Today! Because when he turned up dead, I let it go. And I said to myself, this is the business we’ve chosen –
The Godfather: Part II (1974) Directed by Francis Ford Coppola (x2) Starring Al Pacino (x4), Robert De Niro (x5), John Cazale (x2), Robert Duvall (x2), Diane Keaton (x4), Michael V. Gazzo (x2), Talia Shire (x4), Lee Strasberg, G.D. Spradlin, Bruno Kirby (x3), Gastone Moschin, Richard Bright, Morgana King, Troy Donahue, Dominic Chianese (x2), Joe Spinell (x2), Abe Vigoda (x2), Gianni Russo, James Caan (x3), Harry Dean Stanton (x4), Danny Aiello (x3), John Aprea (x2)
The Godfather was my dad’s favorite movie. To be more specific, what he really loved was the collection he referred to as The Complete Novel for Television – which came to be known in a variety of different ways on home video and re-airings over the years. This compilation, first aired on network TV in 1977, pulls apart The Godfather: Part II and rearranges the whole thing chronologically, while removing some of the violence and nudity. And this was the most frequent way Rosco (not his real name, or the customary spelling) would watch it. You know how I’ve mentioned before about series of films in my early life blending together into one mass? I think it can all be attributed to seeing The Godfather movies meshed together like this almost exclusively for years. He preferred this huge, six-hour version of the story to the separate films, so that’s what he’d watch. I’m not sure I actually saw The Godfather: Part II the way it was originally intended until I was in my twenties. And, yeah, it probably works better in the original format – with young Vito’s rise set opposite Michael’s epic struggles. As iconic and basically perfect as the first film is, my favorite part of the whole series is early 1900’s Vito arriving at Ellis Island and clawing his way up through New York organized crime.
And even though purists largely slam The Complete Novel for Television or The Godfather 1902-1959: The Complete Epic as it was released on VHS or The Godfather Trilogy, when they looped III into the edit or The Godfather Saga as it aired on HBO, the main appeal of it was the reincorporated deleted scenes. Rosco didn’t sit around breaking down film and the reasons he enjoyed things, but he would always point out scenes from Godfather I that weren’t in the original movie. If you’ve read the book – and come on, you should have by this point – you know that the vast majority made it on screen, but even the little bits that didn’t were filmed, it seems. Oh man, when they go visit Genco in the hospital! That’s some great newfound Brando stuff right there! Anyway – Godfather II is almost without question the greatest sequel of all time. It was the only sequel Best Picture winner until Return of the King in 2003, and is still the only one to follow a Best Picture winner with another in a series. Many contend it is a better movie than the first, and that’s a pretty sound argument. Artistically, sure, it had the much harder task – balancing these two disparate stories, interwoven through the film, enhancing each other as they bounce back and forth, with the two devastating performances from Pacino and De Niro leading the way. Never mind the fact that it had to follow the highest grossing film of all-time, a universally acclaimed and beloved instant classic, and did so magnificently.
II was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, winning twice as many as the original film, with six. If the first movie could be said to have any misfortune, it was that it came out the same year as Cabaret, which siphoned a bunch of major Oscars away. II had slightly less competition, so came home with Picture, Director, Screenplay, Supporting Actor for De Niro, Music, and Art Direction, while receiving additional acting nominations for Pacino, Gazzo, Strasberg, and Shire. It was snubbed at the Globes, going 0 for 6, largely because of Chinatown, so you can’t really be too angry. The AFI named it the 32nd best movie of all time, and it currently sits at 3rd overall on IMDB – only one spot behind Godfather I. It also has one of the funnier nominations ever given out by the Globes – a pretty goofy organization to begin with – as famed acting teacher Strasberg, in only his second film performance of any significance at age 73, was in the running for Most Promising Newcomer – Male. Oh you incorrigible Globes!
This is Coppola’s second film on the list, following #350 Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with only one more still to come, which you can probably guess (Sorry, Jack fans!). This giant cast has loads of new Two-Timers and advancing folks, with Four-Timers Shire (Rockys #133 I, #356 III, and #400 IV) , Keaton (Allens #107 Love and Death, #87 Manhattan, and #168 Sleeper), Stanton (#163 Fear and Loathing, #224 The Avengers, and #368 Anger Management), and Pacino (#196 Dick Tracy, #160 Dog Day Afternoon, and #126 Glengarry Glen Ross) only trumped by De Niro (#360 Cape Fear, #127 Brazil, #131 Jackie Brown, #354 The Untouchables) joining the Fives! Spotlight!