7 p.m. Friday, February 10, 2023
Humanities Quadrangle, Room L02 (320 York)
Introduction by Brian Meacham
Film Notes by Michael Kerbel

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola (1974) 202 mins
Screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo
Cinematography by Gordon Willis
Produced by Paramount
Starring Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Lee Strasberg, and Michael V. Gazzo

April 8, 1975: Oscar Night for 1974. THE GODFATHER PART II is up for eleven awards. Will Coppola win his first Oscar for Directing? Will the film repeat THE GODFATHER’s Best Picture award, and be the first sequel ever to win that prize?

April 1972: Shortly after the first GODFATHER opens, Paramount besieges Coppola to make a sequel. He reluctantly accepts after they agree to give him $1 million and complete creative control (including no involvement by head of production Robert Evans). He also insists on its being a prequel as well as a sequel. Mario Puzo and Coppola start working on the script, but filming will not begin until October, 1973, so that Coppola can make THE CONVERSATION, complete the script for THE GREAT GATSBY, and produce AMERICAN GRAFFITI.

March 27, 1973: Oscar night for 1972. THE GODFATHER, up for nine Oscars, wins three: Actor (Marlon Brando), Adapted Screenplay, and Picture. Coppola, although disappointed at losing Best Director to Bob Fosse (CABARET), is pleased that THE GODFATHER is a huge commercial success and helps to fulfill his ambition to make “art films.”

April 8, 1975: The night’s first award: Robert De Niro for Supporting Actor, a surprise, not because his performance (evoking the young Brando, and done almost entirely in Sicilian) isn’t remarkable, but because his competition includes two fellow PART II actors, Michael V. Gazzo (Frank Pentangeli) and Lee Strasberg (Hyman Roth), and sentimental favorite Fred Astaire (THE TOWERING INFERNO). Coppola accepts for the absent De Niro, saying, “I’m happy that one of my boys made it,” and predicts that De Niro will be a major star.

October 1, 1973: Filming on PART II begins. The extensive location work includes Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, Santo Domingo (standing in for Cuba), New York City, and Sicily.

April 8, 1975: Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola win for Original Dramatic Score. As his father heads for the stage, Francis exuberantly applauds, whistles, and jumps up and down. He also cheers when Dean Tavoularis wins for Art Direction. This is shaping up as his night.

June 19, 1974: Filming on PART II ends. The budget has grown from $6 million to $13 million, approximately double that of the first film. Its worldwide gross will be almost $100 million.

April 8, 1975: Coppola wins Best Director over formidable competitors: Roman Polanski, François Truffaut, John Cassavetes, and his 1973 rival Bob Fosse. Coppola says that he didn’t want to do a sequel because it “was a sure-fire way to fail and blow everything I was lucky enough to get up to that point,” but that he is glad he did. He pays tribute to ignored-by-the-Academy cinematographer Gordon Willis.

December 12, 1974: PART II opens to surprisingly mixed reviews, but the highly respected Pauline Kael (The New Yorker), is ecstatic: “The daring of PART II is that it enlarges the scope and deepens the meaning of the first film… the second film shows the consequences of the actions in the first; it’s all one movie, in two great big pieces, and it comes together in your head while you watch…The sensibility at work in this film is that of a major artist. We’re not used to it: how many screen artists get the chance to work in the epic form, and who has been able to seize the power to compose a modern American epic? And who else, when he got the chance and the power, would have proceeded with the absolute conviction that he’d make the film the way it should be made? In movies, that’s the inner voice of the authentic hero.”

April 8, 1975: PART II wins for Adapted Screenplay. Mario Puzo accepts, asking “Where’s Francis?” (Meanwhile, Coppola is displaying his Directing Oscar in the press room.) In the evening’s biggest surprise, Art Carney (HARRY AND TONTO) wins Best Actor over Al Pacino, Albert Finney, Dustin Hoffman, and Jack Nicholson. But PART II triumphs as Best Picture, over THE CONVERSATION (Coppola vs. Coppola), LENNY, THE TOWERING INFERNO, and CHINATOWN (produced by Robert Evans, who is displeased). Coppola, who has amassed nine Oscar nominations and five wins over only five years, is poised for an even more ambitious project, occupying much of the following four years: APOCALYPSE NOW.

DID YOU KNOW: For this film, 72-year-old Lee Strasberg—legendary director, co-founder of the Group Theater and the Actors Studio, and teacher of, among many others, Brando and Pacino—received a Golden Globe nomination as "Most Promising Newcomer."

Presented in Treasures from the Yale Film Archive, with support from Paul L. Joskow '70 M.Phil., '72 Ph.D. Printed Film Notes are distributed to the audience before each Treasures screening.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2023 - 12:06am