The Godfather movies are based on a novel of the same name by Mario Puzo which details the rise and fall of a fictitious Italian Mafia family. The Godfather (1972), directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, was a huge hit at the box-office, obliterating all previous records to become the highest-grossing film of all time. (It held this record for three years until Jaws surpassed it in 1975.)
During the opening scenes of The Godfather, Don Corleone is conducting family business as his daughter Connie celebrates her marriage to Carlo Rizzi, a small-time bookie. But the union is not a blissful one, and Carlo soon begins beating his new wife. Learning of the abuse, Sonny Corleone beats Carlo to within an inch of his life and warns him, "You touch my sister again, I'll kill ya." (During the filming of this scene, James Caan (Sonny) actually broke two of Gianni Russo's (Carlo's) ribs!) Not long after this incident, Connie discovers that Carlo has been seeing another woman. Hysterical, she begins smashing every dish in the house. Not one to control his temper, Carlo responds by whipping Connie mercilessly with a belt. Connie phones Sonny for help, not realizing that she is not the only one Carlo has betrayed. As Sonny races to help his sister, he is gunned down by assassins who are waiting for him at a turnpike tollbooth. Eventually, Carlo confesses to Michael Corleone that he helped set up the hit. Michael promptly arranges Carlo's murder, leaving his sister a widow.
When Hollywood producer Jack Woltz refuses to cast Johnny Fontane in his new war film, Don Corleone sends Tom Hagen to suggest he reconsider. Woltz, however, bitter over a girl that Johnny stole from him, stubbornly refuses.
Woltz: ...just tell him he should ask me anything else. But this is one favor I can't give him.
Hagen: He never asks a second favor when he's been refused the first, understood?
Woltz: You don't understand. Johnny Fontane never gets that movie. That part is perfect for him. It'll make him a big star. And I'm gonna run him out of the business...
The next morning, Woltz wakes to find himself sleeping next to the severed head of his favorite prized horse, a $600,000 stud named Khartoum. The big-shot Hollywood producer begins screaming hysterically.
In 1973, Marlon Brando won an Academy Award (Best Actor in a Leading Role) for his performance in The Godfather. In perhaps his most infamous act of rebellion against Hollywood, however, he refused in accept the award, instead sending a young woman named Sasheen Littlefeather to read a statement on Hollywood's poor treatment of Native Americans. The majority of the audience expressed their displeasure with Miss Littlefeather's reading quite loudly, and actor Michael Caine criticized Brando for not appearing and taking the boos himself.
The Godfather (1972) won three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Marlon Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film was nominated for seven additional Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor (James Caan), Best Supporting Actor (Robert Duvall), Best Supporting Actor (Al Pacino), Best Director, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Costume Design. Other awards included five Golden Globes and one Grammy.
In The Godfather, Part II, a young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) agrees to hide a ragged bundle of handguns for his neighbor Clemenza (Bruno Kirby, Jr.). As payment for the favor, Clemenza offers to give Vito "a nice rug", suggesting that his wife might like it. When Vito accompanies Clemenza to pick up the promised rug, Clemenza jimmies the front door of a luxuriously-furnished apartment and begins rolling up an expensive carpet. They are almost interrupted by a police officer, but escape with the stolen rug, launching Vito into a world of shady dealings and criminal enterprise.
In The Godfather, Virgil Sollozzo, a rival racketeer, is known as "The Turk" because he owns poppy fields in Turkey. Sollozzo attempts to persuade Don Corleone to join him in the drug business, but Corleone politely refuses. He is reluctant to jeopardize relations with his political contacts and with the other "families". During the meeting, however, Corleone's eldest son, Sonny, speaks out of turn, revealing his disagreement with his father's decision. Based on this outburst, Sollozzo believes that the Corleones would cooperate in the drug trade if Vito were eliminated, and a bloody gang war soon erupts.
In The Godfather, Part II, Michael Corleone is considering an expansion of his gambling operations into Cuba. He reconsiders, however, when he notices that there is a revolution going on there. Another deterrent, of course, is the fact that his business partner, Hymen Roth, is trying to have him killed.
In The Godfather, when Don Corleone dies of a heart attack in the tomato garden, he has an orange in his mouth. The scene was actually improvised because the child actor playing Corleone's grandson was having difficulty performing -- he only reacted once Brando starting playing with the orange. However, the presence of the orange was no accident -- oranges in all three Godfather movies suggest that a death may soon occur. For instance, Vito is shopping for oranges just prior to the assassination attempt on his life, Sonny drives past a billboard promoting Florida Oranges just before he is gunned down at the turnpike tollbooth, and Michael dies with an orange in his hand.
The Godfather, Part II won 6 Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, and Best Score) giving it more Oscars than any of the other movies in the trilogy.