The Godfather Part II is an American 1974 crime drama film directed by Francis Ford Coppola from a script co-written with Mario Puzo. The film is both a sequel and a prequel to The Godfather, chronicling the story of the Corleone family following the events of the first film while also depicting the rise to power of the young Vito Corleone. The film stars Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, John Cazale, and Talia Shire. New cast members include Robert De Niro, Michael V. Gazzo and Lee Strasberg.
The Godfather Part II was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won six, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Robert De Niro, and it has been selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry.
The Godfather Part II presents two parallel storylines. One involves Mafia chief Michael Corleone following the events of the first movie from 1958 to 1959; the other is a series of flashbacks following his father, Vito Corleone, from his childhood in Sicily (1901) to his founding of the criminal Corleone Family in New York City while still a young man (1917–1925).
- In 1901, in the town of Corleone in Sicily, at the funeral procession for young Vito's father, Antonio Andolini, who had been ordered killed by the local Mafia chieftain, Don Ciccio. During the procession, Vito's older brother Paolo is also murdered because he swore revenge on the Don. Vito's mother goes to Ciccio to beg him to let young Vito live. When he refuses, she holds a knife to his throat, sacrificing herself to allow Vito to escape, and Ciccio's gunmen shoot her. They scour the town for Vito, warning the sleeping townsfolk that they will regret harboring the boy. With the aid of a few of the townspeople, Vito finds his way by ship to New York. Arriving at Ellis Island, an immigration agent, mishearing Vito's hometown of Corleone as his surname, registers him as "Vito Corleone".
In 1958, Michael Corleone, Godfather of the Corleone Family, deals with various business and family problems at his Lake Tahoe, Nevada compound during an elaborate party celebrating his son's First Communion. He meets with Nevada Senator Pat Geary, who despises the Corleones, but has shown up with his wife to accept a large endowment to the state university. Senator Geary demands a grossly exaggerated price for a new gaming license and a monthly payment of 5% of the gross profits from all of the Corleone Family's Nevada gaming interests, to which Michael responds with a counter-offer of "nothing ... not even the fee for the gaming license, which I would appreciate if you would put up personally."
Michael also deals with his sister Connie, who, although recently divorced, is planning to marry a man with no obvious means of support, and of whom Michael disapproves. He also talks with Johnny Ola, the right hand man of Jewish gangster Hyman Roth, who is supporting Michael's move into the gambling industry. Finally, Michael meets with Frank "Five Angels" Pentangeli, who took over Corleone caporegime Peter Clemenza's territory after his death, and now has problems with the Rosato Brothers, who are backed by Roth. Michael refuses to allow Pentangeli to kill the Rosatos, due to his desire to prevent interruption of his business with Roth. Pentangeli leaves abruptly, after telling Michael "your father did business with Hyman Roth, your father respected Hyman Roth, but your father never trusted Hyman Roth."
Later that night, an assassination attempt is made on Michael, which he survives when his wife Kay notices the bedroom window drapes are inexplicably open. Afterwards, Michael tells Tom Hagen that the hit was made with the help of someone close, and that he must leave, entrusting Hagen to protect his family.
- In 1917, the 25-year-old Vito Corleone, now married with one son, works in a New York grocery store with his close friend Genco Abbandando. The neighborhood is controlled by a blackhander, Don Fanucci, who extorts protection payments from local businesses. One night, Vito's neighbor Clemenza asks him to hide a stash of guns for him, and later, to repay the favor, takes him to a fancy apartment where they commit their first crime together, stealing an expensive rug.
Michael meets with Hyman Roth in his home near Miami, tells Roth that he believes Frank Pentangeli was responsible for the assassination attempt, and that Pentangeli will pay for it. Traveling to Brooklyn, Michael lets Pentangeli know that Roth was actually behind it, and that Michael has a plan to deal with Roth, but needs Frankie to cooperate with the Rosato Brothers in order to put Roth off guard. When Pentangeli goes to meet with the Rosatos, he is told "Michael Corleone says hello", as he is garrotted; but the attempted murder is accidentally interrupted by a policeman. Pentangeli is left for dead, and his bodyguard, Willi Cicci, is wounded by gunfire.
In Nevada, Tom Hagen is called to a brothel run by Fredo, where Senator Geary is implicated in the death of a prostitute. Tom offers to take care of the problem in return for "friendship" between the Senator and the Corleone Family. It has been suggested that the entire event was staged by the Corleone Family in order to gain leverage with Geary and force his cooperation.
Meanwhile, Michael meets Roth in Havana, Cuba at the time when dictator Fulgencio Batista is soliciting American investment, and guerrillas are trying to bring down the government. At a birthday party for Roth, Michael – having earlier witnessed a rebel deliberately killing himself and an army officer with a hand grenade – mentions that there is a possibility that the rebels might win, making their business dealings in Cuba problematic. The comment prompts Roth to remark, privately, that Michael has not delivered the two million dollars to seal their partnership.
Fredo, carrying the promised money, arrives in Havana and meets Michael. Michael mentions Hyman Roth and Johnny Ola to him, but Fredo says he has never met them. Michael confides to his brother that it was Roth who tried to kill him, and that he plans to try again. Michael assures Fredo that he has already made his move, and that "Hyman Roth will never see the New Year."
Instead of turning over the money, Michael asks Roth who gave the order to have Frank Pentangeli killed. Roth avoids the question, instead speaking angrily of the murder of his old friend and ally Moe Greene, which Michael had orchestrated (as depicted at the end of the first film), saying, "I didn't ask who gave the order, because it had nothing to do with business!"
Michael asks Fredo, who knows Havana well, to show Senator Geary and other important American officials and businessmen a good time, during which Fredo pretends to not know Johnny Ola. Soon after, at a sex show, a drunk Fredo comments loudly that he learned about the place from Johnny Ola, contradicting what he told Michael twice earlier, that he didn't know Roth or Ola. Michael now realizes that the traitor in the Corleone Family is his own brother, and dispatches his bodyguard back to their hotel to kill Roth. There, Johnny Ola is strangled, but Roth, whose health is failing, is taken to a hospital before he can be assassinated. Michael's bodyguard follows, but is shot by police while trying to smother Roth with a pillow.
At Batista's New Year's Eve party, at the stroke of midnight, Michael grasps Fredo tightly by the head and kisses him, telling him "I know it was you Fredo; you broke my heart." Batista announces he is stepping down due to unexpected gains by the rebels. The guests flee as the guerrillas pour into the city. Fredo runs away from Michael, despite Michael's pleas that he is still his brother and that the only way out is with him.
Michael returns to Las Vegas, where Hagen tells him that Roth escaped Cuba after suffering a stroke and is recovering in Miami, that Michael's bodyguard is dead, and that Fredo is likely hiding in New York. Hagen also informs Michael that Kay had a miscarriage while he was away, which causes Michael to lose his usually calm and collected demeanor.
- In New York, in 1921, Don Fanucci is now aware of the partnership between Vito, Clemenza and Sal Tessio, and demands that they "wet his beak." Clemenza and Tessio agree to pay, but Vito is reluctant and asks his friends to leave everything in his hands to convince Fanucci to accept less money, telling his friends "I'll make him an offer he don't refuse". Vito manages to get Fanucci to take only one sixth of what he had demanded. Immediately afterwards, during a neighborhood festa, Vito kills Fanucci and takes his money back.
Michael returns to his compound in Lake Tahoe, where he wanders the house in silent contemplation. He sees Kay (whom he has prevented from leaving the compound for her own safety) in the bedroom, but does not approach her. In Washington, D.C., a Senate committee, of which Senator Geary is a member, is conducting an investigation into the Corleone Family. They question disaffected "soldier" Willi Cicci, but he cannot implicate Michael, because he never received any direct orders from him.
- With Fanucci now gone, Vito earns the respect of the neighborhood and begins to intercede in local disputes, operating out of the storefront of his Genco Olive Oil Company, named after his good friend Genco Abbandando.
When Michael appears before the committee, Senator Geary makes a big show of supporting Italian-Americans and then excuses himself from the proceedings. Michael makes a statement challenging the committee to produce a witness to corroborate the charges against him. The hearing ends with the Chairman promising a witness who will do exactly that.
Tom Hagen and Michael discuss the problem. They have found out that Frank Pentangeli is the witness who will testify against him, and observe that Roth's strategy to destroy Michael is well planned. Michael's brother Fredo has been found and persuaded to return to Nevada, and in a private meeting he explains to Michael his betrayal: upset about being passed over to head the Family in favor of Michael, he wants respect and his due. He helped Roth, thinking there would be something in it for him, but he swears he didn't know they wanted to kill Michael. He also tells Michael that the Senate Committee's chief counsel is on Roth's payroll. Michael then tells Fredo: "You're nothing to me now. Not a brother, not a friend, nothing", and privately instructs Al Neri that nothing is to happen to Fredo while their mother is still alive; the understanding is that Fredo will be killed after her death.
Frank Pentangeli has made a deal with the FBI to testify against Michael, believing he was the one who organized the attempt on his life. At the hearing in which Pentangeli is to testify, Michael arrives accompanied by Pentangeli's brother Vincenzo, brought in from Sicily. Vincenzo is a Sicilian mafia cheftain who upholds the mafia code of honor, Omerta. Pentangeli, not wanting to break this code of honor in front of his brother, claims that he just told the FBI what they wanted to hear, and makes no direct statements about Michael, the Corleone family, or his time served as a Corleone capo. With no witness to testify against Michael, the committee adjourns, with Hagen, acting as Michael's lawyer, loudly demanding an apology.
At a hotel room afterwards, Kay tries to leave Michael and take their children with her. Michael at first tries to mollify her, but loses his temper and hits her when she coldly reveals to him that her recent "miscarriage" was actually an abortion to avoid bringing another son into Michael's criminal family.
- In 1925, Vito visits Sicily for the first time since leaving for America 24 years earlier. He is introduced to the elderly Don Ciccio by Don Tommasino (who initially helped Vito escape to America) as the man who imports their olive oil to America, and who wants his blessing. When Ciccio asks Vito who his father was, Vito says, "My father's name was Antonio Andolini, and this is for you!" He then plunges a large knife into the old man's stomach and carves it open, thereby avenging the deaths of his father, mother and brother. In the ensuing gun battle, Tommasino is shot, confining him to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Carmella Corleone, Vito's widow and the mother of his children, dies, and the whole Corleone family reunites at the funeral. Michael is still shunning Fredo, who is miserable and depressed, but relents when Connie implores him to forgive his brother. Michael and Fredo embrace, but at the same time Michael signals to his capo Al Neri that Fredo's protection from harm, in effect while their mother lived, is now over.
Michael, Tom Hagen, Al Neri, and Rocco Lampone discuss their final dealings with Hyman Roth, who has been unsuccessfully seeking asylum from various countries, and was even refused entry to Israel as a returning Jew. Michael rejects Hagen's advice that the Corleone Family's position is secure, and killing Roth and the Rosato brothers for revenge is an unnecessary risk. Later, Hagen pays a visit to Frank Pentangeli on a military base and suggests that he take his own life in return for having his family taken care of.
With the help of Connie, Kay visits her children, but cannot bear to leave them and stays too long. When Michael arrives, he closes the door in her face.
The film reaches its climax in a montage of assassinations and death, reminiscent of the end of The Godfather:
- As he arrives at Miami to be taken into custody, Hyman Roth is killed by Rocco Lampone disguised as a journalist, who is immediately shot dead in turn.
- Frank Pentangeli is found dead in his bathtub by two FBI agents, having followed Hagen's instructions and committed suicide, slashing his wrists while taking a bath.
- Finally, Fredo is murdered by Al Neri while they are fishing on Lake Tahoe, as Fredo is saying a Hail Mary to help him catch a fish.
The penultimate scene takes place as a flashback to 1941, as the Corleone family is preparing a surprise birthday party for Vito. Sonny introduces Carlo Rizzi, Connie's future husband and eventual betrayer of Sonny, to his family. Sal Tessio comes in with the cake, and they all talk about the recent attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Michael shocks everybody by announcing that he has just enlisted in the United States Marines. Sonny angrily ridicules Michael's choice, while Tom Hagen mentions how his father has great expectations for Michael, and has pulled a lot of strings to get Michael a draft deferment. Ironically, Fredo is the only one who supports his brother's decision. When Vito arrives (offscreen), all but Michael leave to greet him.
The film ends with a final flashback depicting Vito and a young Michael leaving Corleone by train, and Michael sitting in the Lake Tahoe compound, alone in silence.
- James Caan agreed to reprise the role of Sonny in the birthday flashback sequence on the condition that for the single scene he be paid the same amount he received for the entire last film. He got his wish. Marlon Brando was also asked to return for the brief but important birthday flashback sequence, but the actor felt mistreated by the board at Paramount, and refused to appear for a single day's shooting. Coppola rewrote the scene that same day. Richard Castellano, who portrayed Pete Clemenza in the first film, also declined to return, as Castellano and the producers could not reach agreement on Castellano's demands that he be allowed to write the character's dialogue in the film. Clemenza's role was subsequently filled by his successor, Frank Pentangeli.
- Troy Donahue, in a small role as Connie's boyfriend, plays a character named Merle Johnson: Merle Johnson is Troy Donahue's birth name.
- Dominic Chianese, notable for his role as Uncle Corrado "Junior" Soprano in The Sopranos, plays the role of Johnny Ola in his film debut.
- Two actors who appear in the film played different character roles in other Godfather films; Carmine Caridi, who plays Carmine Rosato, also went on to play crime boss Albert Volpe in The Godfather Part III, and Frank Sivero, who plays a young Genco Abbandando, also plays a bystander to the fight between Sonny Corleone and Carlo Rizzi in The Godfather.
- Among the Senators in the hearing committee are film producer/director Roger Corman, writer/producer William Bowers, producer Phil Feldman, and science-fiction writer Richard Matheson.
The Godfather Part II was shot between October 1, 1973 a June 19, 1974, the last major American motion picture to be filmed in Technicolor. The scenes that took place in Cuba were shot in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Charles Bluhdorn, whose Gulf+Western conglomerate owned Paramount, felt strongly about developing the Dominican Republic as a movie-making site.
The Lake Tahoe house and grounds portrayed in the film are Fleur du Lac, the summer estate of Henry J. Kaiser on the California side of the lake. The only structures used in the movie that still remain are the complex of old native stone boathouses with their wrought iron gates. Although Fleur du Lac is private property and no one is allowed ashore there, the boathouses and multi-million dollar condominiums may be viewed from the lake.
George Lucas commented on the film after its five-hour long preview, telling Coppola: "You have two films. Take one away, it doesn't work."
In the director's commentary on the DVD edition of the film (released in 2002), Coppola states that this film was the first major motion picture to use "Part II" in its title. Paramount was initially opposed to his decision to name the movie The Godfather Part II. According to Coppola, the studio's objection stemmed from the belief that audiences would be reluctant to see a film with such a title, as the audience would supposedly believe that, having already seen The Godfather, there was little reason to see an addition to the original story. The success of The Godfather Part II began the Hollywood tradition of numbered sequels.
For both The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, many scenes that were shot were not shown in the original theatrical run but were included in the television adaptation The Godfather Saga and the home video releases The Godfather Epic and The Godfather Trilogy. To date, there has not been a single release that contains all of this footage together in one collection. There is also a series of flashbacks in the film. A limited time-reduced version of The Godfather Part II was later released because of its runtime. The shorter version was 2hr 7min 56sec rather than the original 3hr 20min 45sec version.
The Godfather Part II ranks among the most critically and artistically successful film sequels in movie history, and is the most honored. Many critics praise it as equal, or even superior, to the original film (although it is almost always placed below the original on lists of "greatest" movies). The film received a "98%" rating on Rotten Tomatoes with only one rotten review. The film also regularly ranks independently on many "greatest movies" lists.
The Godfather Part II is ranked as the #1 greatest movie of all time in TV Guide's "50 Best Movies of all time", and it is ranked at #7 on Entertainment Weeklys list of the "100 Greatest Movies of All Time". The film is also featured on movie critic Leonard Maltin's list of the "100 Must-See Films of the 20th Century", as well as Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list. It was also featured on Sight and Sounds list of the ten greatest films of all time in 1992 and 2002.
Like the film itself, Al Pacino's performance became legendary. The general public and many movie critics have praised Pacino's performance in Part II as perhaps his best, and in fact one of the best performances of all time by any actor. Many critics have criticized the Academy Awards for not awarding Pacino the Academy Award for Best Actor (Art Carney won instead, for his role in Harry and Tonto). In 2006, Premiere Magazine issued "The 100 Greatest Performances of all Time", ranking Pacino's performance at #20.
As of now, The Godfather Part II is one of three film sequels to ever win the Academy Award for Best Picture, the others being The Silence of the Lambs (sequel to Manhunter) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (sequel to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers).
Awards and honors
|Academy Awards record|
|1. Best Supporting Actor, Robert De Niro|
|2. Best Art Direction, Dean Tavoularis, Angelo P. Graham, George R. Nelson|
|3. Best Director, Francis Ford Coppola|
|4. Best Original Score, Nino Rota, Carmine Coppola|
|5. Best Picture, Francis Ford Coppola, Gray Frederickson, Fred Roos|
|6. Best Adapted Screenplay, Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo|
|BAFTA Awards record|
|1. Best Actor, Al Pacino|
Between The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, Coppola directed The Conversation, which was released in 1974 and was also nominated for Best Picture. This resulted in Coppola being the second director in Hollywood history to have two films released in the same year nominated for Best Picture. (The first was Alfred Hitchcock in 1941 with Foreign Correspondent and Rebecca, which won. This achievement was matched by Herbert Ross in 1977 with The Goodbye Girl and The Turning Point and again with Steven Soderbergh in 2000, when the films Erin Brockovich and Traffic were both nominated for Best Picture.)
American Film Institute recognition
- 1998 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies #32
- 2003 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains:
- Michael Corleone — Villain #11
- 2005 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes:
- "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer," #58
- 2007 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) #32
- 2008 AFI's 10 Top 10 #3 Gangster film
- This was the final major film to be processed in Technicolor
- The scene in which Vito negotiates with Don Fanucci inspired George Lucas' deleted (and later restored) scene in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, in which Han Solo negotiates with Jabba the Hutt for more time to pay the money he owes.
- The character Hyman Roth, portrayed by Lee Strasberg, is based on Meyer Lansky. Shortly after the premiere in 1974, Lansky phoned Strasberg and congratulated him on a good performance, but added "You could've made me more sympathetic."
- Richard Nixon was said by Coppola to have been the inspiration for Peter Donat's character, Questadt the Senate lawyer.
- The murder of Roth by Rocco Lampone visually recalls Jack Ruby's assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald.
- In an early draft of the script, Tom Hagen had an affair with Sonny's widow, causing some friction within the Corleone family. This sub-plot was soon cut from the script.
- The statue carried during the Festa (in the movie, The Feast Of St. Rocco) is of St. Rocco and is currently located at St. Joseph Church in New York City. The priest in the Festa is Rev. Joseph Moffo, who was the pastor of St. Joseph at the time of the filming. In addition, the altarboys and men carrying the canopy were also from St. Joseph. Coincidentally, Fr. Moffo was also a priest at the Church Of St. Rocco in Johnston, RI, for some time in the late 1960s and again in the mid 1980s.
- The Italian spoken in the film is actually an amalgamation of Southern Italian dialects (or languages: see Sicilian language, Calabrian languages), markedly different from the standard Tuscan-based Italian language.
- After bad experiences directing the first film, Coppola originally sought Martin Scorsese to direct the sequel after seeing Mean Streets. Eventually, under pressure from Paramount, Coppola directed.
- The Godfather Part II at the Internet Movie Database
- The Godfather Part II at the TCM Movie Database
- The Godfather Part II at All Movie Guide
|Academy Award for Best Picture
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest