On March 15, 1972, The Godfather—a three-hour epic chronicling the lives of the Corleones, an Italian-American crime family led by the powerful Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando)—is released in theaters.
The Godfather was adapted from the best-selling book of the same name by Mario Puzo, a novelist who grew up in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen and got his start writing pulp stories for men’s magazines. Controversy surrounded the film from the beginning.
Soon after Paramount Pictures announced its production, the Italian-American Civil Rights League held a rally in Madison Square Garden, claiming the film would amount to a slur against Italian Americans. The uproar only increased publicity for the movie, which Paramount was counting to become a big-money hit after the success of Puzo’s novel.
The studio’s production chief, Robert Evans, approached several directors—including Sergio Leone and Costa Gavras—about The Godfather before hiring the relatively unknown Francis Ford Coppola, who was only 31 years old at the time.
As an Italian American himself, Coppola strove to make the film an authentic representation of the time period and the culture and to do justice to the complex relationships within the Corleone family, instead of focusing primarily on the violent crime aspect of the story.
He worked with Puzo on the screenplay and persuaded Paramount to increase the budget of the film, which the studio had envisioned as a relatively meager $2.5 million. Read More