The Godfather book and the film

The Godfather book and the film: 100 best of 100 years

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  • Post last modified:13/05/2022

The Godfather by American writer Mario Puzo is a crime novel published in 1969. The 1972 film The Godfather was based on the novel, which is one of the greatest films. The book portrays the rise of the greatest, most respected and powerful Mafia Don in New York City, and the war between six powerful mafia families after WWII. I have read the book after watching the film first and realised why the film happens to be a great piece.

Acted by Marlon Brando, Alex Rocco, Tony Giorgio, Franco Citti, Saro Urzi, Corrado Gaipa, Julie Gregg, Salvatore and many others, The Godfather (1972) is a crime film which is one of the 100 best films of 100 years on my list of watching. It’s the number 2 best film of 100 years, according to the American Film Institute, one of the 100 America’s greatest films, 21st film 100 Great Films of All Time by the British Film Institute.

The Godfather is based on the six most respected and dangerous Sicilian Mafia families in New York after and before World War II. Of the all six families– the family of Anthony Stracci, the family of Ottilio Cuneo, the family of Tattaglia, the family of Don Emilio Barzini, the Turk family led by Sollozzo and the Don Corleone family– the Don Corleone family was the most respected and feared family in New York.

The war between the Don Corleone family and the other five families made the underworld of New York great chaos which was primarily based on supremacy and varied business ethics between the two halves. The war between them began as Sollozzo, the Turk, brought the proposition of drug business to the Don Corleone, who controlled the olive oil business and gambling.

Marlon Brandon in The Godfather film 1972
Marlon Brando as the Godfather in the 1972 film The Godfather.

Sollozzo asked for two million dollars and political protection from the Don Corleone which he refused to be part of on the ethical ground. Don Corleone, who is revered for his ‘reasonableness’ faced the consequence of his refusal by being shot in broad daylight one day by Sollozzo and Tattaglia family gunmen. Luckily, he survived the assassination attempt.

In retaliation Michael, Don’s youngest son killed Sollozzo and a corrupted police captain, McCluskey, who was on Sollozzo’s payroll, at Patsy, an Italian restaurant, and fled to Corleone, an area of Sicily from where Don Corleone hailed and emigrated to America after his father was killed.

Born Vito Andolini, he changed his name to Corleone to preserve the tie with his native village, came to America at twelve and took a job in the Abandando grocery store on Ninth Avenue in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen.

There he got married to an Italian woman, killed a local mafia leader, Fanucci, and met other petty criminals Clemenza and Tessio. From that grocery store, he began his olive oil company, Genco Pura olive after WWI when olive oil went scarce.

Later when, during WWII, he became the most powerful Don, he became the Godfather to many, who came to him for any kind of assistance. He rescued a homeless street boy, and put him in law school and who became his consigliere, Thomas Hagen. He became Godfather to an upstart music aspirant Jonny Fontane to make him a Hollywood movie star and had him win Oscar using his political power.

Michel reasons his father’s job to his girlfriend, Kay Adams: “He refuses to live by rules set up by others, rules which condemn him to a defeated life. But his ultimate aim is to enter that society with a certain power since society doesn’t really protect its members who do not have their own individual power. In the meantime, he operates on a code of ethics he considers far superior to the legal structures of society.”

Diane Keyton and Al Pacino
Diane Keyton and Al Pacino as Kay Adams and Michael Corleone in The Godfather 1972

When the state’s justice system fails to protect and provide the weaks with justice, when society never pays heed to the insignificant people, they came to him to seek justice. And his gunmen duly take care of matters. He got criminals bailed from the death row by manipulating and handling the judiciary system, and getting them a high position in his organisation. He became the benefactor to many and a saviour in the society he created. A society where there is no rule of law but an order of power and mutual empowerment. 

Michael survived an assignation attempt in Sicily but lost his newly married wife, Apolonia. Nevertheless, his elder brother Sonny Corleone was murdered one night by Barzini men on his way to his newly married sister’s place to rescue her from her oppressive husband Carlo, who got paid for the act, an attempt to bring Sonny in the open so they can kill him.

Michael was brought back to New York after two years. He became the head of the Corleone family as the Don Corleone semiretired from the organization after an agreement with five families. He agreed to allow the drug business and refused to avenge his dead son Sonny in order to maintain peace between the warring godfather all over America.

Michael was determined to avenge Sonny’s death and take control of New York City by being the most powerful mafia family, which he did after the Don’s death.

Breaking the agreement, he first killed Fabrizzio, who fled to America from Sicily after the assassination attempt. Then he went after Barzini and Philip Tattaglia, his brother-in-law Carlo, and his caporegime, Tessio, who was set up to kill Michael. After that, the Corleone family shifted to Las Vegas from Long Beach.

Pros

Regarding The Godfather movie, I must reiterate that the film is undoubtedly a great making. Marlon Brando as the Don is the unquestionable portrayal.

However, I liked the description of all the characters. Throughout the book, the intelligent sayings of the Don Corleone are memorable. The style of description of Mario Puzo kept me awed.

Cons

The film is nearly 3 hours. Very long wedding session of Connie Corleone, the daughter of the Don. Some incident timing had been altered while some others cannot be easily understood without reading the book. Al Lettieri’s acting as Sollozzo is the reason I go back to the film.

The book is a thorough description of guns, mafia activities, gambling, abortion and the bending of state elements to corruption, to the power of the underworld.

Verdict: The Godfather Book and the film

I came to know why The Godfather (1972) is a great movie only when I read the book on which it is based. One may not find the film as good as people say it would be. But reading the book would certainly make them say, “Don’t judge a book by its film”.

There are many things that the movie does not tell us about. We do not know how the great Don Corleone became the Godfather, we don’t know his greatness, generosity, ferocity and being Godfather became his only ‘destiny’.

There are many things that can compel one to ponder upon. One can easily feel safer in an empire of a godfather, than in a society where justice is meted out to the protectors of it. The Don would often advise, ‘one can have but only one destiny in life, and we have to find out what that is. The Godfather, after all, tell us why godfathers are the gods for the godless.

It portrays a grim reality that a man, a man with a family inevitably faces in meeting the end demands of his wife, children and well-wishers. A humble hardworking man, Vito, rose to be the Don Corleone in his desperation to arrange a square meal in his children’s mouths, and miscarriage of justice. He saw how mafias and ruffians were being feared, and respected and were playing with so-called state functionaries.

The does not tell how an honest police captain, McCluskey, became a protector of mafias, instead of a guardian of the state’s people. Being under the payroll of Sollozzo helped him send his children to a better college, his wife better clothes and stretching his assistance to his sister and relatives. Pressured by family needs captain Mark McCluskey, found no way to be rescued except to be complicit in illegal activities.

Whatever is evil, illegal, or unaccepted found a way to be benevolent in the Don’s word, which somehow also benevolent to great many a people. That, “family is more loyal and more to be trusted than society”, somehow rings true to me.

Mario Puzo, or the greatness of the great Godfather Don Corleone in that matter, reminds us that once the state fails to protect the powerless; provide justice; and cronyism, corruption and selective application of law infiltrate the system, the powerless aspire to become powerful take role of the state administration. The Dons or underworld promise to give justice with guns and general chaos.

Occlusion

The Godfather by Mario Puzo is one of the best novels to elaborate on, ‘behind every fortune there is a crime. Mario offers exact reasons why we should endear him for his work, while The Godfather tells us it has to offer society a lesson that way it operates within the framework of corrupt regulators to control the will of the mass.

Like all the other movie lovers, I am utterly fascinated by the portrayal of the book on through the film. Equally fascinating to see how Marlon Brando of the film became the true epitome of the Godfather that Mario imagines.

And every favour one receives from any Don must be repaid by even greater favour by the recipient. No favour is lavishly given unless the benefactor sees there is a possibility of getting it returned in the near future when in demand.

About the Author

Mario Puzo 1972 %28cropped%29

Mario Puzo was born on Manhattan’s West Side in a neighbourhood known for decades as Hell’s Kitchen. His first books, The Fortunate Pilgrim (“a minor classic” NY Times) and Dark Arena, brought him critical acclaim, but it was the publication of The Godfather in March 1969, that catapulted him into the front ranks of American authors.

Reviewers hailed the book as “a staggering triumph” (Saturday Review), “big, turbulent, highly entertaining” (Newsweek), “remarkable” (Look), “a voyeur’s dream, a skillful fantasy of violent personal power” (New York Times). Winning readers by the millions, it stayed at or near the top of the New York Times bestseller lists for sixty-nine weeks. Fools Die, Mario Puzo’s brilliant new novel about the feverish world of the big-time gambler, has been hailed as the publishing event of the

Romzanul Islam

Thinking out of the convention and moving forward with knowledge and reasons are always my styles. Researching, watching the best films, reading and collecting the best books to enrich me is my deadly passion. Stoicism, liberalism, feminism and aversion to material success are my ideals.

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