The Godfather was released in New York in 1972, and is widely regarded as the best film of all time. Here are 20 awesome facts about this cinematic classic.
Facts via IMDB
1. Marlon Brando did not memorize most of his lines and read from cue cards during most of the film.
2. Lenny Montana (Luca Brasi) was so nervous about working with Marlon Brando that, in the first take of their scene together, he flubbed some lines. Francis Ford Coppola liked the genuine nervousness and used it in the final cut.
3. During an early shot of the scene where Vito Corleone returns home and his people carry him up the stairs, Marlon Brando put weights under his body on the bed as a prank, to make it harder to lift him.
4. Marlon Brando wanted to make Don Corleone "look like a bulldog," so he stuffed his cheeks with cotton wool for the audition. For the actual filming, he wore a mouthpiece made by a dentist. This appliance is on display in the American Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York.
5. The scenes in which Enzo comes to visit Vito Corleone in the hospital were shot in reverse, with the outside scene shot first. Gabriele Torrei, the actor who plays Enzo, had never acted in front of a camera before and his nervous shaking, after the car drives away, was real.
6. The scene where Sonny beats up Carlo (Connie's husband) took four days to shoot and featured more than 700 extras. The use of the garbage can lid was improvised by James Caan.
7. James Caan improvised the part where he throws the FBI photographer to the ground. The extra's frightened reaction is genuine. He also came up with the idea of throwing money at the man to make up for breaking his camera. As he put it, "Where I came from, you broke something, you replaced it or repaid the owner."
8. According to Al Pacino, those were real tears in Marlon Brando's eyes when Michael pledges himself to his father, in the hospital scene.
9. Al Pacino boycotted the Academy Awards ceremony, angry that he was nominated for the Academy Award Supporting Actor, noting that his character had more screen time than his co-star, Best Lead Actor nominee (and winner) Marlon Brando.
10. There was intense friction between Francis Ford Coppola and Paramount, who frequently tried to have him replaced, citing his inability to stay on schedule, unnecessary expenses, and production and casting errors. (Coppola actually completed the film ahead of schedule and budget.)
Continue to the next page for 11 more facts about The Godfather.
11. The smack that Vito gives Johnny Fontane was not in the script. Marlon Brando improvised the smack and Al Martino's confused reaction was real. According to James Caan, "Martino didn't know whether to laugh or cry."
12. The film's cinematographer, Gordon Willis, insisted that every shot represent a point of view, usually setting his camera about four feet off the ground, keeping the angle flat and even. Director Francis Ford Coppola managed to get him to do one aerial shot in the scene when Don Vito Corleone is gunned down, telling Willis that the overhead shot represented God's point of view.
13. The cat held by Marlon Brando in the opening scene was a stray the actor found while on the lot at Paramount, and was not originally called for in the script. So content was the cat, that its purring muffled some of Brando's dialogue, and, as a result, most of his lines had to be looped.
14. Note the attention to detail: most of the cars have wooden bumpers. Bumpers were removed by car owners during the war and replaced with wooden ones. The chrome ones were turned in to help with the war effort. After the war, it took years for them to be replaced.
15. According to Mario Puzo, the character of Johnny Fontane was NOT based on Frank Sinatra. However, it was widely assumed that it was, and Sinatra was furious; when he met Puzo at a restaurant, he screamed vulgar terms and threats at Puzo. Sinatra was also vehemently opposed to the film. Due to this backlash, Fontane's role in the film was scaled down to a couple of scenes.
16. According to Francis Ford Coppola, the film took 62 days to shoot.
17. The early buzz on the film was so positive that a sequel was planned before the film was even finished filming.
18. Don Vito Corleone's distinctive voice was based on real-life mobster Frank Costello. Marlon Brando had seen him on TV during the Estes Kefauver hearings in 1951 and imitated his husky whisper in the film.
19. The three-year-old child actor, Anthony Gounaris, responded best when his real name was used while shooting the film. That is why Michael's son's name is Anthony.
20. Cinematographer Gordon Willis earned himself the nickname '"The Prince of Darkness," since his sets were so under lit. Paramount executives initially thought that the footage was too dark, until persuaded otherwise by Willis and Francis Ford Coppola that it was to emphasize the shadiness of the Corleone family's dealings.
21. The line "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse" was selected by the American Film Institute on its list as one of the top 100 movie quotes. It was at #2, right behind "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" from Gone with the Wind (1939).