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Why The Godfather Almost Didn't Happen

The 1972 film The Godfather was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and won three. It made stars out of several actors who were barely into their careers at the time. But it wasn't an easy movie to make. The studio didn't really want to invest much into it. Paramount had bought the rights to the book before it was even written, and when it became a hit, they didn't think they could do it justice. The casting was a mess and took forever. And the Mafia didn't like the whole idea.

Paramount promoted The Godfather as the first Italian mob drama made by Italians, but some Italians were offended. Italian-Americans were continually portrayed as criminals in the movies and they were fed up. Joseph Colombo, of the crime family that bore his name, formed The Italian-American Civil Rights League in 1969. They demanded the words "mafia" and "Cosa Nostra" get pulled from the script and that all the money the movie made at its premier get donated to their fund to build a new hospital.

Colombo didn’t just see The Godfather as good excuse to squeeze money from the studio, it was as personal as it was business. The Colombo Family used to be called the Profaci Family, one of the first families of the Five Families that ruled the Commission. All that talk at the center of the book about “sleeping with the fishes” and “going to the mattresses” came from the Gallo-Profaci wars that rocked the early sixties.

The story of The Godfather includes a short history of that mob war, and how the real-life mobsters came around to the movie so much that several got roles in it. Read about the making of The Godfather at Den of Geek.

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