It’s fairly common knowledge that a current and a former Lyndhurst elected official were both (and maybe still are) so deeply into The Godfather “culture” that one former Lyndhurst mayor I worked with had a photo of Al Pacino as Michael Corleone over his private business office desk, and the other has been witnessed by many of us answering his cell phone ringtone playing the theme from The Godfather.
I won’t “Analyze That”; but I will say this:
We’re now watching the painful end of their 4th sequel of the Giangeruso Administration (the 1st was in 2005, the 2nd in 2009, the 3rd in 2013 and the last, the 4th in 2017). And be it politics or movies, the 4th iteration of the same thing always makes you want to get your money back, even if the original is a classic.
The Godfather Part IV?
By Andy Morris 24 September 2012 GQ.com
After the success of Godfather’s I and II, the failure of the third film to conclude the saga led to a two-decade search for a final chapter. Here, GQ.com Editor Andy Morris speaks to Francis Ford Coppola about where it all went wrong and asks industry figures and famous aficionados alike how they are gearing up for one final mob hit: The Godfather IV.
Michael Corleone died, like his father, a lonely old man. His brothers Sonny and Fredo got whacked, his daughter Mary was gunned down outside the opera, and even his trusted consigliere Tom Hagen was written out. Frankly, The Godfather trilogy did not end well for anybody. Least of all for Francis Ford Coppola, the writer/director who reluctantly returned to the Mafia series that made his name after, appropriately enough, receiving an offer he couldn’t refuse. As such, two of the finest cinematic experiences of the 20th century received an awkward final chapter that simultaneously failed to live up to the monumental expectations of film-goers and the huge ambition of the film-maker himself.
Sitting opposite GQ in a bustling French bistro while promoting Tetro, Coppola remembers his initial thoughts on the matter. “I never believed The Godfather was a serial,” he says matter of factly. “It was a very complete book. It was only because it made a lot of money that there was pressure to keep doing it. That’s the business formula of movies today, where sequels do better than the first one.” It’s a defence tactic Coppola has been using for the past 38 years, ever since it was first suggested that he should turn his Corleone family epic into a franchise. “I absolutely didn’t want to make any more Godfathers even after the first one – for sure I didn’t want to make a third or fourth. If I had had my way, there would only be one Godfather.”
Coppola never wanted to make Godfather II…
Given this frustration, why did he do the third? After the first two films made more than $400m and brought in nine Oscars, Paramount had been unsurprisingly keen for a sequel. As detailed in Peter Cowie’s definitive 1997 book of the trilogy, the studio approached Coppola with a series of increasingly lurid plots and some less-than-inspired casting suggestions. Coppola always refused to consider any concept that wasn’t his own, demanding complete control. But after a series of disappointments – not least the failure of his musical One From The Heart and the financial collapse of his Zoetrope studios – he finally agreed to it on his own terms. For Coppola, the personal and professional stakes were sky high – during an interview conducted shortly before the release of the third film David Breskin from Rolling Stone described Part III as “[Coppola’s] bid for both financial and artistic redemption, his ticket to the third act of his own life”.
It’s often forgotten how eagerly anticipated was The Godfather: Part III. Coppola and Paramount had persuaded the vast majority of the key actors to reprise their roles, albeit with the notable exception of Robert Duvall (who balked at being offered a pay-deal significantly smaller than Pacino’s). The biggest casting surprise came in the form of Coppola’s own daughter Sofia, drafted in at short notice when Winona Ryder pulled out through illness. Despite being shot at breakneck pace to meet a Christmas 1990 release, all the key ingredients seemed to be there: cinematographer Gordon Willis behind the camera, Pacino as an aged patriarch on screen, Sicilian flashbacks, high-Church intrigue and even cannoli (albeit in poisonous form). Despite Peter J Boyer’s savage Vanity Fairpiece “Under The Gun” revealing the strained circumstances of the film’s conception, the press still had high hopes. The Los Angeles Times called The Godfather: Part III “the most anticipated film of the last decade”. The papers started to talk excitedly about further possibilities for the characters, primarily focusing on Vincent Mancini played by Andy Garcia. It seemed entirely possible that Coppola could, as he had before on Apocalypse Now, wrestle a remarkable blockbuster out of a difficult shoot.
Initially, the reviews were good enough to lead one to believe that Coppola had succeeded. Despite the film’s labyrinthine plotting, awkward new characters and the occasional misstep, it appeared that the director had defied the odds. Both Variety and the Hollywood Reporter gave favourable early notices and the Evening Standard‘s resident Coppola-phile Alexander Walker singled it out for particular praise. Some were more cautious. Roger Ebert talked about how, because of our kinship with the first two films: “Part III works better than it should, evokes the same sense of wasted greatness, of misdirected genius.”
Other critics were less convinced. Many treated the third film as a personal betrayal of the adored originals – as Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers put it at the time, “Seeing a Godfather film isn’t business as usual. It’s personal.”
Hal Hinson in the Washington Post memorably described how the third film “isn’t just a disappointment, it’s a failure of heartbreaking proportions… It’s hard to tell if this thing’s serious or a parody and, if it is a parody, whether or not it’s intentional.” Time lamented the lack of pace: “For two hours, the movie labours up the winding path of its story, wheezing like an old man who won’t admit his age.” Most forthright of all was The New Yorker‘s Pauline Kael who, having described the first two films as “our gangster epic, our immigration epic, our national passion”, dismissed the third for being about “a battered movie-maker’s king-size depression”.
Despite the negative feedback, the film’s early box-office takings showed promise, achieving an opening weekend of $19.5m, second only to the more family-friendly Home Alone‘s $25m in 1990. But it never looked like Coppola’s final part of the trilogy would reach the stratospheric financial heights of the earlier films. Having cost $55m, it went on to make $66m in America (and the same again internationally): eminently respectable for any film that didn’t have Godfather levels of expectation behind it. There was another problem – Martin Scorsese‘s ultra-violent, foul-mouthed GoodFellas was released in the same year, giving those people who loved the original cold-hearted Michael Corleone new antiheroes to quote and root for. As for the Oscars, although the third Godfather was nominated for seven awards, it emerged empty-handed – Kevin Costner’s Dances With Wolves got the accolades.
It may not have lived up to the expectations of the first two films but fans still had unfinished business. The cast and crew, however, moved on. Coppola started to make smaller, more personal films, as well as producing work directed by his daughter, Sofia, and shooting the odd money-making venture (the mawkish Jack, the operatic Bram Stoker’s Dracula).
The stock of *The Godfather:
Part III* also dipped as the film began to be parodied – notably by Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live in February 1991 who corrupted Pacino’s line, “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in…” long before Steve Van Zandt made it his knowing catchphrase in The Sopranos. Coppola’s associates also began to badmouth it – Mario Puzo told Larry King, “The Godfather: Part III, I think maybe we didn’t do as well. You know, sometimes you are lucky, sometimes you are not.”
If The Godfather: Part III proved an unsatisfactory conclusion for viewers, it was even more frustrating for one key protagonist. Andy Garcia, who everyone was expecting to move the franchise on, was one of the few participants who received near universal praise. The New York Times talked breathlessly of, “Mr Garcia’s high-voltage performance… not only insures him a bright future but suggests the series may have one as well,” while Time gushed, “Garcia, an electric actor, swaggers so handsomely that he makes one wish for another sequel.”
On 21 June 1999, the Hollywood Reporter claimed a fourth film was in the works with Garcia in a lead role…
In 2021, Lyndhurst can’t afford a 5th sequel of guys like these…
Lyndhurst Board of Education Presidents Joe Abruscato and “Chizzie” Vuono (the two on the left) oversaw our schools’ $4.5 million deficit and school construction “disaster”, but regardless they were endorsed by Mayor Bobby Giangeruso and Commissioner Tommy DiMaggio (the two on the right with their adult children hired without teaching certificates as Lyndhurst public school teachers).