The Godfather, arguably the greatest movie ever made, was released on this day, March 24 in 1972. Now whether or not it truly is the best remains to be seen and discussed, but I have no problem sharing that it is one of MY all-time favorites, if not THE favorite. I first saw it with my father as a young kid, too young to be watching, understanding and appreciating. But even then, I thought it was amazing. So much so, that I honestly wanted to be Italian for a while. Yeah, I admit it.
But what stuck out to me was the strength of the Corleone family’s unity, as well as its values. Something I found applicable and necessary in all families of all cultures.
Since then, I’ve seen it well over 30 times and that number is grossly underestimating the count. I’ve also read the book over five times and have had countless discussions. But enough about that, let’s talk about why we’re here.
About 3 weeks ago, I showed it to my youngest, the only son who hadn’t seen it, although he’d seen various popular segments. We also had the friend of one of my other sons over as a first timer. They were both incredibly impressed by the powerful scenes that, despite the movie’s age, led them to agree that it was indeed worthy of its rank among the cinematic superstars. But the real discussion was about some of the unspoken or seldom discussed moments in the movie. Particularly the facial expressions and body language of the characters of those scenes.
So bypassing the iconic phrases like, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” and “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes”, let me share 10 moments that you might not have recognized or paid much attention to.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
The Godfather Turns 50: 10 Incredible Moments We Don’t Talk About (Or Probably Didn’t Notice)
I’ll list them by order of occurrence. And of course the caveat, Here Be Spoilers…
Scene 1: Sandra’s Joy Is Also Her Pain
Early in the opening wedding scene, eldest son Santino “Sonny” Corleone tells his wife Sandra to watch the kids, to which she snaps that he keep an eye on himself (aware of his promiscuity). Moments later, she inaudibly shares an experience about his manhood size with a few impressed ladies. As everyone laughs in delight, she turns around just in time to see him flirting with Maid of Honor Lucy Mancini (and also his mistress). Her immediate expression of frustration is a perfect indication that she unfortunately is not the only one enjoying his “blessing”.
Scene 2: The Woltz/Hagen Exchange
Family consigliere Tom Hagen is sent to Hollywood at the behest of Don Vito Corleone to convince movie producer Jack Woltz to give Corleone’s godson Johnny Fontane the lead part in his new movie. During his explanation why he refuses to do so, Woltz insults the Corleone family, making it clear that he is not afraid of the Don (we all remember how that turned out with his prize horse). What makes this scene so funny and ominous is the calm expression on Tom’s face, knowing that Woltz has no clue what’s in store for him.
Scene 3: Don Corleone’s Reaction To Sonny’s Error
During the narcotics (dis)interest meeting with heroin kingpin Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo, Don Corleone inquires as to why he should financially back Sollozzo’s drug business. At an unexpected moment, Sonny (next in line to be the Don) speaks out, revealing that his interest is piqued. He is immediately cut off by Vito, who is silently but noticeably angry with his son for “letting another man what you’re thinking”.
Scene 4: Enzo’s Panic
After Michael learns that the Godfather’s protection had been removed from the hospital after an attempt on his life, Enzo, the baker arrives to show support. Enzo explains that if there is trouble, he wants to help (“for your father – for your father”). Michael accepts and has him stand with in at the hospital entrance, disguising themselves as additional Corleone protection, just in time as a vehicle of probable hitmen pull up and drive away. Inexperienced and unfamiliar with the crime life, Enzo shakes visibly while trying to activate his cigarette lighter. The cool part about this scene is that the actor Gabriele Torrei was extremely nervous about acting in this scene, thus his trembling was real. It was kept in the movie.
Scene 5: The Don’s Worst Nightmare Becomes Reality
After returning home for bed recovery after a failed assassination attempt, the Don, too weak to speak, inquiries about youngest son Michael’s whereabouts. Tom Hagen reluctantly answers that Michael is the one who killed corrupt police captain McCluskey (who removed police protection when Vito was in the hospital and broke Michael’s jaw). Shocked and disappointed, Vito gestures for everyone to leave him, having learned that the one son being groomed for legitimacy and politics (can you couple those two together?) had become a murderer and had to leave the country.
Scene 6: Sonny’s Love And Wrath
Sonny arrives at sister Connie’s home, where she greets and quickly stands with her back to him. When he turns her around, he sees that she has been beaten by her new husband, Carlo. Being the notable family hothead, Sonny bites his fist in both horror and fury as she tries to talk him out of retaliating. I personally loved that scene because it’s undoubtedly how I would react before, well, you know… [Family values!]
Scene 7: Apollonia’s Father Protects His Daughter
Hiding out in Sicily after killing the police captain and drug baron Sollozzo, Michael spots a very beautiful young lady in the fields. In town, he and his bodyguards ask a local about this attractive woman. The man is enjoying their description until he realizes that the woman in question is his own daughter. His change in attitude is epic. As it should be… [Family values!]
Scene 8: Michael Questions Moe Greene
During his visit with Casino mogul Moe Greene in Las Vegas, Michael (functioning as the new Don) expresses his interest in buying him out of the casino. In his anger, Moe goes off on his own tirade which is met with one question by Michael: “Is that why you slap my (middle, slow-witted) brother Fredo around in public?” The look on his face is significantly different than when he was a young war hero, returning home to attend his sister Connie’s wedding at the beginning of the movie. To Michael’s greater frustration, Fredo runs to Moe’s defense, excusing his actions. The bonus moment occurs when the meeting ends and Fredo remprimands, “Mike! You don’t come to Las Vegas and talk to a man like Moe Greene like that!” Michael softly and firmly retorts, “Fredo, you’re my brother and I love you. But don’t ever take sides with anyone against the family again, ever.” [Family values!]
Scene 9: Tessio’s Plan Is Foiled
Before his heart attack and death, Vito warns Michael that the traitor to the family will reveal himself by requesting a meeting between Michael and rival family head, Don Barzini. It is during this meeting that Michael will be killed. Vito’s words prove prophetic when his caporegime and longtime partner and friend Salvatore Tessio innocently approaches Michael during the funeral. On the day of the meeting, Tessio is informed that there are last minute changes to which Tessio complains, “…that screws up my plans.” After a moment of silence and noticing that he is suddenly surrounded by guards, Tession realizes that his conspiracy has been uncovered and that he is must now suffer the deadly consequences of his betrayal. In an additional unforgettable moment, Tessio tells Hagen to tell Michael that it was business, not personal, and that he always liked him. He then asks Hagen if he can “get him off, for old time’s sake.” Hagen coldly shakes his head, answering that he can’t do it as the men escort Tessio off to meet his fate.
Scene 10: Kays Future
After Kay questions Michael’s alleged involvement in the death of the heads of the families and the murder of Connie’s husband Carlo (in retaliation for his abuse of Connie and involvement in Sonny’s violent murder), she is told by Micheal to never ask him about his business. Having been pressed about the issue Michael relents and allows her to question him “just this once”. When she asks again if what she heard is true, Michaels looks her directly in the eyes and comforts, “no”. His lie is enough to appease her, indicating that he is making good on his early promise that he would make the Corleone family “legit” in a few years. She then watches as caporegime Peter Clemenza and other central figures greet him in the adjacent room by kissing him on the hand and addressing him as “Don” Corleone. She realizes then that he has very much become the dangerous figure that his father was, as enforcer/bodyguard Al Nero slowly closes the door on her, shutting her out from his new life and responsibilities.
And that’s it! Hopefully you can recall these scenes and remember their magnificence and significance. If not, check out the movie again see how impactful they are, intertwined with the dramatic scenes before and after them. I’ll stop here because I’ve definitely shared enough, but not as much as I’d love to.
Thank you for reading and remember, family is everything.
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