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Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Godfather (1969) by Mario Puzo

Image result for marlon brando godfather
Marlon Brando played The Godfather Vito Corelone in the hugely succesful movie version of the book.  Author Mario Puz co-wrote the script, and the finished film bears a remarkable resemblance to the novel.
Book Review
The Godfather (1969)
 by Mario Puzo

   If you grew up after the movie version of The Godfather, you might be forgiven for not knowing that it was even based on a book of the same name, by author Mario Puzo.  The book has maintained some amount of popularity as the source material for the insanely popular film series.  Perhaps the most surprising experience I derived from reading The Godfather is how little of the text DIDN'T make it into the film.   Indeed, never have I read the source material for a movie I've seen multiple times and spotted fewer changes between book and film.  I can't think of a single subplot that didn't make it from book to film with the exception of the story of the bridesmaid who is seen in the film banging Sonny at his sister's wedding.  In the movie, that's all she gets- in the book, she becomes Sonny's mistress, moves to Las Vegas to work in a Corleone casino after Sonny is gunned down, and even undergoes vaginal reconstruction in Los Angeles.

   The Godfather, the book, covers the time in the film from the story of young Vito Corelone, to the initiation of the movement of the Corelone family from New York to Las Vegas.  Puzo, a "serious" writer of literature before he published this book, famously wrote The Godfather to make a hit, and it is clear from every element of the book: plot and style.  Puzo's populist intent is clear on the combination of sex and violence with what amounts to an organizational description of the rise of Italian-American organized crime.  Unless you are a historian of crime, The Godfather IS the mafia.  Much of what our culture "knows" about the Mafia: The five families, the mixture of secrecy and flamboyant violence and the mixture of "American" values with the Sicilian "Omerta"(the law of silence), these all come direct from The Godfather and no where else.

    The Godfather is not one of the best written novels of all time, but it is one of the top 10 stories of the 20th century.  It is universally known to the point where even people who have never seen the film or read the book can quote from it in casual conversation, "I made him an offer he can't refuse."  One aspect of that line that the book makes clearer than the film is that the ultimate offer one can't refuse is to be murdered by The Godfather.

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