Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A Tale of Two Marios

Poster for The Gang that Couldn't Shoot StraightIn December 1970, director James Goldstone '53, signed on to direct a motion picture for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer entitled The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Jimmy Breslin. The screenplay had been written by Waldo Salt, who only a year earlier had won the Academy Award for his screenplay Midnight Cowboy. A key role in The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight was the part of “Mario” for which All Pacino had been suggested.

Goldstone met with Pacino on numerous occasions in January and February of 1971. During those meetings, Pacino was very interested in playing the role and he and Goldstone discussed possible actors to fill the remaining parts. According to Goldstone, Pacino felt that the role of “Mario” was the best role for him and his career. However, around the same time, Pacino was also asked to read for another part in a movie for Paramount Pictures. That movie was The Godfather by Mario Puzo - and the rest is movie history. Al Pacino became “Michael Corleone” and the part of “Mario” went to Robert de Niro.

Promotional flyer for The Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight
It is interesting to note that The Godfather and the The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight were shot in New York City at the same time. While The Godfather production had to deal with pressures from the Italian-American community to excise words such as Mafia and Cosa Nostra from the script and Italian-American actors were pressured not to appear in The Godfather, The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight encountered no such problems according to a press release:
'As far as I know,' said director Goldstone, 'we had only one phone call which may or may not have amounted to pressure. Our casting director, Marion Daugherty, was called by someone who asked to see a copy of the script. Presumably it was a person connected with one of the Italian-American organization. The call was referred to Irwin Winkler, the producer. Apparently, it was never followed up. If it had been, the caller would have been told that we were not submitting the script for approval of any charitable organization… and we had no trouble with casting.'
The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight met with only lukewarm success when the picture opened in 1972.  The humorous story of incompetent Italian mobsters was generally panned by reviewers who felt that the actors worked way too hard at being funny and that the humor was too slapstick.  Most of them blamed the script by Waldo Salt and the loose direction by Goldstone.

Movie Still for the Gange that Couldn't Shoot Straight
If you would like to see the script for The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight and many of the other projects Goldstone was involved with including scripts for such television shows as The Outer Limits or Ironside, ask for MS-1073, James Goldstone papers.

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