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The Godfather  
Cover of The Godfather
Author Mario Puzo
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Crime novel
Publisher G. P. Putnam's Sons
Publication date 10 March 1969
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback) & Audio Book
Pages 446 pp (Paperback edition)
ISBN ISBN 0-7493-2468-6 (Hardback edition) & ISBN 0-399-10342-2 & ISBN 0-451-16771-6 (Paperback editions)
OCLC Number 60177994
Followed by The Sicilian

The Godfather is a crime novel written by American author Mario Puzo, originally published in 1969 by G. P. Putnam's Sons. It details the story of a fictitious Sicilian Mafia family based in New York City (and Long Beach, NY) and headed by Don Vito Corleone, who became synonymous with the Italian Mafia. The novel covers the years 1945 to 1955, and also provides the back story of Vito Corleone from early childhood to adulthood.

The book introduced Italian criminal terms like consigliere, caporegime, Cosa Nostra, and omertà to an English-speaking audience.

It formed the basis for a 1972 film of the same name. Two film sequels, including new contributions by Puzo himself, were made in 1974 and 1990. The first and second films are widely considered to be two of the greatest films of all time.[1][2]

Contents

Titling

Much controversy surrounds the title of the book and its underworld implications. Although it is widely reported that Puzo was inspired to use "Godfather" as a designator for a Mafia leader from his experience as a reporter, the term The Godfather was first used in connection with the Mafia during Joe Valachi's testimony during the 1963 Congressional Hearing on Organized Crime.[citation needed] See Also: United States Senate Homeland Security Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations

Main characters

The Corleone family patriarch is Vito Corleone (The Don), whose surname (Italian for "Lionheart") recalls the town of Corleone, Sicily. Similarly, the maiden name of Corleone's mother is Corigliano, named after the town of Corigliano Calabro, Calabria; an area well known for 'Ndrangheta activity. (Puzo, however, never mentioned the family name Corigliano in the novel.) Vito has four children: Santino "Sonny" Corleone, Frederico "Freddie" Corleone, Michael "Mikey" Corleone, and Constanzia "Connie" Corleone. He also has an informally adopted son, Tom Hagen, who became the Corleones' Consigliori. Vito Corleone is also the godfather of a famous singer and movie star Johnny Fontane. The Godfather referred to in the title is generally taken to be Vito. However, the story's central character is actually Michael, and a central theme of the novel is that it is Michael's destiny, despite his determination to the contrary, to replace his father as the family head.

The Corleone family are in fact a criminal organization with influence in many areas of crime, notably protection, extortion, gambling and the union control. Under the Don is his consigliere who is a 'cutout,' to protect the Don from implication. The book also explains the consigliere position as that of the Don's most trusted advisor and counselor. The operational side of the organization is headed by two 'Caporegime,' or 'Captains,' Peter Clemenza and Sal or Salvatore Tessio, and they are high ranking officials in the family being seemingly joint fourth in power (behind the Don, underboss and Consigliere).

Plot

The plot deals with a mob war fought between the Corleone family and the other four of the five families of New York. After Don Vito Corleone is shot by men working for drug dealer Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo, his two sons, Santino and Michael must run the family business with the help of consigliere Tom Hagen and the two Capos Peter Clemenza and Salvatore Tessio. When Sollozzo and an Irish police captain are murdered by Michael, the conflict escalates into a full scale war which results in Santino's death and Michael, despite his wishes, ascending to the head of the family. He slowly becomes more ruthless than his father, even killing his brother-in-law Carlo Rizzi, who played a part in Santino's murder. Also as the story progresses many of the minor characters, such as the Don's godson Johnny Fontane and his friend Nino Valenti, Sonny's former girlfriend Lucy Mancini, and Michael's bodyguard Al Neri, are expanded on and given their own subplots. Many of these subplots are not included in the movie. The novel culminates when Michael has his two main enemies, the novel's main antagonist, Emilio Barzini and a lesser but still severely important antagonist, Philip Tattaglia, assassinated. After the total elimination of the Tattaglia Family and Barzini Family, Michael sells all his business in New York and makes the Corleone Family a legitimate business in Las Vegas.

The families

The five New York City families are the Straccis, the Tattaglias, the Corleones, the Cuneos, and the Barzinis. Other families, such as the Bocchicchio clan of New York (who act as negotiators/hostages), the Tramontis in New Orleans and the Capones in Chicago are also mentioned. [Note: In what appears to be a consistency mistake within the novel, on more than one occasion the author refers to "the five families” in a context that indicates that the Corleone Family is a fictional, sixth family. The war that is set off by the attempted assassination of Vito Corleone is referred to as being between the Corleone Family and the five families aligned against them. Yet, only four New York family dons show up and are mentioned at the peace parley that Corleone calls in an attempt to end the war after the death of Santino Corleone. Additionally, in what appears to be a research mistake on the part of the author, the Upstate New York family (the Cuneo Family, which apparently is inspired by the Magaddino Family of Buffalo) is included as one of the five families of NYC, which is not the case in reality. All five of the actual five families are based in NYC.]

Film adaptation

In 1972, a film adaptation of the novel was released, starring Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone, Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Mario Puzo assisted with writing the screenplay and with other production tasks. The film grossed approximately $269 million worldwide and won various awards, including three Academy Awards, five Golden Globes and one Grammy and is considered to be one of the greatest films of all time. The sequel, The Godfather Part II won six Oscars, and became the first sequel to win the Oscar for Best Picture.

The film is similar in most places, but leaves out some details, such as extended back stories for some characters. Some of these details were actually filmed, and were included in later versions such as The Godfather Saga. A subplot involving Johnny Fontane in Hollywood was not filmed. The biggest difference was that the novel included a more upbeat ending than the film, in which Kay Corleone found a peaceful acceptance of Michael's decision to take over his father's business. The film, in contrast, ended sharply with Kay's dreadful realization of what Michael had done and his ruthlessness, a theme that would develop in the second and third films, which were largely not based on the original novel. (The Godfather Part II included flashback sequences including scenes about the rise of Vito Corleone that were in the novel.)[citation needed]

The third film also introduces "impossible" characters such as Vincent [Vincenzo] Mancini, inconsistent with the continuity of events from the novel.

Other adaptations

The video game company Electronic Arts released a video game adaptation of The Godfather on March 21, 2006. The player assumes the role of a "soldier" in the Corleone family. Prior to his death, Marlon Brando provided some voice work for Vito, which was eventually deemed unusable and was dubbed over by a Brando impersonator. Francis Ford Coppola said in April 2005 that he was not informed of Paramount's decision to allow the game to be made and he did not approve of it.[3] Al Pacino also did not participate, and his likeness was replaced with a different depiction of Michael Corleone.

Sequels

In 2004, Random House published a sequel to Puzo's The Godfather, The Godfather Returns, by Mark Winegardner. A further sequel by Winegardner, The Godfather's Revenge, was released in 2006. The sequel novels continue the story from Puzo's novel.

The Godfather Returns picks up the story immediately after the end of Puzo's The Godfather. It covers the years 1955 to 1962, as well as providing significant backstory for Michael Corleone's character prior to the events of the first novel. The events of the film The Godfather Part II all take place within the time frame of this novel, but are only mentioned in the background. The novel contains an appendix that attempts to correlate the events of the novels with the events of the films. The novels and films dovetail in a curious fashion.

The Godfather's Revenge covers the years 1963 to 1964.

Continuing Puzo's habit, as seen in The Godfather, of featuring characters who are close analogues of real life events and public figures (as Johnny Fontane is an analogue of Frank Sinatra), Winegardner features in his two Godfather novels analogues of Joseph, John F., and Robert F. Kennedy (the Shea family, in the novels) as well as an analogue for alleged organized crime figure Carlos Marcello (Carlo Tramonti). In The Godfather Returns, Winegardner also dramatizes the sweep of organized crime arrests that took place in Apalachin, New York, in 1957.

Winegardner uses all of the characters from the Puzo novels, and created a few of his own, most notably Nick Geraci, a Corleone soldier whose role in the two sequel novels is as important as those of the Puzo-created characters. Winegardner further develops Puzo characters like Fredo Corleone, Tom Hagen, and Johnny Fontane.

The Corleone Organization

The Corleone Family is headed by Don Vito Corleone. Santino Corleone, Vito's oldest son, is the underboss until his murder as well as serving as a caporegime of his own regime; and Tom Hagen, his adopted son, serves as the Family consigliere. At the beginning of the novel, Peter Clemenza and Salvatore Tessio are the other two caporegimes. Rocco Lampone and Albert Neri later become caporegimes. Luca Brasi is a major Family enforcer who enjoys a special independent status, as well as a very expensive gun permit paid for by the Family; later this position is filled by Albert Neri, who is described as ruthless but not actually demonic. Their soldiers include Paulie Gatto, Rocco Lampone, and Albert Neri: Gatto is executed (by Lampone), and Lampone and Neri become caporegimes by the novel's end.

Similarity with reality

Large parts of the novel are based upon reality, notably the history of the so-called 'Five Families', the Mafia-organization in New York and the surrounding area. The novel also includes many allusions to real-life mobsters and their associates; Johnny Fontane is based on Frank Sinatra,[4] Moe Greene on Bugsy Siegel,[5][6] etc.

See also

Notes and References

  1. ^ http://www.rottentomatoes.com/top/bestofrt_year.php
  2. ^ http://www.imdb.com/chart/top
  3. ^ Godfather film director whacks Godfather game - by Tor Thorsen, GameSpot, April 8, 2005, retrieved April 8, 2005.
  4. ^ Bruno, Anthony. "Fact and Fiction in The Godfather". TruTV. http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/gangsters_outlaws/mob_bosses/the_godfather/6.html. Retrieved 2009-06-15. 
  5. ^ "The Not-so-famous Alex Rocco". Boston Globe. November 13, 1989. http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=BG&p_theme=bg&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=0EADEF1D219E2215&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM. Retrieved 2008-07-20. "Until this year, Alex Rocco was best known as Moe Greene, the Bugsy Siegel character who was shot in the eyeglasses at the end of "The Godfather. ..." 
  6. ^ "Snap Judgment: Betting against the odds". Jerusalem Post. January 31, 2008. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull&cid=1201523800474. Retrieved 2008-07-20. "Moe Greene is, of course, Lansky partner Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, who spearheaded the building of Las Vegas's first luxury casino-hotel, The Flamingo, ..." 

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