Lately it seems, “The Godfather” has had a ubiquitous presence on the cable channels; not a week goes by where I don’t see it listed playing at one time or another. For some reason I’ve never considered watching the film from start to finish since the first time I saw it during it’s theatrical release back in 1972 – until today. There’s a good reason why. I don’t think there’s ever been another movie to stay with me the way this one has over the past four decades. I remember virtually everything about it, even the minor scenes like the hit on driver Paulie and the ‘sleeps with the fishes’ calling card regarding Luca Brasi. Also the names – Clemenza, Barzini, Solozzo, Tartaglia; Moe Green too, even though he wasn’t Italian. So effective was the magic of the film that I still have to check every now and then to see if Abe Vigoda (Tessio) is still alive (like I did today), only to find out that yes he is, still going strong at nearly ninety!
Quite simply, “The Godfather” is, with no pun intended, the godfather of all the great gangster films, dating all the way back to 1931’s “Little Caesar” and “Public Enemy”. For Marlon Brando, it was the quintessential performance of American cinema, so nuanced and mesmerizing that it’s impossible to forget. The movie in fact was so powerful that it literally made overnight stars of it’s supporting players – Pacino, Caan and Duvall.
There has been enough written about the film that I don’t need to get into the story itself. I’ll content myself with mentioning the scenes that literally blow me away, then and now – Sonny’s job on Carlo in the middle of the neighborhood (that last kick is priceless), the mob hit on Sonny in the causeway, Michael’s restaurant rubout of Solozzo and McCluskey, and the way Michael handled Tom Hagen’s ouster as consigliere. The cherry topping of course is the baptismal scene, Michael renouncing Satan as he does the devil’s work of eliminating the heads of the families who stood in opposition to the Corleones. Every scene of the movie is staged perfectly, yet rendered effortlessly as if it were just another day in the life.
It would have been too easy to use the classic tag line in my summary above, you know, the one about making an offer that can’t be refused. With “The Godfather”, it seems that every scene is larger than life, with the total picture being even greater than the sum of it’s parts. So I’ll content myself with a recommendation that seems apropos by quoting Clemenza after his man whacked Paulie – “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli”. For cinema fans, “The Godfather” is all cannoli.