Great post by Nick Carr on Scouting New York comparing the movie locations in The Godfather to what they look like today.
Because the film is a period piece, The Godfather actually presents a fascinating record of what 1940s-era New York City locations still existed in the early-1970s. Sadly, many of them are now gone. What still remains? Let's take a closer look.
Basically, Arrested Development is a sitcom version of The Godfather. Michael = Michael, G.O.B. = Sonny, and Fredo = Buster.
Fredo Corleone is the second oldest son of Don Vito Corleone, but is unfit to run the family business. His stupidity, lack of confidence, and otherwise child-like behavior prevent him from being taken seriously by any member of the family. Despite his attempts at success, integration into the family usually comes to no avail. He is often humored by deciding family members (Michael), and given menial business tasks (i.e. casinos, whorehouses) for the family.
Buster Bluth is the youngest son of George, Sr., and is unfit to run the family business. His stupidity, lack of confidence, and otherwise child-like behavior prevent him from being taken seriously by any member of the family. Despite his attempts at success, integration into the family business usually comes to no avail. He is often humored by deciding family members (his mother), and given menial tasks (i.e. learning cartography) to distract him.
(via mlkshk, sorta)
After that great piece about how The Godfather got made was published, Vanity Fair got a call from the daughter of a reputed mobster who wanted to tell the magazine about the time the cast of The Godfather came over to her house for supper and some cultural exchange.
The doorbell rang at seven p.m. at the family house in Fort Lee, New Jersey, right across the Hudson River from Manhattan. "I opened the front door and there was Marlon Brando, James Caan, Morgana King [who played Don Corleone's wife], Gianni Russo [who played Don Corleone's son-in-law, Carlo], Al Ruddy [the film's producer], and my uncle Al [Lettieri]," recalls Gio. "We all went downstairs into the family room, where the table was set and where we had the pool table and the bar."
A fascinating article from the March 2009 issue of Vanity Fair describes how The Godfather got made, even though the producers, the real-life Mafia, Frank Sinatra, and Paramount executives all fought against it.
The studio executives wanted Laurence Olivier, Ernest Borgnine, Richard Conte, Anthony Quinn, Carlo Ponti, or Danny Thomas to play Don Corleone. Anyone but Brando, who, at 47, was perceived as poison. His recent pictures had been flops, and he was overweight, depressed, and notorious for causing overruns and making outrageous demands. WILL NOT FINANCE BRANDO IN TITLE ROLE, the suits in New York cabled the filmmakers. DO NOT RESPOND. CASE CLOSED.
But Coppola fought hard for him, and finally the executives agreed to consider Brando on three conditions: he would have to work for no money up front (Coppola later got him $50,000); put up a bond for any overruns caused by him; and-most shocking of all-submit to a screen test. Wisely, Coppola didn't call it that when he contacted Brando. Saying that he just wanted to shoot a little footage, he arrived at the actor's home one morning with some props and a camera.
Brando emerged from his bedroom in a kimono, with his long blond hair in a ponytail. As Coppola watched through the camera lens, Brando began a startling transformation, which he had worked out earlier in front of a mirror. In Coppola's words, "You see him roll up his hair in a bun and blacken it with shoe polish, talking all the time about what he's doing. You see him rolling up Kleenex and stuffing it into his mouth. He'd decided that the Godfather had been shot in the throat at one time, so he starts to speak funny. Then he takes a jacket and rolls back the collar the way these Mafia guys do." Brando explained, "It's the face of a bulldog: mean-looking but warm underneath."
Coppola took the test to Bluhdorn. "When he saw it was Brando, he backed away and said, 'No! No!'" But then he watched Brando become another person and said, "That's amazing." Coppola recalls, "Once he was sold on the idea, all of the other executives went along."
Slate has more on the restored Godfather films I told you about last week.
Luckily, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had a print of The Godfather that was in perfect condition. (This was the approved master print that Technicolor stored with the academy when the film was complete. It had never been shown in a theater.) So, when Harris & Co. did the digital color correction, they could use this print as a reference. They also worked side by side with Allen Daviau, a brilliant cinematographer who, in turn, consulted by phone with Willis himself. (Harris is a stickler for this sort of thing. When he restored Hitchcock's Vertigo, he asked Jaguar to send him a color chip from the 1957 model of one of its cars -- the same car that Kim Novak drove in the film -- so that he could match the shade of green exactly.)
If you don't want to buy/rent the films, Film Forum in New York is playing the restored films through next Tuesday with other theaters around the country to follow.
The three Godfather films have been restored, remastered, retouched, unscratched, and cleaned for release on Blu-ray and DVD.
By all accounts, the original negatives of the first two films were so torn up and dirty that they could no longer be run through standard film laboratory printing equipment, and so the only option became a digital, rather than a photochemical, restoration.
The final product, which the studio is calling "The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration," combines bits and pieces of film recovered from innumerable sources, scanned at high resolution and then retouched frame by frame to remove dirt and scratches. The color was brought back to its original values by comparing it with first-generation release prints and by extensive consultation with Gordon Willis, who shot all three films, and Allen Daviau, a cinematographer ("E.T.") who is also a leading historian of photographic technology.
The article goes on to say that the Blu-ray version is like a "pristine 35-millimeter print projected in perfect focus" in your living room. Must get Blu-ray player. Amazon has the Blu-ray version for a whopping 50% off the retail price...it's almost the same price as the DVD version.
Update: The author of the Times piece has two before-and-after stills from the first film on his blog. Wow.