Friday, March 25, 2022

It's Not Personal, It's Business!

This year, The Godfather turns 50. Mario Puzo's Oscar-winning film adaptation of his best-selling novel, directed and co-written by Francis Ford Coppola, has mesmerized film-goers for half a century with its epic portrayal of the Corleone crime family. Some have argued that the film should have by all rights been a bomb, in part because of the questionable reputations of its director and lead actor, as well as a cast list of virtual unknowns. Instead, The Godfather exploded onto the cultural scene. It was the top-grossing film of 1972 and went on to win three Oscars that year: Best Picture; Best Adapted Screenplay, which went to Puzo and Coppola; and Best Actor, which went to Marlon Brando.

Ironically, Brando nearly lost the opportunity to play the part of Don Vito Corleone because the producers considered him a has-been whose justifiable reputation for on-set antics was too high a price to pay for his talent. In a now often-told story, Coppola was eventually able to win the studio executives over by recording an impromptu video at Brando's house of him in character as Vito Corleone. Mario Puzo also had hoped to cast Brando in the lead role but wasn't able to leverage the studio in the same way as Coppola. In a letter from the Mario Puzo Papers, held here at Rauner Library, the author and screenwriter tells Brando that the producer, Al Ruddy, was "very cool" about the idea of Brando as Corleone. He also says that he still thinks that the attempt was a "good idea" and that he's sorry to have wasted his time.

The American Film Institute has ranked The Godfather as the second-greatest film in the history of American cinema and its cinematic and well as cultural legacy still persists, even fifty years later. Now, we're going to make you an offer you can't refuse: come in to Special Collections and take a look at the Papers of Mario Puzo (MS-1371) whenever we're open. One thing, though: be sure to leave the cannoli at home.

Read the 2018 Dartmouth News story about how Rauner acquired the Mario Puzo papers here.