New Life for: The Death of Michael Corleone?

An exciting report came this week from Francis Ford Coppola the Academy award winning director of the Godfather trilogy. Although maybe I misspoke? Turns out Coppola and writer Mario Puzo never meant Godfather to be a trilogy, but instead Godfather III (originally titled “The Death of Michael Corleone”) was actually meant to be a Coda, a concluding passage, to the Godfather Epic (Godfather I and II). Who Knew?

Oh Brother dedicated an entire podcast to Godfather Part III titled “Why You should Love Godfather part III.”  We went into great detail of why we felt this epic movie not only holds up to the original parts of the trilogy, but made arguments why this is just as entertaining and enjoyable as it’s predecessors.  What we did not say was the movie was perfect and deserved to also win an academy award, but instead that the movie was in the same league as the first two epics and shouldn’t get the disdain from many film goers calling it unworthy of the Godfather name. Hopefully, we made an argument for people to at least give it another look by pointing out some of the finer points of the film.

Ultimately, we came to the conclusion the movie received some bad press making it DOA and never really gave it a chance to shine.  We also criticized points that bothered some viewers who actually took the time to see the film.  In hindsight, Sofia Coppola was probably not the best choice to play the character of “Mary”, daughter of Michael Corleone. Perhaps Bridget Fonda (who had a smaller part in the film) or Winona Ryder who dropped out claiming exhaustion, would have been better choices.  Sofia Coppola did not want the part and has never thought of herself as an actress.  However, after being encouraged by her dad, she stepped into the role at age 19 only to be criticized by every armchair critic in the world.  Watching the movie again, it’s hard to blame Sofia Coppola for issues more likely attributed to the movie being rushed to theaters in time for a Christmas release.

Although we knew Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo originally wanted the title to be “The Death of Michael Corleone” we never heard the story of them wanting the film to be a “coda” and put a period at the end of the Corleone story.  Fortunately, this December, 30 years since its original release, we are going to be treated to a new vision for the end of the Godfather epic.  It’s reported, Coppola has gone back to the original film stock of Godfather III and re-edited it to better fit the vision he and Puzo had for the original release.  Apparently, the project, announced this week, has been in the works for more than 6 months and was derailed in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Will this be enough to silence critics of the Godfather III and persuade them to view this as a fitting conclusion to the Godfather Epic? Or will it serve as the basis for further criticism? After all, Coppola can’t go back in time and get Paramount to pay Robert Duvall what he likely deserved to be in the film, one of the bigger issues with Godfather III.  In the original release of the film, Duvall’s absence wasn’t even acknowledged. It wasn’t until the film came out on home video we learned Tom Hagen died before his son was ordained, something Michael said he was proud to experience.  

The movie isn’t going to recast Sofia Coppola’s part of Mary.  Although Coppola is on record saying the new cut will show his daughter in a more favorable light and not have her do as much of the heavy lifting.  This is likely going to be achieved by cutting her from certain scenes.  It’s reported the new “Coda” will be approximately 15 minutes shorter than the original release.

Whatever the case, we’re happy to get more of what we already consider a good thing.  We have our own scenes we’d prefer to end up on the cutting room floor.  The epic helicopter hit scene with the head of one of the families reaching for his “lucky jacket” is one that comes to mind.  But with Coppola now in his 80s, we’re not expecting our much-desired Godfather IV with Andy Garcia taking the helm of the Corleone family.  Nonetheless, in our opinion more Godfather III can only be a good thing.  Regardless of its billing as “The Death of Michael Corleone” or Godfather III – The Director’s Cut, this is an offer we can’t refuse!

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