Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mario Puzo Speaks from the Grave!

Get this. Google Books is hosting a digital archive of the first 30 years of New York Magazine (1968 through 1997). Amongst this bewildering wilderness of magazines is a real treasure - an August 21, 1972, article written by Mario Puzo on his experience writing the novel and the screenplay for The Godfather. Yeah, baby!

It’s a great article, too. First, you gotta
go here, which will take you to the contents page. In the upper left-hand corner you’ll see the little summary of the Puzo article and above that, you’ll see “page 22.” That’s a link. Click that, and it’ll take you to the article.

Consider this. There’s a tongue-in-cheek breakdown in which Puzo apportions the credit for the success of The Godfather film:


The Novel Itself
40% for the fame of the novel
30% for the characters and the incidents.
Total 70%


Director Francis Coppola
3% for being faithful to the book.
3% for fighting for Pacino (against everybody)
2% for fighting for Brando (against everybody but me)
1% for being Italian.
5% for rewriting script and keeping it a 3-hour movie.
Total 14%


Author Puzo
3% for writing basic script.
2% for rewriting the rewrite.
2% for suggesting Brando.
2% for keeping it a 3-hour movie against everybody’s advice.
2% for insisting that it would be fatal to leave out Sicily sequence (against everybody except Francis Coppola)
3% for quitting the movie when shooting began and so getting out of everybody’s way so they could work.
Total 14%
Minus 5% for fighting against Al Pacino’s playing Michael.
Net Total 9%


Producer Al Ruddy
5% for getting the project moving.
3% for holding everybody’s hands and keeping them from killing each other.
5% for taking the rap for everything and taking it with a smile.
Total 13%
Minus 5% for giving wrong advice on how to write the script.
Net Total 8%


Studio Vice President Robert Evans
5% for listening with an open mind to everyone and making the right decisions.
2% for making the first cut of the movie so commercially swift. (One viewer complained the movie was like having dinner in a restaurant where the food was delicious, but the waiter kept whipping away the dishes before you could finish).
Total 7%


Paramount Vice President Peter Bart
5% for suggesting Francis Coppola to direct the picture on the theory that an Italian could do the best job. (Not as simple reasoning as it sounds.)
2% for nagging everybody.
Total 7%


Paramount President Frank Yablans
5% for distribution and exploitation
2% for minding his own business.
Total 7%


Owner of Paramount Pictures Charles Bludhorn
1% for not insisting Charles Bronson play the Godfather role.
Total 1%


The Actors
Total 10%


The Crew and Technical and Costumes and Art, etc.
Total 5%


Grand Total 138%

(Because you always give more credit in the movie business than exists.)


Sabina E. said...

whoa, that was a really cool find. I have never read the book myself so I had no idea if the movie is any better than the book or not...

but naturally, you are right. Hollywood always gets more credit than it deserves ;-)

Mystery Man said...

Yeah, wasn't that great? I really enjoyed that article. Say, how was your trip?


Joshua James said...

I saw this before, it was so awesome ... the movie was pretty faithful to the book, actually ...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this wonderful material with us MM. Loved it.

I've been wondering for some days, will you do a 10 best film list of the year?

Mystery Man said...

JJ - Yes, it was! I agreed with Puzo in that I don't even think that was his best book.

Anon - I'd love to, but I haven't seen all the critically acclaimed films yet. Not that I haven't had opportunities, but time's always an issue with me. I've found, too, that I will change my mind over time about best films. Last year, I had seen all the films with the exception of Diving Bell and the Butterfly and now to my mind, that was THE best film of the year. I can't get that out of my system. I periodically HAVE to rewatch it. So, I don't know...


Joshua James said...

Crikey, if you liked DIVING BELL AND BUTTERFLY, have you seen THE SEA INSIDE or, even better, THE BARBARIAN INVASION?

The last one, a French-Canadian film, is one of my favorites ... I think I blogged about it, but it just wrecked me ... A Denis Archyd film (he did JESUS OF MONTREAL) ...

BARBARIAN INVASION, just thinking about it I kinda want to see it again ...

Anonymous said...

I actually think the movies are better than the book. The distillation process really helps. Of course there would be no movie without the fantastic source material to begin with, but I found the book fascinating nevertheless.

Matt said...

Let me tell you something about the Sicily sequence.

When the new print was showing for a couple of weeks in October, a friend and I took the day off and went to the Film Forum's seven hour marathon of the first two parts back to back.

I had worked late the night before, so as I walked into the theatre at 11 am or so, I had a Venti Starbucks cup with me. I downed it fairly quickly.

So, Luca Brasi bites it, the Godfather gets shot, and my bladder starts to get weak. Suddenly, I have to piss. But how can I get up to piss? It's The Godfather! On the big screen!

I decide to wait till the Sicily sequence. It's quiet, and mostly panoramic, and let's be honest, I won't miss much.

So, Michael kills The Turk, the Corleones go to the mattresses, and Michael gets sent away. More floral Italian music, and now we're in Sicily and I can go see a man about a dog.

I stand up, mutter something to my screening buddy (I believe it went, "I really gotta piss") and I get up.

Now, I'm sitting waayy up front and have a pretty good view of the whole theatre.

Well, you'd think somebody pulled the fire alarm. Turns out, everybody had to piss, and everybody decided to do it during the Sicily sequence. By the time I get to the bathroom, there's a line outside. I remark to the theatre attendent, "Boy, the guy's in Sicily, and everybody goes to the bathroom!"

The theatre attendant nods, and says, "Been like this all week."

The Sicily sequence is a necessary beat, gives Michael a whole new character layer, and the story a truly epic scope. Puzo was right to keep it in, and I can't imagine the film without it...

...but it's still the point where everyone goes to pee.

Mystery Man said...

Josh - I have seen The Sea Inside, like Diving Bell better. Haven't seen the Barbarian Invasion, and I'm SO there!

Kevin - I completely agree!

Matt - Bwwaaaah ha ha ha ha! I love that story! I was actually thinking about that sequence quite a bit during my last viewing. The one thing about that sequence - it deflates tension. It's still lovely and poetic and full of drama but it takes a while for the tension to rebuild again.


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