Marfa Dialogues

Book and a Movie: “The Godfather”

27 November 2012


Ballroom Marfa and the Marfa Public Library are proud to present the second installment of Book and a Movie, a program highlighting novels that have been adapted for the cinema. The novel and film selected for November is The Godfather, written by Mario Puzo in 1969 and adapted by director Francis Ford Coppola in 1972.

A searing novel of the Mafia underworld, The Godfather introduced readers to the first family of American crime fiction, the Corleones, and the powerful legacy of tradition, blood and honor that was passed on from father to son. With its themes of the seduction of power, the pitfalls of greed and family allegiance, it resonated with millions of readers across the world—and became the definitive novel of the virile, violent Mafia subculture that remains steeped in intrigue, in controversy and in our collective consciousness.

But what happens when an adaptation consumes its source material? Such is the case with Coppola’s vision, a blockbuster piece of cinema that transformed Puzo’s well-received book into one of the most financially successful and critically acclaimed films of all time. As The Guardian wrote in Puzo’s 1999 obituary, “For Puzo, the characters so vividly presented in The Godfather had, in the end, been swallowed by Brando, Pacino and Duval. It was no longer his Mamma’s voice that he heard, but Brando’s rasp, mandolins, sepia tints, and Coppola’s soundtrack.”

The issue becomes all the more worthy of discussion considering that Coppola’s adaptation of Puzo’s work came from a screenplay co-authored by the two men, and that in the same obituary Puzo is quoted as saying of his bestselling novel, “I wished like hell I’d written it better.” One could make the case that the film’s script was his chance, looking at his collaboration with Coppola as a leaner, arguably superior revision that went on to take the Oscar for best screenplay.

Puzo went on to write two more novels in the universe that he’d created on his own — The Sicilian and Omertà — but it’s his shared vision with Coppola and the cinematic trilogy that followed the original Godfather film that would define his legacy. The two went on to collaborate on the screenplays for The Godfather II and III, an epic narrative that built on the one crucial difference between the texts — a decision by one of the main characters at the end of story that we’ll leave for readers and viewers to discern.

All of this is a testament to the expanded pleasures The Godfather has to offer when experienced both as original novel and adapted film. As much as Coppola’s movie brings the book to life, Puzo’s book provides the sort of deep background for characters that have become archetypes of American heroes and villains in all their conflicted glory, like so many unearthed photographs and letters.

Copies of the book will be provided free of charge to everyone who registers and participates. Please note there is a limit of 30 participants. This program is made possible by the Friends of the Marfa Public Library and PEARL — two organizations striving to bolster the public library as an essential and engaging establishment in rural Texas communities.

To register for Book and a Movie and receive a free copy of The Godfather please sign up by Friday, November 9th, 2012 by visiting the Marfa Public Library, calling 432.729.4631 or emailing bookandamovie@ballroommarfa.org.

Copies of the novel The Godfather will be available for pick up at the Marfa Public Library beginning on November 12, 2012.

The Godfather discussion and film screening will be held on Tuesday November 27, 2012 – 6:30 at Marfa Public Library.

Ballroom Marfa and Marfa Public Library will serve light refreshments and award a gift certificate to a local restaurant as a door prize.

Support for the Book and a Movie program provided by PEARL and Friends of the Marfa Public Library. Special thanks to Dan Chamberlin, Marfa Public Radio and The Big Bend Sentinel.