"The Godfather," 50 years ago Oscar for Best Picture

Mar 27, 2023 1726

The masterpiece directed by Francis Ford Coppola won three statuettes at the 45th Academy Awards on March 27, 1973. It has remained in history the absence at the ceremony of Al Pacino and Marlon Brando, with the latter rejecting the award and sending Apache-born American actress and activist Yaqui Sacheen Littlefeather in his place.

It has been 50 years since that March 27, 1973, when The Godfather, considered the most prominent masterpiece of so-called New Hollywood, won three statuettes at the 45th Academy Awards. The Francis Ford Coppola-directed film, on the strength of 10 nominations, took home awards for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Marlon Brando) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo).

Marlon Brando was chosen for the role of Don Vito Corleone by Francis Ford Coppola, who pushed hard to have him in the cast despite the fact that Paramount producers were not at all convinced. The actor was 47 years old at the time but looked younger: to give his character an older look during the audition he acted with cotton in his mouth, which helped give his face that unforgettable "bulldog" characterization. It was this detail that finally convinced the producers that Brando was the man for the job.

The raspy voice of the godfather of the Corleone family did not come about by accident. Marlon Brando was inspired by the timbre of mobster Frank Costello, whom he had seen on television during an interrogation before the U.S. Commission of Inquiry into Organized Crime in 1951.

Behind the making of The Godfather was a deal struck between producer Albert S. Ruddy and Joseph Colombo, boss of the eponymous family and leader of the League for the Civil Rights of Italian Americans, who tried to boycott the film by branding it as disparaging of Italian Americans. The two decided together that the word "mafia" would never be uttered in the film.

Who does not remember the cat that Marlon Brando holds in his arms at the beginning of the film? His presence was unplanned; he was a stray cat brought to the set by the director, and his purr forced Marlon Brando to repeat the scene several times.

And again on the subject of animals, one of the most shocking scenes in the film is when John Marley finds a severed horse head in his bed. While a fake head had always been used during rehearsals, at the time of the official filming Francis Ford Coppola stuffed a real horse head into the bed without telling actor Jack Woltz, whose reaction was therefore genuine to say the least.

Another scene was also a bit too realistic. It is that of the beating of Carlo, played by Gianni Russo, at the hands of Santino Corleone (James Caan). During filming, Caan accidentally broke two of Russo's ribs.

The part of the film set in Italy was not shot in Corleone, but in various towns between Messina and Catania: Forza d'Agrò, Savoca, Motta Camastra and Fiumefreddo. Pointing out the locations was the painter Gianni Pennisi of Floristella, who also helped some of the undubbed actors by teaching them correct diction. In addition, the Vitelli bar, where Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) asks Apollonia's father if he can marry her, is still open today.

Perhaps not everyone knows that in The Godfather we could have seen the face of Sylvester Stallone. The actor held auditions to play Paulie Gatto or Carlo Rizzi, but was not cast.

There is also a scene in the film, the one that with a quick montage recounts the war of the five families, which was directed and edited by an uncredited George Lucas. The director later said he paid homage to The Godfather in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi - in the scene where Princess Leia strangles Jabba the Hutt - and in a sequence in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.

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