Exactly 50 years ago, The Godfather was in the cinemas all over the world: nowadays it is the most seen movie worldwide. A movie that concerns with Sicily, from many points of view: the topic, the setting of the Godfather locations and the characters who have played and made it immortal. Who has never sung the Godfather soundtrack? Just hearing few notes is enough to immerse themselves into the atmosphere of the ’70: the Godfather soundtrack is still one of the most famous of the history the cinema, with many covers and several interpretations.
Presented on March 15, 1972 in New York, from the USA the movie was broadcast throughout the world by the end of the year: the movie was available in Italian cinemas since September 14, 1972. Awarded with 3 Oscars, “The Godfather” was the blockbuster in America with more than 135 million dollars (of which 86 million collected in the USA). All over the world, the movie was so successful to register a revenue of 286.234.000 dollars. In Italy “Il Padrino” scored about 10 billion lire (more than 58 million euros), being the blockbuster up to 2010 when it was climbed over by James Cameron’s Avatar.
From the novel The Godfather to the screen: The Godfather speaks Italian
If The Godfather movie was so much successful and famous worldwide, it is due to the iconic characters that had directed and starred it.
The cinema masterpiece is inspired by the homonymous novel The Godfather, published by Mario Puzo in 1959, from which two sequels have been made. Puzo was also the scriptwriter of the movie and he received two Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay. Part of the merit, for the great success of the movie, goes toFrancis Ford Coppola the Godfather film director.
The Godfather saga is based on the stories told in the novel:
The Godfather (1972) is about the rise of Corleone family in the USA and the story of Micheal Corleone, escaped to Sicily, the homeland of his father Vito Corleone;
The Godfather part II (1974) is a step back to the young Don Vito Corleone (told in the third part of the novel The Godfather);
The Godfather III (1990) in which Michael Corleone is old and turns the command to his nephew Vincent Mancini.
Before writing his novel The Godfather, Mario Puzo was a journalist concerning the Italian migration (he was an Italian descendant living in Manhattan, Little Italy, his parents were from the province of Avellino).
Francis Ford Coppola the Godfather film director, descends from Italian ancestors: his grandfather Agostino Coppola was from Bernalda (Basilicata), and his grandmother Maria Zasa was from Naples. They emigrated to New York in 1904. The Godfather saga was his masterpiece.
Marlon Brando, the most epic character of The Godfather, had the role of Don Vito Corleone just in the first chapter of The Godfather saga. In 1973 he was awarded with the Oscar for the Best Leading Actor and the Golden Globe for the Beast Actor in drama. His poses and lines are famous and unforgettable (the most memorable line is “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”), as well as his formal wearing typical of the second post-war period: dark double-breasted suit, often worn with a waistcoat, completed by bowtie or necktie and hat, and a red rose on the lapel of his jacket.
But it doesn’t end here: let’s discover an unexpected news in the cast of the film.
Who would have thought that Michael Corleone is from Messina? Al Pacino (Alfredo James Pacino) acted as Vito Corleone’s son in the three chapters of The Godfather saga. He was born in New York in 1940, in an Italian-American family: his father Salvatore Pacino and his mother Rose Gerardi were both Sicilian immigrant descendants. Paternal grandparents Alfio Pacino and Giuseppina Latteri emigrated in the USA in 1908 from San Fratello, a small town in the province of Messina.
Al Pacino’s maternal family was from Corleone (Palermo): a curious coincidence since the main character is Don Vito Andolini aka Don Vito Corleone. At Chapter 14 of the novel The Godfather we read that Vito, just arrived in America, decided to change his surname to preserve the relationship with his homeland. Instead, in the second episode of the Godfather saga, we learn that when Vito arrived in the USA from Sicily, the migration officer assigned as surname, by mistake, the name of his home country: in both cases, it is the “strange Moorish-looking village of Corleone in Sicily” (actually the Godfather village Sicily is mainly Savoca).
Robert De Niro, the Oscar-winning American actor, has Italian origins: his paternal great-grandparents, Giovanni Di Niro and Angelina Mercurio, moved to the USA in 1890 from Ferrazzano (Molise). In 2006 Robert De Niro was honoured of the Italian citizenship and he is honorary citizen of Ferrazzano. He performed the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather part II(1974) receiving the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor: this role was played by Marlon Brando in the first chapter of the Godfather saga.
The Godfather filming locations Sicily: The Godfather tour
The Godfather movie was filmed between the USA and Sicily, especially in the medieval town of Savoca (province of Messina).
Several scenes of the first episode of the Godfather saga were filmed in one of the most beautiful medieval villages in the province of Messina: it is Savoca Sicily, one of the destinations of the Godfather tour, which origins date back to the Arab-norman period (IX-XII century). This is the Godfather village Sicily setting as Corleone, the place where Don Vito Corleone was born and where his son Micheal Corleone takes refuge after escaping from USA. One of the famous Godfather locations in Savoca is Bar Vitelli.
Bar Vitelli in Savoca Sicily is considered the tourist attraction of the town: thousands of visitors come in the Godfather filming locations Sicily to take a picture sit outside the cafè, just like Al Pacino. Created in the XVIII century Palace Trimarchi, it still works as coffee shop and inside there is an interesting small museum with a collection of objects and pictures from the movie set.
The original clapper board is held in the ethno-anthropological museum of Savoca Sicily, with the press review of the time testifying the success of the movie. Just in front of the famous Bar Vitelli, there is a stainless sculpture representing Francis Ford Coppola the Godfather film director, by the local artist Nino Ucchino. In Savoca Sicily there is also the Church of Saint Nicholas (known as Church of Saint Lucy) where Micheal marries Apollonia (Don Vitelli’s daughter).
Another Godfather village Sicily is Forza d’Agrò, not far from Savoca, where scenes of The Godfather III were filmed: Michael takes his wife Kay Adams (played by the actress Diane Keaton) around the town where his father was born. Meanwhile, they walk down the streets, they see a just married couple leaving the Church of Annunciation: it is a XV century church restored in 1707 with baroque decorations.
The next scenes take place in a little square where it is organized the show of the Sicilian Puppet Theatre (Opera dei Pupi): it is the Square of the Holy Trinity with a view of the Durazzesco Arch. In this square Micheal and Kay dance.
In the last episode of the Godfather saga, Micahel and his daughter Mary wait for the arrival of Kay at the railway station of Bagheria: this scene was filmed in the railway station of Giardini Naxos-Taormina, characterized by a fine liberty style of the end of the XIX century.
Among the Godfather filming locations Sicily, in Etna surrounding, the Castle of the Slaves (Fiumefreddo di Sicilia) has been used as the house located in Bagheria where Micheal Corleone lives: this is the place where the explosion of the car happens causing Apollonia’s death in the first episode of The Godfather and where Micheal will die in The Godfather III. It is a late baroque-style residence (built between 1750 and 1756).
The very last scene of The Godfather III is set in Palermo. The family is going to Teatro Massimo to attend Tony Corleone’s opera performance “Cavalleria Rusticana”: leaving the theatre, during a shooting, Micheal gets injured and Mary, unintentionally shot, dies.
Other famous Godfather filming locations Sicily are in the province of Catania (Acireale): they are Villa La Limonaia (that is Don Altobello’s house) and Castello Scammacca (that is Licio Lucchesi’s palace).
Godfather locations accompanied by Godfather soundtrack are still fascinating and charming, after 50 years, through a visit to experience the evocative atmosphere of the movie, discovering the ancient soul of Godfather village Sicily.