The Godfather Part II

The Godfather Part II
The Godfather Part II

Original film poster
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Produced by Francis Ford Coppola
Gray Frederickson[1]
Fred Roos
Screenplay by Mario Puzo
Francis Ford Coppola
Story by Mario Puzo (novel)
Starring Al Pacino
Robert Duvall
Diane Keaton
Robert De Niro
Talia Shire
Morgana King
John Cazale
Marianna Hill
Lee Strasberg
Music by Nino Rota
Carmine Coppola
Cinematography Gordon Willis
Editing by Barry Malkin
Richard Marks
Peter Zinner
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) December 20, 1974 (1974-12-20) (US)
Running time 200 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $13 million
Box office $193 million

The Godfather Part II is a 1974 American gangster 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, Robert De Niro, Talia Shire, John Cazale, Michael V. Gazzo and Lee Strasberg.

The Godfather Part II was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won six, including Best Picture, Best Director for Coppola and Best Supporting Actor for Robert De Niro, and 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 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 Corleone crime family in New York City.)

In the town of Corleone, Sicily in 1901, Vito's father Antonio Andolini and his brother Paolo are killed on the orders of the local Mafia chieftain, Don Ciccio. Vito's mother goes to Ciccio to beg him to let young Vito live. He refuses, saying that Vito will someday come back for revenge. Vito's mother then holds a knife to his throat, sacrificing herself to allow Vito to escape, as Ciccio's gunmen shoot her dead. With the aid of some townspeople, Vito takes a ship to New York City. Arriving at Ellis Island, an official registers him as "Vito Corleone", and he is quarantined for smallpox.

In 1958, Michael Corleone deals with various business and family problems at his Lake Tahoe, Nevada compound during an elaborate party celebrating his son Anthony's First Communion. Michael meets with Nevada Senator Pat Geary, who despises the Corleones. Geary, aware that Michael plans to gain control of another Vegas casino, demands a high price and kickbacks for a new gaming license, while insulting the Corleones and Italians in general. Michael coldly gives Geary his counter-offer: nothing.

He meets with Johnny Ola, the right hand man of gangster Hyman Roth, who says that Roth will not object to Michael's attempt to gain control of the extra casino. Michael also deals with his sister Connie, who, although recently divorced, is planning to marry a man of whom Michael disapproves. His older brother and underboss, Fredo, is having trouble keeping his drunken wife Deanna Dunn under control; Michael's men have to haul her away. Finally, Michael meets with a drunken Frank Pentangeli, who took over the old Corleone New York territory after caporegime Peter Clemenza's death. To maintain a smooth business relationship with Roth, Michael refuses to allow Pentangeli to kill the Rosato brothers, who, backed by Roth, are attempting to intrude on Pentangeli's territory. Pentangeli leaves after arguing with Michael.

Later that night, an assassination attempt is made on Michael. He tells family consigliere Tom Hagen that the hit was made with the help of someone close. Michael then insists that he must leave and entrusts Hagen — whom Michael had excluded from the Roth and Pentangeli negotiations — to protect his family. As Michael suspected, the assassins are found dead.

In 1917, Vito Corleone, now married and living in a tenement with his wife Carmela and son (Santino), works in a New York grocery store owned by the father of his close friend Genco Abbandando, who looked after him after he came to New York. The neighborhood is controlled by a member of the Black Hand, Don Fanucci, who extorts protection payments from local businesses. Abbandando Senior is forced to fire Vito and give his job to Fanucci's nephew. One night, Vito's neighbor Peter 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 Roth's home near Miami, and tells him that he believes Pentangeli was responsible for the assassination attempt. Traveling to Pentangeli's home, Michael lets Pentangeli know that Roth was actually behind it and that Michael has a plan to deal with him, but needs Pentangeli to cooperate with the Rosato brothers in order to keep Roth off guard. When Pentangeli goes to meet with the Rosatos, their men garrote him, claiming to have been sent by Michael. However, the attempted murder is interrupted by a policeman.

Elsewhere, Tom visits one of the brothels owned by the Corleone family, where Geary has been found in a room with a dead prostitute. Geary says he cannot remember what happened and Hagen says he will cover up the death, as a token of the Corleones' "friendship" with the Senator.

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. Roth is celebrating his birthday with business partners, when Michael reveals to Roth and others that he is hesitant to invest after having seen a rebel kill several of Batista's policemen in a suicide bombing, convincing him that Fidel Castro is capable of taking over. Roth privately requests Michael's investment once again.

Fredo arrives in Havana, carrying the money promised to Roth; Michael confides in him 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 Roth will be dead before the night is out. Instead of turning over the money, Michael asks Roth who gave the order to have Pentangeli killed. Roth avoids the question, instead alluding to the murder of his old friend and ally Moe Greene – which Michael had orchestrated – saying, "I didn't ask who gave the order, because it had nothing to do with business!"

Michael asks Fredo to show Geary and other important American officials and businessmen a good time, during which Fredo pretends to not know Johnny Ola, Roth's right-hand man. Later in the evening, however, Fredo drunkenly comments that he learned about the place they're in from Johnny Ola, contradicting what he told Michael twice earlier. Michael realizes that his own brother is the family traitor, and dispatches his bodyguard to kill Roth. Johnny Ola is strangled with a wooden coathanger, but Roth, whose health is failing, is taken to a hospital before he can be assassinated. Michael's bodyguard follows, but is shot and killed 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 harshly on the lips, 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, and the guests flee as Castro's guerrillas pour into the city and the people begin celebrating. Michael appeals to his brother to join him in leaving the country, but Fredo runs away, frightened.

Michael returns to Las Vegas, where Hagen tells him that Roth escaped Cuba after suffering a stroke and is recovering in Miami. Hagen also informs Michael that Kay had a miscarriage while he was away.

In New York, in 1920, Don Fanucci has become aware of the partnership between Vito, Clemenza and Sal Tessio. He collars Vito in his delivery truck and tells him that he knows the trio has recently committed a robbery. He demands that they "wet his beak," or else the police (on Fanucci's payroll) will arrest Vito and his family will be ruined. Clemenza and Tessio agree to pay, but Vito - guessing that Fanucci’s grip on his ghetto was only one man deep - asks his friends to allow him to convince Fanucci to accept less money, telling his friends, "I make him an offer he don't refuse." Vito manages to get Fanucci to take only a half of what he had demanded. Immediately afterwards – despite having earned Fanucci's respect and an offer of employment – Vito shoots Fanucci dead in a darkened stairway outside Fanucci's apartment during a neighborhood festa, and escapes across rooftops. Later, on the steps of his tenement building, he sits with his family, cradling the newborn Michael in his arms. The screen fades to black as this hinge point was the interval in some cinema performances.

Michael returns to his compound in Lake Tahoe, declining to go into the same room as his wife and instead asking advice from his mother. In Washington, D.C., a Senate committee, of which 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.

In New York, in the early 1920s, Vito has become a respected figure in his community. He intercedes with a slum landlord who is evicting a widow. Vito offers the landlord extra money to let her stay, but the man becomes angry when Vito demands that she also be allowed to keep her dog. A few days later the landlord, terrified after finding out who Vito is, calls on him and announces that the widow can stay, along with her dog, at a reduced rent.

When Michael appears before the Senate committee, Geary makes an announcement generally supportive of 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, who turns out to be Pentangeli. Michael and Hagen observe that Roth's strategy to destroy Michael is well-planned. Fredo has been found and persuaded to return to Nevada, and in a private meeting he explains his betrayal to Michael: He was upset about being passed over to head the family, and helped Roth, thinking there would be something in it for him. 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 disowns Fredo and privately instructs bodyguard Al Neri that nothing is to happen to Fredo -- while their mother is still alive.

Pentangeli has made a deal with the FBI to testify against Michael, believing Michael was the one who organized the attempt on his life. He is considered very credible, since as a caporegime there is no insulation between Michael and himself. At the hearing in which Pentangeli is to testify, Michael arrives accompanied by Pentangeli's brother, brought in from Sicily. Upon seeing his brother, Pentangeli recants his earlier written statements, saying that he runs his own family, thereby derailing the government's case. The hearing ends in an uproar with Hagen, acting as Michael's lawyer, irately demanding an apology.

At a hotel room afterwards, Kay tells Michael she is leaving him, taking their children with her. Michael at first tries to mollify her, but when she reveals to him that her "miscarriage" was actually an abortion to avoid bringing another son into Michael's criminal family, Michael explodes in anger and slaps her in the face.

In 1925, Vito visits Sicily for the first time since leaving for America, now accompanied by all four of his children. 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 stabs the old man to death. In the resulting gun battle, Tommasino is severely wounded, paralyzing him.

Michael's mother dies and the whole Corleone family reunites at the funeral. Michael is still shunning Fredo, but relents when Connie implores him to forgive their brother. Michael and Fredo embrace – but as they do so Michael exchanges glances with Al Neri.

Michael, Hagen, Neri and Rocco Lampone discuss their final dealings with 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 that killing Roth and the Rosato brothers is an unnecessary risk. Later, Hagen visits Pentangeli at the military base. He leads Pentangeli, a student of history, into a discussion on how Families were organized like Roman legions, which ends with Hagen's veiled assurance that if Pentangeli were to commit suicide then, just as the Romans did after a failed plot against the Emperor, his family would be spared and taken care of.

With Connie's help, 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 then reaches its climax in a montage of assassinations and death:

  • As he arrives in Miami to be taken into custody, Hyman Roth is shot in the stomach and killed by Lampone, who is immediately shot dead by FBI agents.
  • Frank Pentangeli is found dead in his bathtub, having slit his wrists.
  • Finally, Neri shoots Fredo in the head while they are fishing on Lake Tahoe, as Fredo is saying a Hail Mary to help catch a fish. Michael watches from his den.

The penultimate scene takes place as a flashback to December 1941 as the Corleone family is preparing a surprise birthday party for Vito. Sonny introduces Carlo Rizzi, Connie's future husband, to his family. Tessio comes in with the cake, and they all talk about the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese (which, as fate would have it, fell on Vito's birthday). Michael shocks everybody by announcing that he has dropped out of college and enlisted in the Marines. Ironically, Fredo is the only one who supports his brother's decision. Sonny angrily ridicules Michael's choice, while Hagen mentions how his father has great expectations for Michael and has pulled a lot of strings to get him a draft deferment. When Vito arrives (offscreen), all but Michael leave to greet him.

In 1925, Vito and his young family board the train to leave Corleone, as family and friends wave.

As the film ends, Michael sits outside in the Corleones' Lake Tahoe compound, alone.


Cast notes
  • James Caan agreed to reprise the role of Sonny in the birthday flashback sequence demanding he be paid the same amount he received for the entire previous film for the single scene in Part II, which he received.
  • Marlon Brando initially agreed to return for the birthday flashback sequence, but the actor, feeling mistreated by the board at Paramount, failed to show up for the single day's shooting; Coppola rewrote the scene that same day.
  • Richard Castellano, who portrayed Peter Clemenza in the first film, also declined to return, as he and the producers could not reach an agreement on his demands that he be allowed to write the character's dialogue in the film. Clemenza's role was subsequently filled by Frank Pentangeli.
  • Troy Donahue, in a small role as Connie's boyfriend, plays a character named Merle Johnson, which was his birth name.
  • 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, appears as a bystander in The Godfather scene in which Sonny beats up Carlo for abusing Connie.
  • 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.


Original screenplay in the National Museum of the Cinema in Turin

The Godfather Part II was shot between October 1, 1973 and June 19, 1974, and was the last major American motion picture to be printed with Technicolor's dye imbibition process until the late 1990s. The scenes that took place in Cuba were shot in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.[2] 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.

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.

Unlike with the first film, Coppola was given near-complete control over production. In his commentary, he said this resulted in a film that ran very smoothly, considering that it was shot in multiple locations and told two parallel stories within one film.[3]

Production nearly ended before it began when Pacino's lawyers told Coppola that he had grave misgivings with the script and wasn't coming. Coppola spent an entire night rewriting it before giving it to Pacino for his review. Pacino approved, allowing shooting to go forward.[3]

In the documentary The Godfather Family: A look Inside, Coppola stated that three weeks prior to Part II being released, film critics and journalists pronounced the film a disaster, claiming the parallel stories between Vito and Michael were uncomfortably fast, not allowing enough time for the stories to leave a lasting impression on the audience. Coppola stated that he and the editors returned to the cutting room to change the film's narrative structure, but could not complete the full re-arrangement in time, leaving the final scenes of the film poorly timed.

Additional/deleted scenes

For both The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, many scenes that were shot were not shown in the original theatrical runs but were included in the television adaptation The Godfather Saga (1977) and the home video releases The Godfather 1901-1959: The Complete Epic (1981) and The Godfather Trilogy: 1901–1980 (1992). To date, there has not been a single release that contains all of this footage together in one collection.[citation needed]

A limited time-reduced version of The Godfather Part II was later released because of its runtime.

Box office

While not to the extent of the original, The Godfather Part II was commercially successful, grossing $193 million on a $13 million budget. It was Paramount's second highest grossing film of 1974 (behind Chinatown) and the sixth highest grossing overall.


The Godfather Part II ranks among the most critically and artistically successful film sequels in movie history, and is the most honored. It, like its predecessor, is widely considered as one of the greatest films of all time. 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 Godfather Part II:

  • Is featured on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list, even though Ebert's original review of the film granted it only three stars
  • Is ranked the #7 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the "100 Greatest Movies of All Time"
  • Is featured on movie critic Leonard Maltin's list of the "100 Must-See Films of the 20th Century"
  • Received only one negative review on Rotten Tomatoes and a "98%" approval rating, 2 percentage-points less than The Godfather (although it does hold a higher rating average of 9.2/10 compared to the predecessor's 9.1/10) but 32 percentage-points more than The Godfather Part III.[4]
  • Was featured on Sight and Sound's list of the ten greatest films of all time in 1992 and 2002.
  • Is ranked #1 onTV Guide's 1998 list of the "50 Greatest Movies of All Time on TV and Video"[5]

The general public and many movie critics have praised Pacino's performance in Part II as perhaps his best, and one of the best performances of all time by any actor. Many critics have criticized the Academy for not awarding Pacino the Academy Award for Best Actor (Art Carney won instead, for his role in Harry and Tonto). In 2006, Premiere issued "The 100 Greatest Performances of all Time", ranking Pacino's performance as at #20.[6] Later in 2009, Total Film issued "The 150 Greatest Performances Of All Time", ranking Pacino's performance at #4.[7]

Awards and honors

Academy Awards record[8]
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's 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.)

The film was the first sequel to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, and was the only sequel to win until The Return of the King won the award in 2003.

American Film Institute recognition

  • 1998 AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies – #32
  • 2003 AFI's 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains:
    • Michael Corleone – #11 Villain
  • 2005 AFI's 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes:
    • "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." – #58
    • "I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart." – Nominated
    • "Michael, we're bigger than U.S. Steel." – Nominated
  • 2007 AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – #32
  • 2008 AFI's 10 Top 10 – #3 Gangster film (also nominated epic film)



External links

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