Take the cannoli - Shawn Loughlin editorial
Fifty years ago, on March 14, 1972, The Godfather premiered. It was first shown at Loew’s State Theatre in Manhattan and then released widely across the United States about a week-and-a-half later. Based on the Mario Puzo novel published three years earlier, The Godfather would go on to be, for a time, the highest-grossing movie ever made and it’s often cited as one of the greatest American movies ever created.
It’s hard to overstate the impact the movie has had on North American culture and how it has seeped into the everyday lives of so many. It’s even harder to believe that it’s 50 years old when you consider making a reference to the film really won’t be lost on most people.
So, what are the lessons of The Godfather? What does the saga of the Corleone family mean to us? Of course, there are two subsequent Godfather movies, one of which is just as important to the world as the first, while the other just didn’t hit the mark. The Godfather Part II is one of my personal favourite movies and I can spend hours talking to just about anyone about it.
However, since we’re on the topic of the original film, let’s stick to it. The Godfather gave us, “I’m gonna give him an offer he can’t refuse”, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer” and “It’s not personal, it’s strictly business” in addition to “Leave the gun, take the cannoli” and a recipe for tomato sauce that you can follow to the letter.
And while The Godfather is chock full of violence and some era-specific racism, there are a few lessons we can take away that don’t involve killing people, vanquishing enemies and thriving in the criminal underworld.
At one point, Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, asks his godson if he spends time with his family. Corleone, of course, is all about his family - his real family and his underworld crime “family”. “Good,” Corleone says, “because a man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.”
This is actually quite a tender sentiment to be at home in a movie that can be, at times, very harsh and unforgiving. It’s ahead of the curve for a movie that’s set in the 1940s and 1950s in saying that a trait of a real man is being there for his family. This at a time when men were encouraged to work themselves into the grave to earn money for their families, leaving their wives to raise the children (not that that thinking ended in the 1950s).
Now, as a father and a husband, I think back to that line often, working hard to be the best father and husband I can be through presence and love, rather than the pursuit of money.
The Godfather is also a father/son movie that sneaks up on you. Some of the scenes between Vito and his son Michael, played by Al Pacino, are among the most beautiful exchanges between a father and son ever captured on film. When Vito tells Michael, “I never wanted this for you” as they talk in the garden near the end of the film, it’s a truly heartbreaking sequence of a father reflecting on his life and the impact it’s had on his children. While many of us may not have experience running a crime family, surely we have all felt that regret and the feeling of letting down the ones we love.
Fifty years is a long time when it comes to relevance. Kids today (God help me for using that term) look at things from a decade ago as ancient, especially with the speed of evolving technology, but somehow, The Godfather and its legacy has endured. Clearly Francis Ford Coppola’s film tapped into something that’s special and relatable to all of us.