When the first Godfather came out I was 14, two years later Part II came out. I was too young to see either of them, and didn’t see the original, uncut versions until the 80s on video. After all the hype when the movies came out – the Academy Awards, Brando sending Sasheen Littlefeather to the Oscars in protest, “an offer you can’t refuse” becoming a catchphrase that every car dealer and rug shampooer used in their commercials – by the time I finally saw the movies I was, “Meh, that’s it?” Upon subsequent viewings, the genius of the two movies has become apparent to me and I, of course, recognize them for the classics that they are (unlike Gone With the Wind which is hopelessly overrated).
A few things from here on might contain spoilers, so if anyone reading has not seen any of the movies you might want to proceed with caution.
Johnny Fontane was supposed to be based on Frank Sinatra in the sense that he was a crooner in the 40s who became successful in music and movies partly with the help of the Mafia. From what I’ve heard, Martino wasn’t near the singer Sinatra was, but he does a good job in the films.
The only time I saw The Godfather on the big screen was when they brought out a restored version to limited theaters for the 25th anniversary in 1997. I saw it at the Grauman’s Chinese in Hollywood (now the Mann’s Chinese, whatever). In the movie, consigliere Tom Hagen goes to LA to deal with a studio head named Woltz who is playing hardball with Fontane. The film shows some old footage of Hollywood including the Chinese, everybody in the audience applauded.
One of the most asked questions about the scene with the horse head is if it was a real horse. Director Francis Ford Coppola says that they made a deal with a dog food company to deliver to the studio the head of a slaughtered horse when they killed one that looked like Woltz’s prized race horse.
If you want to (and who wouldn’t) you can order a horse head pillow for your very own bed.
Another fun, creepy thing is the ghost that appears during the graveside service for Don Corleone. Roger Ebert wrote about it too so I’m not going to say anything, but if you have the video or DVD, check it out. Look at Michael Corleone’s suit when Tessio comes and gets him.
I have been to two restaurants owned by actors in the Godfather movies. When I lived in Las Vegas, at least once I went to a place that was owned by Gianni Russo who played Carlo the sleazy husband of Connie Corleone. I should say I tried to go to the place because it was in the early 80s and I was wearing torn up jeans (like you do) and probably shouldn’t have been because somebody gave me attitude about it. I was with my then girlfriend and her mom and I think they tried to not let us in but GF’s mom protested and they finally let us eat there. I don’t remember anything else about the place or the food. It was called Gianni Russo’s State Street and Gianni Russo shot a guy there. Apparently in real life he thought himself to be quite the tough guy.
And speaking of torn up jeans, at least one website calls them Marxist Pants and says that they will bring about the end of all that we hold dear. I’m not kidding (and I’m not sure whether they are either). I’m probably going to write a whole post on this one of these days, but check the site out it’s pretty hilarious.
The other one is Angelo’s and Vinci’s in Fullerton, CA. It’s a wacky place with great Italian food and a decor that looks like you’re trapped in the house of your crazy aunt who never threw anything away. It was owned by Steven Peck, a dancer, choreographer, and actor who is seen early in The Godfather Part II dancing the tango. Seriously, it’s a great place. Totally wasted on Orange County.