I completely forgot that today was the 40th anniversary of the premiere of The Godfather. Or as it’s referred to at my parents house: Il Padrino. A very happy birthday to Michael, Sonny, Fredo and Don Corleone. Cent’anni!
But let me make three things VERY clear:
1. We are not, nor have we ever been, involved in organized crime.
2. I was not named after one of the characters. The fact that I was born several months after this film was released is strictly coincidental.
3. I was not born in Italy. I was born in Westchester, grew up in Westchester. I was given an Italian name just in case my family decided to move back to their home country.
Up until my early 20s, one of the first questions I would hear after introducing myself to someone with a non-Italian last name was: “Were you named after that guy in The Godfather?”
After too many years of this, my response became “Yes, my mom insisted that I be named after an assassin in a mafia film.”
Now that I’ve cleared that up, let me say that The Godfather to me is like The Shawshank Redemption to most other folks. Every time I stumble on it flipping through the channels, I have to watch it through to the end regardless of how far into the movie it is. Over the course of almost forty years, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen it.
My folks let us watch it at a very early age with no thought as to whether it would be inappropriate for kids. To them, it was a film about Italians and their experience in America. They let us watch it for cultural purposes. That was the case for most Italian movies we saw, 99% of which were not mafia related. Remind me to tell you about the time I saw Lina Wertmuller’s Swept Away at age 8.
But that in no way means that I consider this film an accurate representation of Italian-American life. To this day, I still haven’t seen a film or TV show that does. Just because I love this film, doesn’t mean I condone mafia activity. To me, it’s a beautiful film. Period.
A great article on Richard Castellano (“Clemenza” in the film) from last Sunday’s New York Post here.