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The Godfather

The Godfather is a novel written by Mario Puzo about a fictitious Italian Mafia family.

The Godfather (in Italian Il Padrino) is a term used to identify the boss of a Mafia clan, the eldest or the most representative member of a family. (See godparent for the origins of the term.) In the novel, this character was Don Vito Corleone, whose surname recalls the town of Corleone, Sicily, where traditionally the Mafia had a similar organisation into "families". Similarly, the surname of Don Vito's mother is Corigliano, coming from the town of Corigliano Calabro, Calabria, this too sadly remembered for ndrangheta matters.

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(warning:Wikipedia contains spoilers)

The motion picture adaptation of The Godfather (1972) was directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola had directed several films prior to this, but none of them had significant impact on the public. The movie was an enormous box-office hit, smashing previous records to become the highest-grossing film of all time (until that record was surpassed by Jaws in 1975, and a number of other movies afterwards).

The role of Don Vito Corleone was memorably acted by Marlon Brando, and Brando won an Academy Award for his portrayal of the aging Don. Many of the actors playing the supporting roles were largely unknown or minor actors; however, they rocketed into the limelight with the success of The Godfather. In particular, Al Pacino and Robert Duvall enjoy long, successful, highly acclaimed careers.

Since its release, The Godfather has been accused of glorifying the image of the Mafia, although this word is never spoken in the film, or written in the book. Don Corleone, as played by Brando, was seen as the sort of gang leader who people could actually respect (though The Godfather Part II worked to tear down this image).

The opening scene is one of the most famous portraits of the Mafia. The dialogue between Corleone and Bonasera ("I believe in America") points out the importance of the Mafia being based on family hierarchies. Only after accepting the Godfather as head of the system (Brando demands the kiss of his hand) and Bonaseras integration in the family (he must call him "Godfather"), he can hope for support for his problem (being a family-problem itself).

The decisions for the violent and illegal acts are taken in a dark, brownish colored office, symbolizing a secure, cozy and calm atmosphere. This is contrasted by the bright, loud and hectic wedding, which is celebrated parallel outside the house. This can be understood as the glorification of the positive framework the Mafia creates by playing down crime and violence at the same time.

One of the movie's most shocking moments comes early in the film, involving the decapitated head of a horse. Animal-rights groups protested the inclusion of the scene, though Coppola stated that the horse's head was delivered to him from a dog food company; a horse had not been killed especially for the movie.

Another scene, one of the last scenes in the movie, has Don Corleones son, Michael Corleone, attending the baptism of his sister's newborn baby as his henchmen kill his enemies, as ordered by Michael, and after the death of Vito Corleone. After this, Michael Corleone is appointed as the new Don.

After the release of The Godfather Part II, Coppola re-edited the two movies together into one long saga for TV broadcast, entitled The Godfather Saga (aka "The Godfather: The Complete Novel For Television" and "The Godfather: 1901-1959--The Complete Epic").

Both The Godfather and The Godfather Part II have been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

The filmed sequels to this movie are: