Watch CBS News

'The Godfather' Turns 40

Cast of "The Godfather"
Cast of "The Godfather" (credit: Paramount Pictures)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS) - A father passes down a legacy of power, corruption and violence to his sons, one of whom rejects those values, only to take control with a ruthless contempt in order to preserve the family business. It's a uniquely American story that weaves in elements of assimilation, loyalty, sibling rivalry and quest for power, with a heavy dose of bloodletting.

"The Godfather" is that rare motion picture that satisfies the visceral desire for sensational entertainment, the emotional need for affecting drama, and the intellectual drive for art. Born from a mass market potboiler about the Mafia by an author desperate to make a few bucks, the resulting film version is 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.

Francis Ford Coppola
Director Francis Ford Coppola (credit: "Fog City Mavericks")

Francis Ford Coppola (pictured), a graduate of Roger Corman's low-budget film studio and co-author of the screenplay for the 1970 George C. Scott bio "Patton," had only one big studio feature directing credit (the Fred Astaire musical "Finian's Rainbow," which bombed), but was promoted for the job by the number two executive at Paramount, Peter Bart. Initially turned off by the material, Coppola was convinced by family and friends (including George Lucas) to take the job, in order to make the money necessary to keep Coppola's San Francisco production company, American Zoetrope, afloat.

Opening on March 15, 1972 to blockbuster business, 'The Godfather' became a landmark, inspiring two film sequels, imitations, book sequels, a computer game, parodies, and more cultural references than nearly any movie of the last half-century.

READ MORE: "The Godfather" Turns 40 On CBS

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.