Leave the Mob, Take the Family – A review of The Godfather Part I (1972)

by Cesidia on August 24, 2011

thumbnailThe Godfather movie is a favorite movie of mine. I think I was in 1st grade the first time I saw it. I know that’s pretty young to watch a movie like that but you have to understand, my family is Italian, and it was important to see this movie. It’s not like we’re in the mob or whatever but we are from Sicily so there’s a pretty big chance that at one point this was relevant to my family. To me, The Godfather is as Italian as it gets. It tells the story of not only violence but of family, two stereotypes that follow Italians.  It seems that all Italians are dangerous and criminal but that really only represents part of the population. That stereotype is a lot less true than the “big Italian families”, I should know, I have one. But “big Italian families” are not just about being big: They are about being supportive, and protective. They are loyal to each other (in most cases) no matter what. And they are the originators of supporting local business (they keep it in the family). If you look beyond the death and destruction you can see the reoccurring theme on the importance of family.

The Godfather takes place concurrently in New York and Italy, where it tells the story of Don Corleone’s (Marlon Brando) family. It opens with a jubilant scene at the Corleone family home where they are celebrating the marriage of their daughter, Connie. Think my Big Fat Greek Wedding, but with a bunch of Italians. The wedding not only shows the style of Italian weddings but the wealth and power the Corleone family has. It is an eloquent party complete with a national music sensation (who also happens to be the Godson of the Don) comes to sing for Connie. In this scene the Family Business is introduced. Every person is allowed to ask the Godfather for a favor and it is customary for him to accept every favor that is asked. Here is where the first famous line is in the movie comes up: “Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, consider this justice a gift on my daughter’s wedding day.” This is the famous line that is Don Corleone’s motto for the entire movie. Something that later on Michael will inherit.

This is only the introduction to the theme of family loyalty in the movie. It starts with the portrayal of the Don accepting these asked favors. It’s vividly shown in one of the famous scenes in the first movie, maybe in the trilogy. It’s the famous horse head scene. Here Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) talks with a famous movie producer, John Woltz (John Marley), asking him to consider the Don’s godson, Johnny Fontane (Al Martino), to play the lead in his newest movie. Woltz says there is no way he will give Fontane the part because it’s perfect for him and Woltz in no way wants to help Johnny with his career. Woltz kicks Hagen out but not before Hagen finds his weakness. It then cuts to one of the most well known scenes in history. Woltz wakes up the next morning and finds himself covered in blood. As he unveils his sheets he finds his prized horse’s head in the bed. He then screams and it echoes miles around. This shows how far families will go to insure that their family gets the best they deserve.

There are also many other instances where the family shows their undying loyalty. Sonny tries to save his sister from her abusive husband, and instead gets gunned down by a bunch of mobsters when he goes by the tollbooth. There is also the scene where Michael refuses to leave his father unattended while the Don is still recovering in the hospital. He even takes a blow from the police captain before Tom Hagen finally saves him. This shows Michael’s undying loyalty and love for his father even though previously he said he wanted nothing to do with the family business.

So what happens when the family isn’t loyal? We got a taste of Michael’s opinion in the first movie but the second movie will definitely show what happens to family members when they break their loyalty.

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