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Page to Screen: The Godfather

Cover of the first edition from 1969.

Cover of the first edition from 1969.

Today we live in a world where it seems that paradise is lost. No one growing up today knows about the classic novels of “yesteryear”, or the Golden Age of Hollywood. Furthermore, when the older generation attempts to explain to the “Millennials” what they consider entertainment, the newer society remains disinterested. That’s what makes our modern world so heartbreaking, we are so absorbed in our own sources of media that we overlook the greatest works of literature and film, because we base our opinions on the information our eyes absorb in two seconds. As a traditionalist, this depresses me.

It’s shameful that we’re the last generation who’ll recognize quotes from great novels to film adaptations such as Gone with the WindTo Kill a Mockingbird, and, a new-old favorite of mine, The Godfather. Written by Mario Puzo in 1969, The Godfather is an unforgettable tale of family, loyalty, and a powerful meaning of friendship. At the center of the novel is the notorious Don Vito Corleone, the head of the Corleone Family Mafia and a highly respected member of the five families of the New York Organization. A man with a dark rags-to-riches backstory, Vito Corleone is about to pass on his legacy as the Don (referred to as “The Godfather” by those who respect him) to one of his three sons. The eldest one, Santino (Sonny), is determined and brave, making him an ideal choice. However, his reckless fighting behavior could be more of a flaw than a strength. Frederico (Fredo), the middle child, has his heart in the right place, but his mind is preoccupied with more personal needs. And then there’s Michael, the youngest who possesses all of the major qualities his father has…if only he was willing to use them for the sake of family. Incomparable to any other book, with dramatic twists introduced on every page, Puzo’s novel keeps readers on their toes long after they close the book.
Francis Ford Coppola’s award-winning film adaptation echoes the exact same praise. Released in 1972 by Paramount Pictures, Coppola’s meticulous sense of perfection makes for an electrifying portrayal of the Mafia. An important note to make is the frightening cast selection made in the filming process. Consider the following character descriptions, taken from the original novel, and compare them to their actors. The resemblance is uncanny…
1.)    “Sonny Corleone was tall for a first-generation American of Italian parentage, almost six feet, and his crop of bushy, curly hair made him look even taller. His face was that of a gross cupid, the features even but the bow-shaped lips thickly sensual, the dimpled cleft chin in some curious way obscene.”

2.)    “He was short and burly, not handsome but with the same cupid head of the family, the curly helmet of hair over the round face and sensual bow-shaped lips. Only in Fredo, these lips were not sensual but granite like.”

 3.)    “He did not have the heavy, Cupid-shaped face of the other children, and his jet black hair was straight rather than curly. His skin was a clear olive-brown that would have been called beautiful in a girl. He was handsome in a delicate way.”
Compared to James Caan, John Cazale, and Al Pacino, it’s as if Mario Puzo wrote these words with the actors in mind.
There’s something you don’t see every day: An accurate adaptation. Don’t get me wrong—The Hunger Games was a great book and good movie; but as far as spot-on goes, I’m sorry to say that you’re looking in the wrong generation. That is not to say that I am abolishing the works of this century—I am merely stating my observation that entertainment was much more authentic in the good old days. Which is why I suggest reading The Godfather and then viewing the film adaptation to see for yourself. It’s “an offer you can’t refuse”.still-of-al-pacino-in-the-godfather--part-ii-(1974)-large-picture

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