interest group had to OK the script for Godfather I for anti-racism purposes.
    The "Italian-American interest group" that had influence on the set of The Godfather Part 1 was the Italian-American Anti-Defamation League, Joe Colombo presiding, aka a wholly owned subsidiary of the Colombo crime family.

    On June 28, 1971, Francis Ford Coppola was putting certain finishing touches to his costly, controversial adaptation of Mario Puzo's million-seller The Godfather. That day Coppola was shooting parts of the film's famous climactic massacre, in which Michael Corleone takes power of the New York mob by executing his rivals in a blizzard of machine gun-fire and Eisensteinian cross-cutting.

    As Joe Spinell, playing one of Michael's button-men, pumped six slugs into a fictional New York mob boss trapped in a midtown hotel's revolving door, a for-real, blood-on-his-hands New York mob boss called Joe Colombo Sr, was being gunned down at an Italian-American rally in Columbus Circle, not four blocks away from Coppola's location.

    The hit was the opening salvo in a vicious gang war declared by a newly released mafia upstart and criminal visionary named Joey Gallo. But it was the end of the strange connection between Colombo (who lingered in a coma until his death in 1978) and The Godfather, a movie that couldn't have been made without Colombo's say-so. . . . .

    https://www.theguardian.com/film/2006/apr/22/mafia


    That's Joe Colombo on the right, circa 1970. The aforementioned Joey Gallo, aka Crazy Joey Gallo, used to work the docks with my grandfather.

    One of Mario Puzo's sources for his original Godfather was the testimony of Joe Valachi. I'm sure that he had other sources, like ones that claimed that La Cosa Nostra had a disdain for narcotics, which Godfather Joe Bonanno bragged about later on in his 1983 autobiography Man of Honor. To be frank, "deal and die" was bullsh*t. Yeah, some bosses said it -- like Carlo Gambino and his successor Big Paul Castellano, but they gladly took tribute from soldiers who dealt drugs, and as long as the envelopes kept coming without interruption, questions were rarely if ever asked. Bonanno was the biggest liar of the lot: him and his capo Carmine Galante went to Palermo's Grand Hotel des Palmes to arrange a new heroin trade with Sicilian mafiosi in 1957. (I visited that hotel myself in 1987, and had met Galante in 1978, about a year before he was clipped.)



    Portrayals of gangsters as pathologically violent thugs, as depicted in Goodfellas, were accurate. The real Jimmy Burke and Tommy DeSimone were brutal bastards, as scary as a day is long. A more accurate depiction still was Donnie Brasco. For the most part most wiseguys were nickel-and-dime hustlers, under-educated and really ignorant of the world outside of their local criminal elements. Airing currently on HBO is The Deuce, detailing the Gambino's involvement with Times Square's pornography industry as it existed in the 1970s. Haven't seen it myself, but believe you me, the mob was into porno up to their eyeballs.

    So in short, The Godfather's portrayal of a mafia Don being a genuine "man of honor" is pure romanticism, nothing more. The reality was a whole lot darker. With that in mind, The Godfather films should be viewed as good entertainment, not an accurate portrayal of Italian-American organized crime.

    How long have you lived in New York?

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  • Chukka
    replied
    Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post


    What was his sources for the book?

    mafia history?
    The way I understand it, it he took his own family life growing up in on the streets and Italian tenements of Hell's Kitchen in the 1920's and 30's and pasted the crime story onto it. The Godfather is a story of Family, loyalty and character, the crime just provides the setting and plot. It sounds like, apart from writing and Family, Puzo's great passion in life was Gambling, both legal and otherwise. He picked up some anecdotes and lingo from the gambling and street tough life.

    https://www.nytimes.com/1997/05/08/g...to-family.html

    A few interesting quotes from an interview link from 1997


    "''Whenever the Godfather opened his mouth,'' he writes, ''in my own mind I heard the voice of my mother.'' Mr. Puzo says ''The Fortunate Pilgrim'' began as a book about himself, but was strangely overwhelmed by his mother, who emerged as its hero. ''My mother was a wonderful, handsome woman,'' he tells me, ''but a fairly ruthless person.''

    New York's old ethnic neighborhoods were like ''contained medieval cities,'' Mr. Puzo says. Strangers were quickly ''accosted,'' so residents were never robbed. Mr. Puzo's upbringing is commemorated in the stoop he had built behind his present house, just like the one he used to bounce a ball off of. ''It's a stoop that leads nowhere!'' he hoots with delight.

    ''Teen-agers were expert hijackers back then,'' he says, recalling his mother as ''their best customer.'' In 1931, he saw the police beating and chasing a young chicken thief into their apartment, where his mother boldly screamed at them to stop. Mr. Puzo says, ''She believed he was entitled to steal the chickens, and she was entitled to buy them.''

    What he likes best is constructing scenes that show ''the operation of power,'' particularly subtle manipulations by a strong-willed figure.

    ''Except for the order to kill,'' Mr. Puzo declares, ''power is exercised in Hollywood exactly as it is in the Mafia -- except that the old Mafia had more honor.'' He calls himself ''a Romantic writer'': ''I have a sympathy for evil.'' He believes the popularity of ''The Godfather'' was due to a ''disenchantment with the American justice system,'' as well as to a craving for close family ties. ''I hate violence,'' he says, but he thinks the Mafia morally no worse than corporations that close plants and fire 50,000 workers.




    PS Fact For the day, did anyone else know that Mario Puzo Co Wrote the screenplay for Superman and Superman 2? I wonder if he came up with "Son of Jorel, Kneel before Zod"
    Last edited by Chukka; 10 Nov 18, 05:12.

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  • Cult Icon
    replied
    Originally posted by Chukka View Post
    In my Mind the book is miles better than the movie, and Mario Puzo gave one of the best literary smackdowns ever to a reporter who asked him about his mafia connections. His response;

    "I never knew anyone, I made it all up"

    What was his sources for the book?

    mafia history?

    Leave a comment:


  • Chukka
    replied
    In my Mind the book is miles better than the movie, and Mario Puzo gave one of the best literary smackdowns ever to a reporter who asked him about his mafia connections. His response;

    "I never knew anyone, I made it all up"

    Leave a comment:


  • McMax
    replied
    Members of the Mafia are the scum of the earth. They would kill their own mothers for money. That is all they care about.

    Leave a comment:


  • bill shack
    replied
    I thought that the god father was very well done. Many years later they finally got the godfather in italy and guess what he came from corleone. how did they know so much. later on i watched and still do all the other mafia movie, the goodfellas , donnie brasco, casino, and off course the sopranos, one thing that i found interesting i that the godfather of montreal vito rizzuto was later put in to an american jail for taking part in the killing of sony black . just as in the movie donnie brasco . so many coincidences

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  • Von Richter
    replied
    Play nicely youse guys...
    or some of you may...
    be sleeping widda fishes!!!


    Leave a comment:


  • Salinator
    replied
    Knock it off with the personal commentaries.

    ACG Staff

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  • Arnold J Rimmer
    replied
    Originally posted by Mountain Man View Post
    Why bother commenting at all if it's going to be another insult war? Frankly, Rimmer, your opinions are of no more value here than anyone else's. You just think you're a legend in your own mind.

    The GF Trilogy is an incredibly entertaining cinematic accomplishment and remains entertaining decades after it came out. It has achieved the status of a classic, not easy to do these days in a cinematic industry based on comic books and microsecond attention spans.
    This from the most obnoxious, self-centered poster here?

    I envy Cult his nativity. He lives in a happier world.

    Leave a comment:


  • Mountain Man
    replied
    Why bother commenting at all if it's going to be another insult war? Frankly, Rimmer, your opinions are of no more value here than anyone else's. You just think you're a legend in your own mind.

    The GF Trilogy is an incredibly entertaining cinematic accomplishment and remains entertaining decades after it came out. It has achieved the status of a classic, not easy to do these days in a cinematic industry based on comic books and microsecond attention spans.

    Leave a comment:


  • Arnold J Rimmer
    replied
    Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post
    I'm thinking more about the social skills, the mannerisms...

    I have heard that the italian mob has a mentality that they are "not so bad" and doing society a service by providing things that they need anyway (drugs, women, gambling)

    eg. the loony Joe Pesci as a "made man". Someone who is a Capo should have the skills and the personality of someone who is a survivor and has craftiness
    You do realize that John Gotti, the 'Dapper Don', was convicted of five murders? That the reason the Feds bagged him is that be was bad-mouthing his under-boss Sammy 'The Bull' on the phone and bragging about murders they had together? The Feds played the recordings for Sammy, who then wrecked the entire family and confessed to nearly 40 murders because he was angry over what Gotti said?

    Pesci did a good job, as did Depp playing Whitey. They were sociopaths.

    Your view is incredibly naive.

    Leave a comment:


  • Cult Icon
    replied
    I'm thinking more about the social skills, the mannerisms...

    I have heard that the italian mob has a mentality that they are "not so bad" and doing society a service by providing things that they need anyway (drugs, women, gambling)

    eg. the loony Joe Pesci as a "made man". Someone who is a Capo should have the skills and the personality of someone who is a survivor and has craftiness

    Leave a comment:


  • Arnold J Rimmer
    replied
    Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post
    are you a mafia scholar? I question the stuff in the mafia movies; they aren't historical reenactments.
    Yes. Casino was drawn from actual court cases. As I've already noted, the confield scene was literally taken step-by-step from transcripts.

    Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post
    In the Coppola commentary, he maintains that a major goal was authenticity; while he was precise in the props and set design he didn't emphasize the design of the characters. He did not interview and study real Mafia men and of the cast, he singled out only James Caan (Sonny) to have done so.
    If he said that, he lied. The mafia of that period is very well documented.

    Originally posted by Cult Icon View Post
    The issue is that the over the top nature is of an extent of later works is that these people would not be able to function in real life if they were so hyper-violent and animalistic. It's good entertainment but I doubt that these people would last so long in the real world with their motives so readily in display.
    Have you bothered to look at any court cases? How about Whitey, lately and unlamentedly deceased? Sammy the Bull?

    Leave a comment:


  • Cult Icon
    replied
    are you a mafia scholar? I question the stuff in the mafia movies; they aren't historical reenactments.

    In the Coppola commentary, he maintains that a major goal was authenticity; while he was precise in the props and set design he didn't emphasize the design of the characters. He did not interview and study real Mafia men and of the cast, he singled out only James Caan (Sonny) to have done so.

    Of the Italian actors, they brought their own interpretations to their characters with Coppola having a more supervisory role. He comments that he did not have to do much work with them except hire them. The character of Don Fanucci was largely from the veteran actor himself.

    The issue is that the over the top nature is of an extent of later works is that these people would not be able to function in real life if they were so hyper-violent and animalistic. It's good entertainment but I doubt that these people would last so long in the real world with their motives so readily in display.
    Last edited by Cult Icon; 02 Nov 18, 09:41.

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