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- The Godfather: Part II
Thursday, July 25, 2013
The Godfather Part II is a 1974 American crime epic that Francis Ford Coppola produced, directed, and co-wrote with Mario Puzo, starring Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, and Robert De Niro. Partially based on Puzo's 1969 novel The Godfather, the film is in part both a sequel and a prequel to The Godfather, presenting two parallel dramas. The main storyline, following the first film's events, centers on Michael Corleone (Pacino), the new Don of the Corleone crime family, trying to hold his business ventures together from 1958 to 1959; the other is a series of flashbacks following his father, Vito Corleone (De Niro), from his childhood in Sicily in 1901 to his founding of the Corleone family in New York City.
The film was released in 1974 to great critical acclaim, some deeming it superior to the original. Nominated for eleven Academy Awards and the first sequel to win for Best Picture, its six Oscars included Best Director for Coppola, Best Supporting Actor for De Niro and Best Adapted Screenplay for Coppola and Puzo. Pacino won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor and was nominated for theAcademy Award for Best Actor.
Like its predecessor, the sequel remains a highly influential film in the gangster genre. In 1997, the American Film Institute ranked it as the 32nd-greatest film in American film history and it kept its rank 10 years later. It was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry in 1993.
A sequel, The Godfather Part III, was released 16 years later in 1990.
- n 1901 Corleone, Sicily, nine-year-old Vito Andolini’s family is killed after his father insults local Mafia chieftain Don Ciccio. He escapes to New York and is registered as "Vito Corleone" on Ellis Island.
On the occasion of the 1958 first communion party for his son, Michael Corleone has a series of meetings in his role as the Don of his crime family. With Nevada Senator Pat Geary, he discusses the terms of a fourth state gaming license for the Corleones, but the two only trade insults and demand payoffs. Johnny Ola arrives to express support for Michael on behalf of Florida gangster Hyman Roth. At the same time as the Don tries to manage his depressed sister Connie and older brother Fredo, Corleone caporegime Frank Pentangeli is upset that his boss will not help him defend New York against the Rosato brothers, who work for the Jewish Roth. That night, Michael survives an assassination attempt at his home and puts consigliere Tom Hagen in charge, reassuring him of their fraternal bond.
- In 1917, Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) lives in a tenement with his wife Carmela and son Sonny, and works in a New York grocery store owned by the father of a close friend. A member of the Black Hand, Don Fanucci, who extorts protection payments from local businesses, forces the store owner to fire Vito and give his job to Fanucci's nephew. As a favor to his neighbor, Peter Clemenza, Vito hides a stash of guns; in return, he is invited to the burglary of a rich apartment. His share of the loot is a plush rug, which he lays in his own living room.
In Miami, Michael tells Roth that Pentangeli was behind the assassination attempt; he then tells Pentangeli that Roth ordered it and asks him to cooperate. Pentangeli meets the Rosatos; their men ambush him, saying they act on Michael's orders, but a passing policeman interrupts them and they flee, leaving Pentangeli for dead.
Geary finds himself in Fredo's brothel with a dead prostitute and no memory of how he got there; he accepts Tom's offer of "friendship" to cover up the incident.
After witnessing a rebel suicide bombing in Havana, Cuba, Michael becomes convinced of the rebels' resolve to overthrow the dictatorFulgencio Batista. Fredo brings Michael the money for a deal with Roth, but instead of turning it over to Roth, Michael asks who put out the hit on Pentangeli. Roth is reminded of his late friend Moe Greene – dead in a spate of Corleone killing – saying, "This is the business we've chosen. I didn't ask who gave the order because it had nothing to do with business!" As they go to the President's New Year's Eve party, Michael tells Fredo that he knows Roth plans to kill him as he leaves the party and later Fredo reveals that he knew Johnny Ola, despite his previous denial. Michael's bodyguard strangles Ola but is killed by police before he can finish off the ailing Roth. Michael embraces his brother, revealing that he knows he was behind the plot on his life but the party breaks up as word spreads that the rebels are taking over, and Fredo flees in the chaos. Back home, Tom informs Michael that Roth is recovering in Miami and that Kay's pregnancy has miscarried.
- Three years later, two more sons—Fredo and then Michael—have been born to Vito. He and his partners (Clemenza and Sal Tessio) face extortion by Don Fanucci, who demands they let him "wet his beak" from their recent burglary or he will have the police ruin the Corleone family. Vito persuades his partners to pay Fanucci less than he asks and promises he will "make him an offer he can't refuse" as a favor to them. During a neighborhood festa, Vito meets with Fanucci and earns his respect. He then follows Fanucci, surprises him in his apartment foyer, shoots and kills him, takes back his partners' money and escapes.
In Washington, D.C., a Senate committee investigating the Corleone family cannot find evidence to implicate Michael until a surprise witness is called. Pentangeli, ensconced in FBI witness protection and ready to avenge the attempt on his life, is prepared to confirm accusations against Michael until his Sicilian brother attends the hearing at the Don's side; Pentangeli denies his sworn statements and the hearing dissolves in an uproar.
- Vito has become a respected figure in his New York community. He confronts a landlord who doesn't know him, offering extra money to let a widow keep her apartment. The landlord says he has already leased it and becomes angry when Vito demands that he allow her to keep her dog. Later the landlord learns that he may have offended the wrong person. Terrified, he returns to assure Vito that the widow can stay, along with her dog, at a reduced rent.
Michael and Tom observe that Roth's strategy to destroy Michael is well planned. Fredo has been found and persuaded to return to Nevada, and in a private meeting he explains his betrayal to Michael; he was upset about being passed over to head the family, and helped Roth, thinking there would be something in it for him. He swears he was unaware of their plan to kill Michael. He tells Michael that the Senate Committee's chief counsel is on Roth's payroll. Michael disowns Fredo and instructs Al Neri that "nothing is to happen to him while my mother's alive." Afterwards, Michael violently prevents Kay from leaving with their children; she retaliates with the revelation that her miscarriage was actually an abortion.
- Vito, together with his young family, visits Sicily for the first time. He is introduced to the elderly Don Ciccio by Don Tommasino as the man who imports their olive oil to America, and who wants his blessing. When Ciccio asks Vito who his father was, Vito says, "My father's name was Antonio Andolini, and this is for you!" He then plunges a large knife into the old man's stomach and carves it open. As they flee, Tommasino is shot and injured.
Carmela Corleone dies. At the funeral, a reformed Connie implores Michael to forgive Fredo. Michael relents and embraces Fredo, but stares intently at Al Neri. Roth is refusedasylum and even entry to Israel. Over Tom's dissent, Michael plans his revenge. Tom visits Pentangeli and offers to spare his family, reminding him that failed plotters against the Roman Emperor took their own lives.
Connie helps Kay visit her children, but Michael closes the door on any forgiveness.
As he arrives in Miami to be taken into custody, Hyman Roth is shot in the stomach and killed by Rocco Lampone, who is immediately shot dead by FBI agents. Frank Pentangeli is discovered dead in his bathtub with slit wrists. Al shoots Fredo while they are fishing on Lake Tahoe.
- On December 7, 1941, the Corleone family gathers to surprise Vito for his fiftieth birthday. Sonny introduces Carlo Rizzi to Connie. Tessio comes in with the cake, and they discuss the attack on Pearl Harbor. Michael announces he has left college to enlist in the Marines, leaving Sonny furious, Tom incredulous, and Fredo supportive. Vito is heard at the door and all but Michael leave the room to greet him.
Michael sits alone by the lake at the family compound.
- James Caan agreed to reprise the role of Sonny in the birthday flashback sequence demanding he be paid the same amount he received for the entire previous film for the single scene in Part II, which he received.
- Marlon Brando initially agreed to return for the birthday flashback sequence, but the actor, feeling mistreated by the board at Paramount, failed to show up for the single day's shooting; Coppola rewrote the scene that same day.
- Richard Castellano, who portrayed Peter Clemenza in the first film, also declined to return, as he and the producers could not reach an agreement on his demands that he be allowed to write the character's dialogue in the film. Clemenza's role was subsequently filled by Frank Pentangeli.
- Troy Donahue, in a small role as Connie's boyfriend, plays a character named Merle Johnson, which was his birth name.
- Two actors who appear in the film played different character roles in other Godfather films; Carmine Caridi, who plays Carmine Rosato, also went on to play crime boss Albert Volpe in The Godfather Part III, and Frank Sivero, who plays a young Genco Abbandando, appears as a bystander in The Godfather scene in which Sonny beats up Carlo for abusing Connie.
- Among the Senators in the hearing committee are film producer/director Roger Corman, writer/producer William Bowers, producer Phil Feldman, and science-fiction writerRichard Matheson.
The Godfather Part II was shot between October 1, 1973 and June 19, 1974, and was the last major American motion picture to be printed with Technicolor's dye imbibition process until the late 1990s and was the last major American motion picture filmed in Technicolor. The scenes that took place in Cuba were shot in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.Charles Bluhdorn, whose Gulf+Western conglomerate owned Paramount, felt strongly about developing the Dominican Republic as a movie-making site.
The Lake Tahoe house and grounds portrayed in the film are Fleur du Lac, the summer estate of Henry J. Kaiser on theCalifornia side of the lake. The only structures used in the movie that still remain are the complex of old native stone boathouses with their wrought iron gates. Although Fleur du Lac is private property and no one is allowed ashore there, the boathouses and multi-million dollar condominiums may be viewed from the lake.
Unlike with the first film, Coppola was given near-complete control over production. In his commentary, he said this resulted in a shoot that ran very smoothly despite multiple locations and two narratives running parallel within one film.
Production nearly ended before it began when Pacino's lawyers told Coppola that he had grave misgivings with the script and was not coming. Coppola spent an entire night rewriting it before giving it to Pacino for his review. Pacino approved and the production went forward.
Coppola discusses his decision to make this the first major motion picture to use "Part II" in its title in the director's commentary on the DVD edition of the film released in 2002. Paramount was initially opposed because they believed the audience would not be interested in an addition to a story they had already seen. But the director prevailed, and the film's success began the common practice of numbered sequels.
Still, three weeks prior to the release, film critics and journalists pronounced Part II a disaster. The cross-cutting between Vito and Michael's parallel stories were judged too frequent, not allowing enough time to leave a lasting impression on the audience. Coppola and the editors returned to the cutting room to change the film's narrative structure, but could not complete the work in time, leaving the final scenes poorly timed at the opening.
The Godfather Part II did not surpass the original commercially, but it was very successful nonetheless, with a $193 million gross on a $13 million budget. For Paramount, it was their highest-grossing film of 1974 and was the fifth-highest-grossing picture in the US that year.
The Godfather Part II ranks among the most critically and artistically successful films in history, and is the most honored sequel for excellence. Whether considered separately or with its predecessor as one work, it is widely accepted as one of world cinema's greatest achievements. Many critics compare it favorably to the original – although it is almost always placed below the original on lists of "greatest" films when listed separately.
The Godfather Part II:
- Was featured on Sight and Sound's list of the ten greatest films of all time in 1992 and 2002.
- Is featured on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list, though Ebert's original review of the film granted it only three out of four stars.
- Is ranked #7 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the "100 Greatest Movies of All Time".
- Is featured on movie critic Leonard Maltin's list of the "100 Must-See Films of the 20th Century".
- Received only one negative review on Rotten Tomatoes and a "98%" approval rating, 2 points less than The Godfather (although it does hold a higher rating average of 9.3/10 compared to the predecessor's 9.1/10) but 32 points more than The Godfather Part III.
- Is ranked #1 onTV Guide's 1998 list of the "50 Greatest Movies of All Time on TV and Video".
Pacino's performance in The Godfather Part II has been praised as perhaps his best, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was criticized for not awarding him as Best Actor, which went that year to Art Carney for his role in Harry and Tonto. It has come to be seen by some as one of the greatest performances in film history. In 2006, Premiere issued its list of "The 100 Greatest Performances of all Time", ranking Pacino's performance at #20. Later in 2009, Total Film issued "The 150 Greatest Performances of All Time", ranking Pacino's performance at #4.
In the chapter "The Speeches We Keep in Our Heads" from her 1998 book Simply Speaking, former television writer and Ronald Reagan's speechwriter, Peggy Noonan, analyzes "Lee Strasberg's great speech, given as Hyman Roth stood, weak and furious, before cold-eyed Michael Corleone" and explains what makes it powerful and memorable. She urges:
- "Stop here and go out and rent The Godfather, Part II. In the middle of that movie, you will find a speech that is one of the most famous of our time, and that a lot of people keep parts of in their heads. (If I were making a compendium of great speeches of the latter half of the twentieth century I would include it.)"
Releases for television and video
Coppola created The Godfather Saga expressly for American television in a 1975 release that combined The Godfather and The Godfather Part II with unused footage from those two films in a chronological telling that, because it toned down the violent, sexual, and profane material, received a rating of TV-14 for its NBC debut on November 18, 1977. In 1981, Paramount released the Godfather Epic boxed set, which also told the story of the first two films in chronological order, again with additional scenes, but not redacted for broadcast sensibilities. Coppola returned to the film again in 1992 when he updated that release with footage from The Godfather Part III and more unreleased material. This home viewing release, under the title The Godfather Trilogy 1901–1980, had a total run time of 583 minutes (9 hours, 43 minutes), not including the set's bonus documentary by Jeff Werner on the making of the films, "The Godfather Family: A Look Inside".
The Godfather DVD Collection was released on October 9, 2001 in a package that contained all three films—each with a commentary track by Coppola—and a bonus disc that featured a 73-minute documentary from 1991 entitled The Godfather Family: A Look Inside and other miscellany about the film: the additional scenes originally contained in The Godfather Saga; Francis Coppola's Notebook (a look inside a notebook the director kept with him at all times during the production of the film); rehearsal footage; a promotional featurette from 1971; and video segments on Gordon Willis's cinematography, Nino Rota's and Carmine Coppola's music, the director, the locations and Mario Puzo's screenplays. The DVD also held a Corleone family tree, a "Godfather" timeline, and footage of the Academy Award acceptance speeches.
The restoration was confirmed by Francis Ford Coppola during a question-and-answer session for The Godfather Part III, when he said that he had just seen the new transfer and it was "terrific".
After a careful restoration of the first two movies, The Godfather movies were released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on September 23, 2008, under the title The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration. The work was done by Robert A. Harris of Film Preserve. The Blu-ray Disc box set (four discs) includes high-definition extra features on the restoration and film. They are included on Disc 5 of the DVD box set (five discs).
Other extras are ported over from Paramount's 2001 DVD release. There are slight differences between the repurposed extras on the DVD and Blu-ray Disc sets, with the HD box having more content.
Paramount lists the new (HD) extra features as:
- Godfather World
- The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't
- ...when the shooting stopped
- Emulsional Rescue Revealing The Godfather
- The Godfather on the Red Carpet
- Four Short Films on The Godfather
- The Godfather vs. The Godfather, Part II
- Riffing on the Riffing
Awards and honors
This film was the first sequel to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, and remains the only time the prize went to a sequel of a Best Picture winner. Along with The Lord of the Rings it shares the distinction that all of its installments were nominated for Best Picture.