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The film's opening title card reads: "Mario Puzo's The Godfather". While the first strains of a trumpet solo of Nino Rota's "Godfather" theme are heard on the soundtrack, the screen goes black, after which the action opens in the study of "Don Vito Corleone" (Marlon Brando). The opening shot is of the character "Bonasera" (Salvatore Corsitto), who also speaks the first few lines of dialogue, beginning with the words "I believe in America." The final shots of the film show the face of "Kay Adams Corleone" (Diane Keaton) as she watches an underling of "Michael Corleone" (Al Pacino) shut the door to the study after his lieutenant, "Clemenza" (Richard Castellano), kisses Michael's hand and addresses him as "Don Corleone." The screen then returns to black, after which the cast and crew credits begin.
Film rights to Mario Puzo's best-selling novel The Godfather were first optioned by Paramount in late 1968, prior to its publication, according to a October 14, 1968 Publishers Weekly news item. According to a September 30, 1970 Daily Variety article, variously recounted through the years by then Paramount vice-president Robert Evans, Puzo initially brought a twenty page treatment of the novel to him that was entitled Mafia. A Hollywood Reporter news item on January 24, 1969 announced that Paramount subsequently secured the rights to the novel, which by that time was listed as number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Various 1969 news items added that Paramount had purchased the book for a "bargain price" that would be spread out, based on the number of copies of sold, to a maximum of $80,000.
Although the film was relatively faithful to Puzo's novel, which has sold millions of copies, in dozens of languages throughout the world, large segments of the book were not adapted for the film, most notably the early life of Don Vito, which eventually encompassed a major segment of director Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 sequel, The Godfather, Part II. In addition, much of the book's lengthy descriptions of the day-to-day lives of the characters was eliminated. To further reduce the story to fit the film's almost three-hour running time, many of the novel's minor characters were either eliminated, or appeared only briefly in the 1972 film. For example, in the novel, "Johnny Fontane," played by Al Martino in the film, is much more fleshed out, with large passages devoted to his life. As noted in many reviews of the novel, Johnny appeared to be a thinly veiled version of singer Frank Sinatra, who had highly publicized friendships with reputed Mafia bosses.
In both the novel and film, when Johnny's singing career is in decline, he asks Don Vito to secure a role for him in a war movie based on a best-selling novel. This also parallels Sinatra, whose career was at a low point prior to obtaining his Oscar-winning role of "Angelo Maggio" in From Here to Eternity (1953, ), an adaptation of James Jones's novel of the same name. Reportedly, Sinatra won the role over the initial objections of Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn, whom many contemporary and modern sources have also pointed to as the inspiration for "Jack Woltz," played by John Marley in the film.
"Tom Hagen" (Robert Duvall), the Corleone foster son and consigliere [counsel], was also given more background in the novel, in which it was more explicit that Don Vito and Santino "Sonny" Corleone (James Caan) were those closest to him. The novel devotes more time to Sonny's womanizing and large genitalia, which are alluded to very briefly during the wedding sequence and at two or three other points in the film. The end of the movie also departs significantly from the novel in that the character of Kay converts to Catholicism and prays for Michael's soul in acceptance of her role as wife of the new Don in the book, while the film ends with her suspicion that Michael has just lied to her about being responsible for killing his brother-in-law, "Carlo Rizzi " (Gianni Russo).
The film's opening sequence, which takes up more than twenty-six minutes of screen time, moves back and forth among several different scenes, including quiet meetings in Don Vito's study in which he and Tom meet with the various petitioners; shots of the huge, outdoor wedding reception in which the guests dance, sing and joke with one another; more intimate scenes of Michael revealing some of his family history to Kay; and various asides involving Sonny and "Fredo Corleone" (John Cazale). The most famous line in The Godfather, which was taken from the novel and is repeated in several variations throughout the film, is first recited by Michael, who tells Kay that "My father made him an offer he couldn't refuse" when describing how Don Vito helped Johnny early in the singer's career. According to the pressbook, exteriors for the wedding sequence took four days to film and required seven hundred extras, along with most of the principals. Each day the four-tiered wedding cake had to be replaced, along with large amounts of lasagna, fruit, cookies, wine and other food consumed by the fictional wedding guests as well as the cast and crew.
There are two significant montages in the film. The first occurs while Michael is in Sicily and relates what is happening in New York during the extended gang war. The montage includes brief scenes, photographs and newspaper headlines, accompanied by a piano solo performed by Carmine Coppola, father of Francis Ford Coppola, who appears as a Corleone henchman. The second montage, which has become one of the most famous ever filmed, is the baptism sequence, in which shots of Michael in church acting as the godfather to his sister's baby are intercut with scenes of the preparations, then brutal murders of, "Don Emilio Barzini" (Richard Conte), "Moe Greene" (Alex Rocco) and other Corleone enemies. While Michael answers traditional baptismal questions asked by the priest, such as "Do you renounce Satan?," the violent scenes are presented without discernable dialogue accompanied by an organist's rendition of Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor by Johann Sebastian Bach.
As noted in many critical studies of The Godfather, there is no violence in the film until approximately forty-five minutes into the story, at the point in which Woltz awakens to find the severed head of his beloved, expensive race horse, "Khartoum," in his bed. After this point, the periodic violence increases in intensity, from the death of "Luca Brasi," the murders in the restaurant and Sonny's ambush at the tollbooth, climaxing with the baptism montage. The final act of violence occurs when, on Michael's orders, Clemenza strangles Carlo for his role in Sonny's ambush.
In an interview included as added content on the 2001 and 2006 multi-disc, Special Edition DVD sets of all three Godfather films, Coppola showed and discussed the expansive book he created of Puzo's novel in which he mounted each page onto notebook pages, with lengthy marginalia. Coppola stated that his notes and impressions on the novel were so extensive that, during production, he often referred to it rather than the actual script that he and Puzo co-authored for the film. At the time of production, Coppola was only thirty-two but had been writing, producing and directing for more than ten years. According to a March 13, 1972 Time magazine feature article, before Coppola was hired, Peter Yates, Richard Brooks and Costa-Gavras were approached by Evans and Paramount to direct The Godfather.
Several contemporary sources, including the Time article, reported numerous names of prominent actors who had been considered for principal roles in the film. Brando was the first publicly announced cast member, as noted in both Daily Variety and Hollywood Reporter, on January 28, 1971, approximately two months before the start of principal photography. The Daily Variety news item also chided Evans for his statement in September 1970 that the film would be cast with "real faces" and not "Hollywood Italians." Although most contemporary and modern sources agree that Brando had always been the favored choice for Don Vito, various other names mentioned for the title role in Time and other contemporary articles included Laurence Olivier, George C. Scott and Ernest Borgnine.
Additional names mentioned in contemporary sources, but who were unlikely to have been serious considerations were Italian producer Carlo Ponti and noted San Francisco trial attorney Melvin Belli. Anthony Quinn had also read the script, according to contemporary sources, and in a modern television interview, Quinn related that it was he who initially brought the script to Brando. Modern sources add Raf Vallone, Adolfo Celi, Jean Gabin, Richard Conte (who appeared as Barzini in the released film), Vittorio De Sica, John Huston, Paul Scofield and Victor Mature as other names that were briefly discussed as possibilities for the role. In a July 2002 interview for a special Paramount anniversary issue of Hollywood Reporter, Evans recollected that Burt Lancaster had wanted Evans to sell him the rights to Puzo's novel for $1,000,000, but Evans turned him down.
The pressbook and other contemporary sources reported that, because of Brando's schedule, all of his scenes had to be completed between 12 April and 28 May, 1971. The Time feature stated Coppola and others, including Albert S. Ruddy, whose Alfran Productions, Inc. co-produced the film with Paramount, initially were apprehensive about working with Brando, who had a reputation for on-set difficulties, but he was "a model team player," who frequently played pranks that lightened the mood on the set. The only difficulty encountered was Brando's inability to memorize lines, thus requiring hidden cue cards for each of his scenes.
Public interest was so high in seeing Brando in character that the filmmakers had to go to great lengths to shield him from public and press scrutiny during the production. Various sources reported that Don Vito's distinctive look was obtained primarily by Brando's insertion of tissues in his cheeks. That, coupled with mannerisms and the accent and pitch of his voice, created what has become internationally recognized as "The Godfather." Many critics and historians have speculated on Puzo's inspiration for Don Vito, suggesting that the character is drawn from mobsters Vito Genovese, Joseph Profaci or Frank Costello. However, Puzo himself has denied a specific model for the character, and it is more likely that Don Vito is a composite of many types as well as actual historical figures.
For the role of Michael, several well-known actors, including Robert Redford, Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson, were considered, but ruled out early on, according to the Time article. Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety news items in March 1971 reported that, after Pacino was cast in the role of Michael, his participation in the film was in jeopardy because of his previous commitment to M-G-M to appear in their 1971 release The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight. The court awarded M-G-M an injunction against Paramount and Pacino prohibiting him from appearing in The Godfather, which had a production schedule that would overlap with The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight and thus preclude Pacino's appearance in both films. According to a March 17, 1971 Daily Variety news item, the dispute was settled out of court for undisclosed terms but most likely would require Pacino's appearance in a future M-G-M film. This was not the likely settlement, however, because, as of 2007, Pacino has not appeared in an M-G-M film. His role in The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight was taken over by Robert De Niro. Modern sources relate that De Niro had been tested for Sonny, then was considered for "Enzo" the baker and was actually cast as "Paulie Gatto," but he turned down the role to take the part in The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight.
As noted in a April 5, 1971 Daily Variety news item, Vic Damone, who was originally cast in the role of Johnny Fontane, withdrew from the production "on the strength of eight pages of script, what he'd heard about the film, and deference to his ancestry." Primarily a singer, Damone had acted in a number of M-G-M productions in the early 1950s, but had not appeared in a feature since Hell to Eternity (1960, see below). According to statements he released at the time, Damone felt that the film, including his role, would be demeaning to his Italian-American heritage, although some modern sources have speculated that Damone's decision was made after he realized that the Johnny role had been reduced drastically from what it had been in the novel. Damone continued to sing, as well as act on television throughout the 1970s, but he never again appeared in a feature film.
Modern sources state that Sal Mineo, Martin Sheen and Paul Mantee were considered for the role of Fredo until casting director Fred Roos saw John Cazale in an off-Broadway play. Dozens of additional names have been mentioned in modern sources as choices for other roles, ranging from Italian and Italian-American actors and actresses for various gangsters and their family members to young "WASP" actresses considered for Kay. Actress Talia Shire, who portrayed "Connie Corleone Rizzi," is Coppola's sister. Previously billed under the name Talia Coppola, Shire went on to appear in the next two Godfather films, as well as play "Adrian" in the first four Rocky films.
For many of the younger actors in the cast, including Pacino, Caan, Duvall, Cazale and Keaton, while their appearance in The Godfather did not mark their respective motion picture debuts, it did mark turning points in their careers. Aside from Cazale, who died of cancer in 1978 at age of forty-three, all have enjoyed long and successful careers. The Godfather also marked the feature film debuts of singer Morgana King ("Mama Corleone"), Gianni Russo and former wrestler Lenny Montana, who, according to the Time article, was a bystander on the set during the early days of shooting and picked by Ruddy as the perfect Luca Brasi. Modern sources add Max Brandt, Gian-Carlo Coppola, Ron Gilbert, Anthony Gounaris, Joe Lo Grippo, Sonny Grosso, Louis Guss, Randy Jurgensen, Tony Lip, Frank Macetta, Lou Martini, Jr., Father Joseph Medeglia, Rick Petrucelli, Burt Richards, Sal Richards, Tom Rosqui, Nino Ruggeri, Frank Sivero, Filomena Spagnuolo, Joe Spinell, Gabriele Torrei, Nick Vallelonga, Ed Vantura and Matthew Vlahakis to the cast.
By February 11, 1971 several additional principals, including Marley, Caan and Duvall had been cast. As noted in a March 25, 1971 WSJ article and elsewhere, the lack of Italian-American actors in key roles prompted pickets in front of Paramount's Bronson Gate by the Italian-American Anti-Defamation League. Many news items and feature articles throughout 1971 and 1972 reported protests by various Italian-American groups, including actors who feared that the film, like the novel, would depict negative stereotypes of Italian Americans. In deference to the protests, Ruddy announced to the press on March 23, 1971 that the words "Mafia" and "Cosa Nostra," which were prominently featured in the novel but were offensive to Italian Americans, would be excised from the film's script. In fact, those words were not in the released film, although they were included in The Godfather, Part II.
News items from late 1970 on indicate that Coppola was angry over Paramount's initial refusal to film the picture in New York City. According to reports, Ruddy, who had had problems with unions on earlier shoots in New York, did not want to have continued disputes with them. According to Coppola's interview on the DVD, Kansas City was mentioned as a possible location, with the setting to be changed to the 1970s. Prior to the start of principal photography, Coppola won out, and the production was filmed primarily in New York and retained the same mid-1940s-1950s setting as the novel.
Although principal photography on The Godfather began on March 29, 1971 [some sources, including the pressbook, state that it was 30 Mar], as noted in several news items and the picture's pressbook, the Christmas Eve, 1945 scene featuring Pacino and Keaton walking in front of Best & Company department store on Fifth Avenue was actually shot several days earlier, on 24 Mar, because the weather forecast was for snow flurries. Hoping to capitalize on real snow, producer Ruddy decided to shoot the scene early, but because no snow fell, a snow machine was needed to complete the action.
Most of the film's interior scenes were shot in the Filmways Studios in the Bronx, NY and on the Paramount Pictures lot in Los Angeles, which also served as the fictional movie studio run by Woltz. As noted in the pressbook, news items and reviews, ninety percent of the picture was shot in real settings, with Bronx and Manhattan, NY locations including the exterior of Radio City Music Hall, Jack Dempsey's restaurant, Bellevue Hospital, Fordham Hospital, the New York Eye and Ear Clinic, Christopher Street and Mulberry Street. Mott Street was the setting for Don Vito's ambush, and the Corleone compound, or "Mall" as it was sometimes called in the book and film, was shot on a "quiet side street in a residential area on Staten Island" according to the pressbook. The Woltz estate was the former Marion Davies-William Randolph Hearst estate in Beverly Hills, CA. According to the pressbook, all of the Sicilian scenes were shot over a period of ten days in and around a small village on the island, and several scenes were shot on location in Las Vegas, NV.
For the Christmas, 1945 scene set on the street outside Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the marquee is advertising The Bells of St. Mary's, the film that Michael and Kay have just seen. This reflected some of the historical accuracy and attention to detail within The Godfather, as The Bells of St. Mary's was playing at the Music Hall in December 1945. As noted in the pressbook, because the film being shown at the Music Hall when the scene for The Godfather was shot was A New Leaf (1971, see below), theater employees had to be posted down the street to inform moviegoers that the marquee was being used for the production.
Tensions among the filmmakers both prior to and during production have been widely reported in contemporary and modern sources. A March 17, 1971 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Puzo had resigned as advisor on the picture, which was denied by Ruddy. The Time feature quoted Coppola, Evans and others who recounted that Coppola encountered resistance from director of photography Gordon Willis, among others, and that, about three weeks into production, the strain of potentially being dismissed almost led to Coppola having a nervous breakdown. Another issue during production concerned Pacino. According to comments made by Coppola in his audio commentary for the 2001 DVD release, studio executives were concerned that Pacino's acting was not up to the challenge of a role that occupied the largest amount of screen time. Coppola related that it was Pacino's performance in the scene in which Michael kills Sollozzo and McCluskey that finally convinced studio executives that Pacino was perfect for the part.
Contemporary sources reported a final budget of approximately $6,000,000 for The Godfather, although a December 24, 1990 Los Angeles Times chart comparing the budgets and grosses of all three Godfather films refined the amount as $6,200,000. According to news items, The Godfather was originally to be released at Christmas 1971 but post-production difficulties resulted in an almost three-month delay. Its world premiere was held in New York City on March 14, 1972 as a benefit for The Boys Club of New York. The next day, The Godfather opened at five New York area theaters, then opened at two theaters in Los Angeles on 22 March 1972.
Reviews ranged from positive to superlative, with critics such as New York Times's Vincent Canby calling it "superb" and heralding it as the "gangster melodrama come-of-age." In his Life review, Richard Schickel applauded the film, especially Brando's performance, of which he wrote: "One can scarcely praise Brando too highly as once again he asserts his craft and his pride after years of mislaying them." Newsweek critic Paul D. Zimmerman also lauded Brando as the centerpiece of "what promises to be the Gone With the Wind of gangster movies-both in its artful, intelligent control of gaudy material and in its certain sensational box-office success." Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. took a somewhat different stance in his review of The Godfather in the May 1972 issue of Vogue, stating that the film was finding success and popularity because it "shrewdly touches contemporary nerves. Our society is pervaded by a conviction of powerlessness. The Godfather makes it possible for all of us, in the darkness of the movie house, to become powerful."
Interest in seeing the film was peaked by feature articles on the production in New York Times and other newspapers, a lengthy cover story in the March 13, 1972 issue of Time, which went on sale days before the film's premiere, and a newly released, 10,000,000 copy Fawcett paperback edition of the novel that included a thirty-two page insert of photographs from the movie. Coupled with the long popularity of the novel and excellent reviews, members of the general public were eager to see the film. The limited number of initial venues exhibiting The Godfather thus created huge lines outside theaters, where ticket sales reached record levels, convincing many theater owners to keep the picture running round-the-clock. Among the many contemporary news stories reporting on what became the popular cultural phenomenon of trying to see The Godfather, was the tongue-in-check feature article "Life-styles for Waiting in Line to See 'Godfather'" published in Los Angeles Times on April 16, 1972. The article reported on various strategies for seeing the film, including days of planning and the friendships that were created while moviegoers experienced the common bond of waiting hours in line. The article postulated "The Godfather is more important than life (and the lines are longer)."
The picture broke many box-office records. A September 7, 1972 Daily Variety news item estimated that the final Labor Day weekend tally for The Godfather would reveal that it had grossed at least $75,000,000 in North America, thus becoming the highest grossing film of all time and supplanting Gone With the Wind, which had earned $72,900,000. Other news items documented that it was the first film in history to reach $100,000,000 in domestic box-office grosses and, according to an article in The Sunday Telegraph (London), the worldwide box office for the film was $114,000,000 by late August 1972. According to a December 26, 1990 Hollywood Reporter article, the picture eventually grossed $133,700,000 in its North American theatrical run. According to a December 13, 1972 Los Angeles Times article, profits were so high for The Godfather that earnings for Gulf & Western Industries, Inc., which owned Paramount Pictures, jumped from seventy-seven cents per share to three dollars and thirty cents a share for the year.
The Godfather received Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Brando) and Best Screenplay based on material from another medium. The picture also received three nominations for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Caan, Duvall and Pacino) and nominations in the categories of Director, Costume Design (Anna Hill Johnstone), Film Editor (William Reynolds and Peter Zinner) and Sound (Bud Grenzbach, Richard Portman and Christopher Newman). When the Academy Award nominations were first announced, Nino Rota also had received a nomination in the category of Music, Original Dramatic Score, but, following a controversy widely reported in Hollywood trade papers, Rota's nomination was withdrawn after it came to the attention of the Academy that portions of the score for The Godfather previously had been used by Rota in his score for the 1958 Italian film Fortunella. The music branch of the Academy subsequently re-voted, and John Addison took Rota's place for his scoring of Sleuth (see below). The award in that category went to Charles Chaplin, Raymond Rasch and Larry Russell for Limelight , which premiered in New York in 1952 but was not released in Los Angeles until 1972.
An additional Academy Award controversy erupted on March 27, 1973, the night of the 1972 Oscar ceremony. Best Actor recipient Brando was not in attendance, and when his name was announced, Sacheen Littlefeather, a traditionally dressed, Native-American actress born Maria Cruz, came up to the podium but brushed aside the statuette being offered by presenters Roger Moore and Liv Ullman. In a brief speech excerpted from a lengthy statement by Brando, Littlefeather stated that the primary reason Brando was declining the award was because of treatment of American Indians in film and television. Although Brando previously had accepted a Best Actor Award for his role in On the Waterfront (1953, see below), he never accepted the Oscar for The Godfather and rarely talked about it in subsequent years.
Director of photography Gordon Willis, production designer Dean Tavoularis and other principal members of the crew worked on all three Godfather films. Coppola's father, Carmine, who did the music for the wedding sequence in The Godfather, went on to win an Oscar for his score for The Godfather, Part II. While many critics have pointed to The Godfather, Part II, for which Tavoularis shared an Oscar with Angelo Graham, as the highpoint of the trilogy's art direction, Willis' darkly lighted, yellow-hued photography in The Godfather is considered by many to be his best work, even though he received no major awards for it.
A Hollywood Reporter feature article on April 7, 1972 announced Evans' plans to personally supervise the production of four foreign-language versions of The Godfather, which would be dubbed outside the U.S. A July 17, 1972 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that French director Louis Malle was in charge of dubbing the French-language version, and that the actors were to be paid twice the normal amount for dubbing because of the importance of the film. The April 7, 1972 Hollywood Reporter article announced that Evans would produce, but Coppola would not direct, a sequel to The Godfather, then tentatively entitled Don Michael, because Coppola would be busy with other projects. In 1974, that sequel was released under the title The Godfather, Part II. The multiple-Academy Award-winning film was also produced by Evans, directed by Coppola and co-written by Coppola and Puzo. The second film, which was partially original and partially based on portions of Puzo's novel that were not in the film The Godfather, featured many of the principal actors from the first film, including Pacino, Keaton, Cazale, Duvall and Shire, and followed Michael's life as the head of the Corleone family. The film also included lengthy flashback segments devoted to the early life of Don Vito, who was played as a young man by De Niro.
After years of development, a second sequel, The Godfather, Part III, was released in 1990, again directed by Coppola and co-written by him and Puzo but not taken from Puzo's novel. In that final Godfather film, Michael tries unsuccessfully to extricate his family from crime. Pacino, Keaton and Shire revived their roles in The Godfather, which also featured Sofia Coppola, who appeared as Michael and Kay's daughter "Mary," and Andy Garcia, who portrayed Michael's nephew. Sofia Coppola, who is a daughter of the director, also appeared as Connie and Carlo's baby in the baptismal sequence in The Godfather.
As noted in a June 10, 1974 Daily Variety article, the NBC television network paid a record $10,000,000 for the rights to broadcast The Godfather over two nights. When the picture was finally broadcast in late November 1974, it became the highest rated movie in television history, according to Box Office, which reported that 90,000,000 viewers watched the two-night event.
In November 1977, a new television version, known as The Godfather Saga but officially titled Mario Puzo's The Godfather: The Complete Novel for Television, was broadcast. The four-night, nine-hour broadcast that aired from November 12, 1977, was prepared by Coppola and film editor Walter Murch and incorporated footage from both The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II. According to an November 11, 1977 Daily Variety article, in response to expected boycotts and protests by Italian-American groups, NBC taped a special preface for the broadcast featuring Shire. In the segment Shire explained that the Godfather stories were fictional and not "the story of an entire people, whose contributions are positive and tremendously valued by us all."
The Godfather Saga contained additional footage not included in either The Godfather or The Godfather, Part II theatrical releases, which bridged the two stories and fleshed out certain subplots. A number of scenes eliminated from the The Godfather, and subsequently incorporated into The Godfather Saga, also were included as added content with the DVD Special Edition sets. The most significant of these scenes were: a hotel bedroom scene, set just before Don Vito is ambushed, in which Michael and Kay laugh, kiss and talk about getting married; scenes explaining Woltz's sexual relationship with a child actress, which is related by Tom to Don Vito and precedes the Don's suggestion that Luca could help them convince Woltz to give Johnny the part; a brief scene in Sicily in which a feverish, grief-stricken Michael asks "Don Tommasino" (Corrado Gaipa) to find "Fabrizio" (Angelo Infanti); and, a final scene of Kay receiving Communion then lighting a candle for Michael, similar to the ending of the original novel.
The Godfather was re-released theatrically with The Godfather, Part II in May 1977. In March 1997, the twenty-fifth anniversary of its 1972 premiere, The Godfather had another premiere, and was again released to theaters. According to a Newsweek article, most of the original actors were at the anniversary premiere, except for Brando, who reportedly had asked for, but not received, $100,000 to attend. At the time of the 1997 re-release, many newspapers ran feature articles and new reviews of the film. Although the reputation of the film had only increased over the years, its 1997 theatrical run was not financially successful, possibly due to the availability of the film on videotape and LaserDisc for many years. The first of several DVD editions of The Godfather was released in 2001.
In March 2006, a video game version of The Godfather was released to significant fanfare and positive reviews. The game, which news items and press releases reported was to be the first of several Godfather titles, was developed by Electronic Arts (EA), a division of Viacom, Inc., which became the parent company of Paramount Pictures in 1994. The initial game, which was set in the 1940s, featured the likeness and actual voice of Brando, who recorded approximately four hours of voice track for EA prior to his July 2004 death. Caan and Duvall supplied the voices of their respective characters, Sonny and Tom, with twenty other characters from the 1972 film, many voiced by the original actors, also included. According to news items, EA had been given permission by Paramount to develop new storylines inspired by, but not necessarily based on, the action of the three films in The Godfather trilogy. When a new, five-disc-boxed set of the trilogy was released in March 2006, the set included a bonus 6th disc featurette on the making and working of the game.
Since its initial release, The Godfather has continued to be lauded by both film critics and the general public as one of the best American films of all time. The picture was added to the Library of Congress' National Film Registry in 1990; in 2003 an Esquire magazine poll named The Godfather the greatest film of all time; and in 2007 it placed second on the list of Greatest American Films on AFI's 10th Anniversary edition of 100 Years...100 Movies, changing positions with Casablanca, which had the second spot in 1997.
Many of the film's iconic moments, such as Brando's first appearance onscreen as the jowly Don Vito brushing his cheek with the back of his fingers, the bloody horse's head in Woltz's bed and the book and film's key art of the hand holding the strings of a marionette, have been repeated in various representations in popular culture. The music, especially the first few notes of the score, also has become iconic, as have many of the film's lines, such as "Make him an offer he can't refuse," "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes," "Going to the mattresses" and "Leave the gun, take the cannoli." Over the years, several writers have commented on the influence of The Godfather, particularly among American males. A March 1997 Esquire article, "Michael Corleone, Role Model," speculated that the film has had an even greater influence on film executives: "There are people in Hollywood who hold The Godfather as their Gideon [Bible]. They recite and abide by all the film's axioms."
Many critics have pointed to the influence that the film has had on the gangster genre, noting especially its influence on the popular HBO television series The Sopranos (1999-2007), which featured several actors who also appeared in The Godfather. According to a Variety article on October 30, 2006, numerous "Bollywood" versions of The Godfather have been made in India, among them Dharmatma (1975) and Sarkar (2005), which included musical numbers and regionalized variations on the original film. Numerous films and television programs have featured Godfather-like characters, usually for comic effect, and in 1990, Brando himself satirized his own role by portraying a reputed gangster in the satirical comedy The Freshman.