"The Godfather" turns 40 (Gallery)

Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in "The Godfather."

Paramount Pictures

(CBS News) Happy birthday, Don Corleone! On March 15, 1972, "The Godfather" - Francis Ford Coppola's explosive saga of a crime family - opened in New York City.

An instant blockbuster, it was soon heralded as one of the great American films about family, brought to life with vivid direction and craftsmanship and some of the best actors ever to appear on screen - Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, John Cazale, Diane Keaton and, of course, Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, patriarch of the Corleone criminal empire.

In addition to becoming the first film to gross more than $100 million, "The Godfather" is a landmark of American film that helped usher in a new era of Hollywood, while inspiring two sequels, imitations, parodies, book sequels, a computer game, and more cultural references than nearly any movie of the last half-century.

To view photos of the film, its history and production, click on the gallery below.

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.