You come to me on the day of my daughter’s wedding and ask me to make a video about The Godfather in exchange for money?
Welcome to why the book wins, my name is laura and today I am going to make you an offer you cant refuse, so watch out becuase you just might wake up with the head of a $600,000 horse in your bed.
The Godfather by Mario Puzo (1969)
The Godfather directed by Francis Ford Coppola (1972)
Before I start insulting the book, I want to say right out of the gate that I love the movie! It is the book that I have a lot of complaints with. Also, I won’t be going as in depth into the events of the movie because this movie is so famous that I think most people are aware of the story. So this episode is aimed more at those who have seen the movie. If you do want to hear about the book and movie in more detail, check out Ink to Film’s episode!
Before I go on a rant about this book, I want to acknowledge that the film is a very faithful adaptation when it comes to the the Corleone family and the war that happens amongst the other mafia members. The movie, however, was smart enough to cut all the extra BS Puzo had included that was not at all necessary. This book could have been about 200 pages shorter, because, and I am not even exaggerating, there is about 200 pages worth of misogyny in this book! And don’t comment and say, the mafia was sexist, so of course the characters are going to treat women terribly! Because, yes, I get that. My problem with this book is that Puzo didn’t provided balance. None the female characters have any personality and Puzo has the women all be fine with the way they are treated. Every single woman in either a sex object or a punching bag.
And multiple times we have a woman say she doesn’t want to have sex with a guy, and we see that the woman still wants to man to try, despite her telling him no, in one scene a woman tells a man she doesn’t want to have sex but he persists. When then he tells her, “You would have been awfully insulted if I didn’t even try,” Jules said. And she had to laugh because it was true.” What?? To any man who read this book and thought that was true-no! When a woman tells you she doesn’t want to have sex, she does not want you to persist and cause her to have to tell you no yet again. We also hear about Fontaine and how the divorce from his first wife was his wife’s fault, and even she would agree. We hear that Fontaine cheated on her many times, but that his infidelity was to be expected and it wasn’t his fault and that had nothing to do with the actual divorce. The book also goes on and on about how Fontaine likes to have sex with virgins, and it is written as if this is an admirable thing! In the beginning of the book, we see him repeatedly punching a woman’s body, then later, the narrator tells us how Fontaine has always treated women kindly and is thoughtful. Ummm, what about out first scene with him?!
And when Fontaine tells Vito about hitting the woman from the beginning, he says the woman laughed at him and Vito is like, what do you expect, you should have hit her in the face. Again, I know the mafia was fine with beating women, but we also see Connie getting a thrill out of being beat. If Puzo was just trying to accurately portray the abuse of women by mafia members, fine. But he should have provided a balance by giving us a female perspective of a woman who has an actual personality! The women who perspectives we get are so one dimensional and their defining characteristics are sexual. Kay is said to always be so eager for sex and how Michael loves that about her. Lucy, the bridesmaid who Sonny is have an affair with, has a whole section of the book dedicated to her vagina! She gets a reconstruction surgery down there, but it doesn’t pertain to anything at all! Why is that even in the book?? We have Connie, who is severely abused by her husband, and she does fight back and tells Sonny who then beats him up. But we never get a feel for her character at all. She exists just as a punching bag and a plot device.
Oh and there is Michaels first wife, who apparently has no dialogue and exists only to be killed. I didn’t even get to that part in the book thought because I stopped reading at 70%. (Which is why I titled this, “book vs movie (kind of)”) Puzo said that a lot of Don Corleone’s words of wisdom were actual things his grandmother said. So Puzo clearly had strong women in his life, so why did he not include any in this book??
One last thing, before everything goes down, Michael and Kay go see a play and they watch Carousel. I watched this movie as a kid-Rogers and Hammerstein-and it is about a guy who beats his wife, then he dies, and his spirit returns to earth and he meets his now grown daughter. We have a scene where he then hits his daughter. When the daughter is talking to her mom about it she says, “He hit me, but I could tell he did it because he loved me.” And the mother nods knowingly. Uuuugh, I was shocked when I watched that scene has a kid, and as an adult it sickens me. The scene about this in the book reads, “The play was a musical called Carousel and its sentimental story of a braggart thief made them smile at each other with amusement. When they came out of the theater it had turned cold. Kay snuggled up to him and said, “After we’re married, will you beat me and then steal a star for a present?””
Puzo must have intentionally used this musical because of its abuse towards women, maybe trying to show that the abuse women experience in this book was the norm.
One last thing about this, even if a book is accurate with its portrayal of misogyny, or racism, or homophobia-if someone hates the book because of those things, do not try to convince them otherwise by telling them it is “just the way it was back then”. I don’t care! I don’t want to read about it! It is beyond uncomfortable and disgusting and just because it was true of the time doesn’t mean it is something someone should therefore be okay reading. In fact, telling someone that it was just true of the time almost makes it worse. As bad as it is to read these offensive things in a novel, thinking about how at some point in time this was the norm just makes it even worse.
And speaking of racism, this book also has a totally unnecessary scene in the meeting of the five families where racist comments are made. The mafia may have been racist, but the comment made was not relevant to the story so why put it in there?!
Sorry to rant for so long. On to the positive! Lol. I listened to Ink to Film discuss this book with author Fonda Lee and they helped me appreciate the parts of this book that actually were well crafted. If the main parts of the story weren’t so solid, it wouldn’t have been such an incredible movie.
In the end, though, I would not recommend this book at all. As I said, I myself wasn’t even able to get through it.
As said, the movie cut a lot from the book, but everything from the movie is in the book. The iconic lines, the famous scenes that we see referenced everywhere, all from the book!
Puzo himself never met the mafia, was never connected in any way and just read about them. He also advised Coppola never to meet with an actual mobster. Yet over time, the mafia began to imitate the movie! As Fonda Lee said, art imitating life became life imitating art.
I am not going to discuss the cast in detail-aside from saying Rest in Peace James Caan who recently passed away. But the movie is wonderfully cast and you couldn’t have asked for anyone better! (And while I like watching Marlon Brando movies, he seems like a nightmare to have worked with because how pretentious he was and wouldn’t memorize his lines and needed cue cards everywhere).
Order of events
The movie also shows what is happening with everyone simultaneously. Whereas the book would tell you what was going on on one’s persons end. Then swtich to a new section, go back in time a bit and tell you what this other person had been up to. I prefer the way the movie did it. It also just wouldn’t have worked well to show it in the movie that way it had in the book.
I will say, one part where this worked well was with Luca Brassi. We hear about how Luca is tough and scary, and when Vito is killed everyone wants to get a hold of Luca because he is a tough guy, and the reader is also wanting to know where Luca is. Then we go back in time and see what Luca had been up to and see that Sollozzo had him killed around the same time the guys shot Vito. I also like that halfway through we get the whole section that shows Vito’s rise to power. This of course was the inspiration for The Godfather Part 2, and I will have a separate book vs movie to discuss that part of the story.
Mostly, this style didn’t work well for the book. I wanted to know what happened with the Croleone’s and when we switched over to Johnny and Lucy, they lost me. And anytime we were in an interesting part of the story and I was finally getting into it, Puzo switched over to some other storyline either with Fontaine, or Lucy or someone that I not only had no interest in, but that honeslty made me angry and ruined the flow.
Aside from scenes that were cut, there aren’t any huge differences. There is one change I wanted to mention that didn’t change the story at all, but it a scene where Michael says the exact opposite from book to movie. When he says he will kill Sollozzo and the cop, Tom tells him it is just business and not to take it personal. After further discussing it, Michael reassures Tom, it’s strictly business. Even though we can see he is taking it personal despite his words. In the book though he has this great monologue which reads, ““Tom, don’t let anybody kid you. It’s all personal, every bit of business. Every piece of shit every man has to eat every day of his life is personal. They call it business. OK. But it’s personal as hell. You know where I learned that from? The Don. My old man. The Godfather. If a bolt of lightning hit a friend of his the old man would take it personal. He took my going into the Marines personal. That’s what makes him great. The Great Don. He takes everything personal. Like God. He knows every feather that falls from the tail of a sparrow or however the hell it goes. Right? And you know something? Accidents don’t happen to people who take accidents as a personal insult.”
In the movie, when Michael leaves after killing Sollozzo, Kay goes to see Tom and has a letter for him to give Michael. Tom refuses to take it because to take it would imply he knows where Michael is. In the book, after this, Michael’s mom has her come inside and she basically tells Kay she needs to forget about Michael. Kay realizes that Michael really is a murderer, because the mom told her so in so many words.
Honestly, I don’t have much more to say about the book, because everything that was left out was just garbage anyway and I don’t want to talk about it. I do want to share some things from the movie I loved though before I wrap this up. Before I share this part though, comment down below what your favorite moment in the godfather movie is!
Of course, the scene of the baptism when Michael is saying he rejects evil, and we see his men killing the other mafia members in order to secure his lead. (oh, and the baby in that scene is Sofia Coppola!)
Marlon Brando with the cat at the beginning of the movie-so cute.
The scene in the beginning with Luca thanking Vito for inviting him, and Luca stutters, the actor was so nervous doing a scene with Marlon Brando that that was him actually stuttering and messing up his lines! Coppola added in the part with him practicing the speech after the fact.
Francis Ford Coppola turned in an initial Director’s Cut running two hours and six minutes. “Paramount Pictures” production chief Robert Evans rejected this version, and demanded a longer cut with more scenes about the family. The final release version was nearly fifty minutes longer than Coppola’s initial cut.
Francis Ford Coppola held improvisational rehearsal sessions that simply consisted of the main cast sitting down in character for a family meal. The actors and actresses couldn’t break character, which Coppola saw as a way for the cast to organically establish the family roles seen in the final film.
Al Pacino’s maternal grandparents immigrated to America from Corleone, Sicily, just as Vito Corleone had.
Paramount executive Peter Bart bought the film rights to Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather” before it was even finished. It was still only a 20-page outline.
Book vs Movie
This movie is fantastic, and while we still don’t get any strong female characters, it doesn’t feel offensive and like the book had because the movie cuts out all the misogyny. The movie easily wins on this one! I went into the book not having read anything about it, and I was surprised how sleazy it was! But I’ve talked enough about that. The movie is well worth watching but leave the book on the shelf.