News Column

'Godfather' Celebrates 40th Anniversary of Its Release Date

March 16, 2012

Michael Smith

The Godfather

People ask me all the time: What's my favorite movie?

The answer has been the same for more than three decades: "The Godfather," which along with "The Godfather, Part II," I have always considered to be one big cinematic masterpiece. That's probably because that's how I always watched them on DVD, back-to-back on at least an annual basis for many years.

Then my daughters were born. Six-hour marathons of shoot-outs and Sicilian revenge have become less frequent.

I usually preface that answer by saying, "I know this is very much a 'guy' answer" because so many men cite "The Godfather" among their best-ever movies. It's simply an offer we can't refuse.

When "The Godfather" premiered 40 years ago this week in New York, it became a sensation at the box office (if selling tickets at today's prices, it would have grossed $617 million) and in our cultural consciousness.

For me, it did what many of the best movies do: It immersed me in another world completely, one so different and, in this case, dangerous compared to my own, and I couldn't look away.

If you've never seen "The Godfather" on the big screen, a restored version is playing at Cinemark Tulsa on Thursday, with 2 and 7 p.m. showings.

'The Godfather': Did you know?

--The horse's head in the bed was real. Dozens of people are shot in the film, but the outcry was over the horse. The horse's head came from a New Jersey slaughterhouse, packed in ice, and after use, went to the SPCA.

--"The Godfather" is remembered as a big winner on Oscar night, for having won 1972's best picture and best actor for Marlon Brando. But "Cabaret," director Bob Fosse's musical hit starring Liza Minnelli, won an overwhelming eight Academy Awards that night. They included best actress, best director and best supporting actor in Joel Grey, who won over three nominees from "The Godfather" (Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall). "The Godfather" won three Oscars.

--On the Internet Movie Database ( list of the top movies of all time, "The Godfather" has been voted by more than 500,000 users as the No. 2 film. "The Godfather, Part II" comes in at No. 3. The only film ranked ahead of these killer movies? "The Shawshank Redemption" is No. 1 with IMDB's movie fans. On the American Film Institute's list of the top 100 films, "The Godfather" came in at No. 2, behind "Citizen Kane."

--Brando did not memorize his lines (which were frequently being rewritten) and instead used cue cards, as well as pinning notes of dialogue on fellow actors, on dishes and on pieces of fruit. Brando's seeming lack of commitment still won him the best actor Oscar -- which he refused. He sent to the ceremony a woman named Sacheen Littlefeather, dressed in Apache tribal regalia, to decline the award while citing Hollywood discrimination against American Indians.

--Many of the film's actors were not the original choices. Studio heads thought Brando would be a troublemaker, and his recent films had bombed. Robert Redford and Warren Beatty were reportedly offered the role of Michael before Al Pacino. Director Francis Ford Coppola wanted James Caan -- who played Sonny -- to play Michael. Diane Keaton was thought by many to be all wrong, perceived as comedic and gawky. It all worked out in the end.

--The word "Mafia" is never uttered in "The Godfather." What does it mean? "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes."

This statement, about the Corleones' longtime enforcer who goes missing, means that Brasi is dead, and he's most likely wearing a pair of concrete shoes at the bottom of the ocean.

"Go to the mattresses."

The use of this term after the Corleone family is forced to go to "war" with the other five mafia families means that the Corleone gunmen must go into hiding together at a secret location, and they'll need something to sleep on.

"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."

The implication of Don Vito Corleone's statement is clear, especially in the case of guaranteeing his godson he will receive a role in an upcoming movie: The studio executive will give you the role because he doesn't want to be killed.


This Italian word is translated as "code of silence" among mafia families.

"Cosa Nostra"

Interpreted as "our thing," it's a term for Mafia, especially as defined as crime groups with Sicilian roots organized with a "family" structure.

Who said it? (a matching hint: Vito Corleone is the source of three of these quotes)

a. Vito Corleone

b. Moe Greene

c. Tom Hagen

d. Michael Corleone

e. Peter Clemenza

1. "Women and children can be careless, but not men."

2. "Leave the gun, take the cannolis."

3. "Mr. Corleone is a man who insists on hearing bad news immediately."

4. "A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man."

5. "It's not personal. It's strictly business."

6. "I made my bones while you were going out with cheerleaders."

7. "Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me."

How did they die? (a matching hint: Two died in the same manner)

a. Apollonia

b. Virgil Sollozzo

c. Moe Greene

d. Capt. McCluskey

e. Sonny Corleone

f. Vito Corleone

1. Who was shot at a toll booth?

2. Who was shot in the eye through his glasses?

3. Who was blown up in a car?

4. Who was found dead of a heart attack?

5. Who was shot while eating in a restaurant?

'The Godfather' answers "Who Said It?" quiz: 1. a; 2. e; 3. c; 4. a; 5. d; 6. b; 7. a.

"How Did They Die?" quiz: 1. e; 2. c; 3. a; 4. f; 5. b, d.

Source: (c)2012 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.)

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