How Hollywood Godfather Beat The Real-life Mob

The Godfather - 1972

Real life Mafia goons hated The Godfather book and were ready to torpedo the movie until the wise guys got an offer they couldn’t refuse — bit parts in the Hollywood spectacular!

Until Paramount Pictures made the deal, the 1972 epic — which many film critics consider the best movie of all time — was destined to sleep with the fishes, according to British author Brian Viner, who is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the flick’s release.

At first, Mafia kingpins feared the movie based on Mario Puzo’s best-selling novel would show them and Italian Americans in a bad light, says Viner.

Crooner Frank Sinatra, who also had close Mafia ties, hated the book, which features a character based on him — washed-up singer Johnny Fontane, who begs Godfather Vito Corleone to force a movie studio boss to give him a prized role.

In real life, Mafia bosses sent thugs to Tinseltown to stop the flick, says Viner. In the book and movie, the studio head who nixed Fontane for the role changes his mind after -waking up with the bloodied head of his favorite race horse in his bed.

One mob fixer offered Paramount Pictures a $1 million bribe to dump the movie. When that was refused, chilling death threats were issued.

After producer -Robert Evans’ actress-wife Ali MacGraw delivered their son, he got a call threatening the infant’s life, says Viner.

When the movie starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino began shooting in New York City, Mafia don Joe Colombo saw to it there were problems getting union workers and street locations.

Finally, producer Al Ruddy and director Francis Ford Coppola had a powwow with Colombo at Manhattan’s Park Sheraton Hotel, where Murder, Inc. boss Albert Anastasia had been gunned down in the barber shop.

Ruddy won over the gang boss by agreeing to show the script to Colombo’s Italian-American Civil Rights League and removing the names “Mafia” and “Costra Nostra” from the movie.

But most important, Ruddy promised “he would cast lots of Colombo’s associates as extras,” says Viner. “They were killers and extortionists, but like everyone else they adored the idea of being in the movies.”

“Overnight, all the New York locations that had been mysteriously closed to the filmmakers — a Brooklyn funeral parlor, a Staten Island mansion used for the Corleone family compound — all miraculously became available.”