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has anyone sat through Godfather 1 and 2 non stop?

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Yeah, that's a key scene in the whole Godfather trilogy. ( The "Who's being naive?" scene.)


By the way:just a correction for all of us, and I had it wrong, too: Michael's wife's name is not "Kate", it's "Kay". ( I mean the Diane Keaton character, not "Appollonia" )

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>Um...any thoughts from anyone regarding my musings about The Godfather movies' themes of duplicity and power?


Oh, mw, you can ask that with such innocence of tone, being a polite Canadian.


There are so many parallels here. Turf wars are turf wars. We even have dancing horses. I'm not going there.


Let's just say I like what you wrote and I think there were some great observations.. Not all men are like that, but I find it fascinating that men seem to have a universal identity with the "3 Godfathers"



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> {quote:title=misswonderly wrote:}{quote}I've sure the Godfather movies have discussed in these forums before, but I think it's the first time for me that I've seen a thread about them. So here goes:


> By coincidence, not really on account of the question posed in this thread, I watched the first two Godfather films recently. But not "non-stop". I watched Part 1 on Thursday, and Part 2 last night.


> There really is a lot to say about these movies. It was interesting for me because earlier yesterday I'd seen a live performance of Shakepeare's Henry V, and although obviously it's very different from Coppola's films, there are some thematic similarities that really struck me. They're both about a leader, a powerful person, and how or even whether he balances his desire for more power with his obligations to his people.


> More than anything, the Godfather movies are about power, acquiring it and maintaining it, and the things a person is willing to do to achieve those goals. It's about how someone can justify to themselves the evil things they do, how they can convince themselves that they are not "bad", they are "strong". They can use very sophisticated arguments for this purpose, usually to convince themselves as much as others.

> The lead characters' rationalizing of their terrible actions, the way they can attend mass, talk about their families and children, and speak of friendship and trust, while at the same time ordering the murders of people they've just shaken hands with, had never been so clearly depicted in a gangster movie, or any type of movie for that matter, until The Godfather films.


> A few people have mentioned the fact that that you can watch the earlier story, the one about Vito Corleone when he was young, and his rise to power, in sequence, chronologically, without the inter-editing of the 1950s Michael Corleone part. But I prefer the two stories interwoven as they are; for one thing, it highlights the difference between Vito Corleone and his son, how the former always values friendship and family, how he becomes almost a hero to the working Italian community he helps, and how the latter's first and foremost purpose is always consolidating and expanding his power; considerations of family and friendship come second, if at all.


> But what makes the character of Michael Corleone fascinating is his intelligence, his self-control, and his utter ruthlessness, combined with his self-deception in his belief that he is doing his best for his family, and that he is , despite the many deadly decisions he makes, a good person.


> These matters are addressed in the third Godfather film - but I've yet to re-watch that one.


* This makes my brain hurt, Miss W.... First, no I haven't watched GF 1 & 2 together for a long time.

Second, I think you're referring to Machiavellianism and the lasting influence of Machiavelli's "The Prince" on Italian character (does that sound right?)

For me I've always found interesting the way the ancient Roman system of patronage is represented in this film. Where the gangsters are the "patrons" and community members are their "clients"

who owe them obeisance. In Roman times, wealthy Romans had multitudes of followers who attended on them everyday. The followers, "clients," would have to rend service as asked.

In turn, the "patron" would "protect" them. The "patron" might never ask the "client" for a favour, but if he did, the "client" was expected to do his bidding. This went up and down the line from the wealthiest Romans at the top, to Romans near the bottom of the social scale.

It was a very important part of Roman society, and the GF films show how this system has survived to this day, albeit amongst gangsters. Now, a lot of Italian immigrants to America would have put up with this because it was such an ingrained part of Italian history.

I mean, who was Machiavelli's "The Prince," but a gang boss. Based on Cesare Borgia, a particularly nasty piece of work from the bad old days in Italy:



Also, the influence of religion in Roman times that carried over to the new Christian Church is seen in the films. Way back in Roman times, people really just went through the motions regarding Roman religion. It became all about observing rituals that had little meaning to people.

Religion to most people was merely rituals you automatically did without thinking about it... When Christianity bcame the state religion, it just continued on the same way except with new rituals.

So this is shown in the films by immoral people attending church and just going through the rituals...


Yes, I like your special insight, MIss W, and wish more of it was seen here on the message board.

Good stuff. And as you can see, I tend to look at things through an historical lens. When I watch the GF flicks, I watch all the Machiavellian goings-on between the characters, but I also see the influence of the ancient Romans and how that way of life was continued over centuries, albeit perverted.



Keep up the good writing.








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Oh no, I don't want to make anyone's brain hurt ! Come to think of it, watching those two Godfather films two nights in a row hurt mine ( brain, that is) trying to keep track of the plot(s).



Thanks for the thoughts concerning *The Godfather*, Machievelli, and power. I have read The Prince, at least in part, although not for a long time. No question about it, Michael Corleone's actions draw heavily from ideas in The Prince. Michael was a college boy in happier days, so maybe he'd read it.

Another philosophy / power stategy book that's very famous and could also apply to *The Godfather* is Sun Tzu's *The Art of War*. However, that piece of literature being Chinese, and the Corleones being Sicilian, I don't know if Michael would be familiar with that one.



Interesting points about Roman history and the culture of the patron/client relationship. I was not aware that those practices were that long established.

You may recall, near the end of *The Godfather Part ll,* Tom Hagen visits Frankie Pentangeli in prison. They discuss the ancient Romans, and how similar an Italian "family" is to a Roman nobleman. Tom reminds Frankie of the practice the Romans had of committing "honourable" suicide by slashing their wrists in the bath - clearly suggesting that it would be a good idea for Frankie to do the same ( which he does.)

So the Italian crime bosses themselves were aware of their Roman history, and - at least in a Frances Coppola film - like to compare themselves to their Roman predecessors.


Some time soon I'll check out Part lll, but I have to be in the mood for these films.

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* Miss W's very insightful post mentioning "Henry V" in relation to the GF (Godfather) series got me thinking about another Shakespeare play, "Julius Caesar."

The 1953 film version was aired recently on TCM on James Mason Day with Mr. Mason playing Marcus Brutus.

Say what you will about Brando as Mark Antony, it's still a great film.


Anyway, suppose you could argue that the GF series is influenced by that play.

With Vito Corleone representing Caesar; his sons Sonny as Mark Antony(?), Michael as Octavius Caesar, and Fredo as Brutus(?)... Many plot similarities: Great Man with many loyal followers, but also many powerful enemies. Great Man gets killed by enemies (almost killed in GF series). Great Man's Son (Michael) gets revenge on enemies (Octavius Caesar was the adopted son of Julius), including Fredo as Brutus. Sonny as Mark Antony a bit problematic unless you combine Antony and Brutus into Fredo - Fredo betrays both father and brother as Brutus betrayed Caesar (who regarded him like a son) and then Antony (Caesar also regarded him like a son) betrayed Octavius (Caesar's adopted son so he and Antony would be like brothers). Then Octavius (Michael Corleone) gets revenge on everybody. Next, Octavius Caesar becomes Emperor Augustus and rules the whole show. That leads into GF 3... If you know your Roman history, Augustus faced assassination attempts and then eventually dies quietly after dealing with lots of family issues and politics. Basically same story as GF 3 - Michael rules over all, people try to knock him off, he survives and then later dies quietly. Lots of family stuff and politics filling in between action sequences.


What y'all think?? :) Maybe make a Ph.D. thesis out of it, eh?



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Machiavellian in style, yes; Michael shows a ruthlessness that reminds me of The Prince.


The notion of The Godfather we seem to be focusing on is their motivations and what the movies perceive as their philosophy for the family business.


But from what I see of the real crime bosses when 60 Minutes interviews them, they come off not nearly as classically thoughtful,although their results can be similar. I haven't read the original source material by Mario Puzo, and I hear it is violent and terrific, and Post-its are useful for keeping characters straight.

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I kind of doubt thugs like the Corleone family really needed any

pointers from Machiavelli. I'm guessing they learned most of their

lessons from their environment. Violence, intimidation, and a little

deceit and cleverness don't require much education. Hard to see

Vito or Sonny with their noses buried in The Prince, though Mikey

may have come across it in one of his college courses. Kill someone,

threaten to kill someone made up a big part of their "technique" For the

most part their methods were rather crude but effective.


Don't forget that Vito divided all of Brooklyn into three parts.



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Well, actually it is Michael I'm thinking of. Agreed, the others weren't exactly Machiavelli material. But I don't think it's a stretch to say that Michael Corleone did employ some Prince - like strategies ( and I'm not talking about the Purple Rain guy.)

"Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer", the complete duplicity which became almost second nature to him, the constant regrouping of power, the way Michael tries to second -guess what others are thinking ( even if it's some variation of "they're planning to kill me, so I'll get them first"), all seem a little different from the dumb thug style you attribute to him.

I say "different from" rather than "above" the others' , because "above" suggests that Michael Corleone's methodology is somehow superior to his brother Sonny's, when it all comes down to killing people you even just suspect might stand in your way. But if *The Godfather Part ll* were just about an ordinary gangster who went around whacking people whenever he got mad, it wouldn't be as interesting a movie.

It's Michael's coldness, his almost intellectual manner, and his constant calculating that makes him a more problematic and unusual character than the typical gangster leader.

Just a thug in fancy clothes? Maybe. But a multi-faceted thug, one who keeps the audience horrified and fascinated.


Edit: ps - And anyway, if it comes right down to it, even the noblemen to whom Machievelli is dishing out advice in The Prince are glorified thugs. Not talking about The LIttle Prince, by the way. Far from it.


Edited by: misswonderly on Aug 12, 2012 11:53 PM

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* So much for my thesis comparing the Godfather Trilogy to Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar"...

Nothing original there... :|


Miss W, for a rather good parody, check out this YouTube video "Julius Caesar" Godfather-style:



Viewer discretion advised for silliness... Oh, to be young again!

Amazing what young people can do these days...


Ciao. :^0



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RM, I'm so sorry I did not respond to your "Julius Caesar" idea. Sometimes its hard to keep up with all the posts around here, and I'm afraid I just replied to the most recent one I saw here.


Actually, I think that's a pretty insightful comparison to make, between Julius Caesar and The Godfather. As you say, there are a lot of similarities between characters. Guess the main difference I can think of is that Caesar was assassinated by his supposed friends , while the assassination attempt on Vito Corleone was made by people who were undoubtedly his enemies. But it's an interesting idea, and fits with the "ancient Romans and 20th century Mafioso family" theme.


ps: watched the clip. Pretty silly and funny. Wonder what mark they got for this "English project" ? B-)


Edited by: misswonderly on Aug 13, 2012 12:13 PM

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> Guess the main difference I can think of is that Caesar was assassinated by his supposed friends , while the assassination attempt on Vito Corleone was made by people who were undoubtedly his enemies.

Thanks, Miss Wonderly. But think the people who murdered Caesar were his enemies (from the recent Civil War) that he had pardoned (instead of executing). Caesar thought they were his friends (who knows what he actually thought about them, maybe regarding them as friends was just an outward ploy, maybe he honestly tried to cozy up to them, like with Brutus?), but obviously the murderers felt no debt to Caesar for his having spared their lives earlier. :)

Yes, some differences, but if you copied exactly, people would complain it's a rip-off.

Guess you could pull anything out of a hat and make comparisons to "The Godfather Trilogy."




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Sorry about this. Just one more thing to add.

After Caesar was assassinated, the conspirators made the same mistake that Caesar had made towards them. That same mistake was their sparing an enemy.

They let Mark Antony live, thinking he would become their "friend."

Of course, Mark Antony and Caesar's adopted son, Octavius, got their revenge and made sure they killed all the conspirators and they showed no mercy in doing it. They weren't going to repeat the mistake again. I suppose a parallel would be the ruthless massacre of enemies that Michael orchestrates in "The Godfather Trilogy."

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No doubt that when it came to sophisticated cunning, smarts, and general style,

Michael was a few levels above old school knuckle draggers like Vito and hot-

heads like Sonny. He was a pretty perfect fit for the family moving out into the

larger world, heading west, and posing as semi-legitimate businessmen. He is

definitely as cold as ice, especially when he's wearing that gray suit and homburg

hat getup. Very chilling and calculating. But at the end of the day, it still comes

down to violence and the threat of violence. Unless he also has someone in a

financial hold, why do what he wants? Because he might just get someone to whack

you, baby.


In a very general way I can see somewhat of a relationship between Julius Caesar

and The Godfather. It's in the specifics that there is a weakness. Julie was a much

more cultured gent than Vito, and there isn't the family blood ties that there are in

the film. Then it's hard to see Fredo in the Brutus role, as the poor lad wouldn't

think of killing his pappy. And then there is the problem of Sonny as Antonius, as

Sonny predeceased Vito, and Antonius stuck around for the war against Augustus,

Michael. I think the Corleones using Roman references was just another way to

sugarcoat their usual self-serving ways. Yeah, you should kill yourself (and keep us

out of trouble) just like those old noble Romans did. Thanks, sucka.






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Yeah, I see your point. You don't want to elevate gangsters into something they're not.

But "The God father Trilogy" is a fictionalized Hollywood movie, so they must have reached somewhere for the epic sweep they wanted for the series. Maybe they looked no further than Puzo's novel?


As for Julius Caesar, Shakespeare's play is also a work of fiction. Nobody really knows, in an academic historical sense, what happened in exact detail. We know from Roman sources (and not the best sources) that Caesar was killed, that there was another civil war, that Antony and Octavius won, Brutus and the others died, etc.

So you have to remember that a lot of what happens in the play or the James Mason movie-version of "Julius Caesar" is fiction.


Caesar himself was cultured, but he was also a nasty character.

He made his name during his Gallic campaign in what is now France.

His actions and his men's actions in that campaign would today have him labeled as a war criminal.

He ordered men, women and children slaughtered and had others he didn't have killed sold into slavery. Cultured, yes, but not a nice guy...


I forgot to mention (it's in my previous post in this thread), that if anybody made a movie that followed too closely Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," critics would cry it was a rip-off...

They'd say why not just remake "Julius Caesar" with everybody dressed as gangsters and toting Tommy guns. So a moviemaker would want to make changes so it was different from the source...

Who knows in the case of "The Godfather Trilogy"?

Maybe the comparison with "Julius Caesar" is covered in CliffsNotes or something? I haven't a clue...


Anyway, time for some fun. Here's a "Julius Caesar" skit done by Canadian comics Wayne & Shuster. Skit is called "Rinse the Blood Off My Toga." It's based on Hollywood film noirs:



Edited by: RMeingast on Aug 13, 2012 8:08 PM

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It is good to keep in mind that Shakespeare's play is a work of fiction

and not of history and that he used the material to suit his own artistic

ends and not those of a historian. I believe he was the one who popularized

the Et tu, Brute line.


I'm sure Coppola got some of the sweep of the film from the book and

perhaps some from general knowledge about organized crime, its expansion

into Las Vegas, its getting more involved in legitimate businesses, etc. This

is just following the timeline of Mafia history. He likely added things from his own

experience as an Italian-American, and then something from human nature,

such as the fight for power and retaining it, which is a pretty universal impulse.


Yes, Caesar was a pretty nasty piece of work, but considering the environment

he was operating in, he almost had to be just to stay in place.



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Yeah, think the "Julius Caesar"/"Godfather Trilogy" comparison has pretty well been exhausted now.

And so I apologize for adding something more and thus boring people to death...


I forgot to mention the client/patron relationship when referring to Caesar and the conspirators.

There had been a civil war between Caesar and another Roman named Pompey (started with Caesar crossing the Rubicon, that meant he was entering Roman territory with armed soldiers and that was against the law, thus Caesar became an outlaw at that point). Pompey was killed and Caesar won.

Normally, the allies and friends of Pompey would've been killed too. But Caesar made the huge mistake of sparing them and letting them live. Then they became the clients of Caesar (the patron).

They would've been expected to do what Caesar told them when he told them, like it or not.

In return, Caesar would look after their political and business careers and help them that way.

That was just the way things were done in Rome, it was traditional.

Now, obviously the people who became the conspirators resented this greatly. They had seen their friend Pompey killed, and now they were subservient to Caesar, who had been their enemy.

This is where the conspirators would complain about Caesar being like a king. Because they would have to basically bow and scrape to Caesar, like a king, because they were now his clients.

Unlike in Hollywood movies, this had nothing to do with common, average people. The conspirators were members of the small aristocratic elite that ruled Rome, and they didn't care about common people. The same with their ideas about restoring the Roman Republic. It was nonsense.

There was no democracy in Rome. Yes, they had elections for positions like city mayor, city treasurer, court judges, etc. But those elections were all rigged and dishonest.

Rome was an oligarchy with a small group of wealthy aristocrats at the top.

The conspirators wanted to get rid of Caesar because he was above them, thanks to the complex system of patronage in Rome. It had nothing to do with democracy, etc... (Octavius, who later became Emperor Augustus, solved the problem somewhat by pretending to be merely "the first among equals." That meant he was no better than any of the other aristocrats in Rome, just that he would always be at the head of the line of "equals." In reality, Augustus had an army backing him up, but he played at this "I'm a humble man and your equal" business very well.)

I think a good approximation of the Roman elite would be found in the movie "Spartacus."

Basically, they were gangs of people at the top who fought each other with common people having little involvement in what was going on.

So Caesar was like a gang boss, who knocked off another gang boss, then made the mistake of allowing his enemies sub-bosses into his organization. They turned on him and knocked him off.

Much more gang fighting ensued (civil wars) until a new boss of bosses came out on top.


Anyway, it's a complex subject. And yes, the patron/client relationship had started to change by Caesar's time with other "friendship" relationships, etc., mixed in.

Read about the patron/client relationship here:




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Like I said previously, you can pull almost anything out of a hat and make comparisons to "The Godfather Trilogy." Regarding the comment in another post about Vito Corleone not being a "cultured" gangster. I think an interesting comparison would be to what happens to Rommel in "The Desert Fox."

At the end of the movie, Hitler (gangster boss of bosses) sends two henchmen (German army generals) to knock off Rommel (by giving him poison). Everything is done in a very "cultured" manner.

The people are well-spoken, there's no physical violence, everybody is polite and civilized, but the reality is that the German generals are there to kill Rommel (by giving him poison, they didn't think, rightly, that Rommel would want to go through with a trial). Notice how the generals say they have to return to Berlin as soon as possible, no time to waste, just like hitmen in a movie. They also state they are armed and the house is surrounded by armed men ( so they are willing to shoot it out gangster-style).

Then they take Rommel "for a ride" that he won't be returning from, just like in many Hollywood gangster films...


Anyway, so much for being "cultured," eh?

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I remember many years ago reading about Caesar's magnanimity toward

his enemies, something that came back to bite him very hard. Like that old

saying No good deed goes unpunished, though the punishment is usually not

fatal. Rome was definitely an oligarchy, with the top dogs in dispute among

themselves. In addition to the fear that Caesar might try to become an all-

powerful dictator, I believe some of the conspirators had personal and family

issues that made them feel slighted and now it was time to get revenge. There

is some similarity with the Corleones, though they were obviously working with

a much smaller canvas.


Some of the patron-client relationships in The Godfather also likely had to do

with the immigrant experience, the newcomers from the old country looking for

help from those who had come before, especially if they were powerful and could

provide favors and jobs. A little bit like Tammany Hall, but on a more intimate level.



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