Long before I ever watched The Godfather alongside other Mario Puzo authored films, I had fallen so in love with the iconic character-driven trilogy.
I had heard two friends of mine, in fits of excitement, glorify the events in the film, how far Vito Corleone and his beloved son Michael Corleone were ready to go just to keep family and business intact.
When I finally watched it, I noticed how well Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando and Al Pacino wore the shoes of their morally-conflicted characters.
With a skimpy budget and choice-of-actor complications from Paramount Pictures studio executives, who at first thought actors like Marlon Brando would be a problem on set and that Al Pacino was not a notable actor like Robert Redford.

Francis Ford Coppolla had to go extra miles to convince them.
For Marlon Brando’s case, the method acting mogul stuffed his mouth with Kleenex and smeared shoe-polish in his hair to transform to Vito Corleone during a taped rehearsal.
This genius move was enough to get him the role.
As for Al Pacino, he almost got fired during production. But the question is, who else would have played the Michael Corleone role as flawless as he did?

One other thing that horrified the studio executives before the distribution of The Godfather was its darkness, not in terms of morals but in terms of cinematography.
Gordon Willis’ thing was to weave both the deep shadows of his lighting and the somber traits of the characters to reflect a morally conflicted soul that exists within each member of the mafia boss’ family.
His main focus was to vividly contrast dark versus light, a symbolic way of portraying the duality of good and evil.

Coppola risked either being fired as director or receiving a chilly reception mixed with doubts before distribution. But he ended up creating not only an award winner but a cinematic scripture written for filmmakers like us who consider this magnum opus to be the Holy Book of motion picture.

This gangster saga as compared to those delivered to us by the likes of Martin Scorsese and others, uses subtle but highly effective methods in its depiction of violence.
It is this Coppola’s creative wit alongside the difficult-to-forget dialogues that got me going.
Up until the release of The Godfather, most gangster films were less of deeper meaning dialogues and more of outright on-the-nose violence. The lines did not only captivate me, they did brainwash me into thinking that to be a man, in terms of character, is to wean yourself off everything milky and be tough like Vito Corleone.

Give oppressors options they can’t refuse. Both Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro handled the mafia boss’ character in such a way that engineered a lot of confidence in me.
They made me admire the art of “Gangster”.
Yes, it is true that, Vito Corleone and his son Michael in whom he so wholeheartedly trusted, had such high level self-confidence crafted by Puzo and perhaps Coppola in the screenplay, but it cannot go without saying that Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando nailed their performance like no other actor could.

By Roland Nfor Ngala
(Cameroonian Film maker, scriptwriter and multi-talented entertainer)

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