‘The Godfather’ hits 40

Leave the gun, take the cannoli, and make movie history:

Forty years ago this week, “The Godfather” opened.

And Francis Coppola’s masterpiece crime drama is still able to wrap you in a kiss-on-each-cheek embrace no film can match.

It’s rare for any piece of art to both comfort and energize us at the same time. But “The Godfather” is in our blood; its first line may be “I believe in America,” but it’s hard to find an American who doesn’t believe in the cinematic supremacy of the Corleones.

The stories of its production are well-documented. Here are 5 ways it changed the movies:

1. It showed genre doesn’t matter.

Set to be just an exploitative gangster flick, it became an event thanks to Coppola’s vision and lucky turns of fortune. It wasn’t polarizing generationally a la “Bonnie & Clyde,” and was seen as the maturing of a tradition that began with 1930s mob movies.

Since “The Godfather,” westerns (“Dances With Wolves,” “Unforgiven”) and fantasy epics (the “Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter” franchises) have benefited from the same acceptance.

2. It proved grown-ups were fine with onscreen violence.

Only a decade earlier, the kind of bloodshed and brashness seen in “The Godfather” were more common in a 42nd street B-movie (or would cause a rush of commentary as with “Bonnie & Clyde” or “The Wild Bunch”). Suddenly, it symbolized seriousness.

Of course, later audiences haven’t blinked twice at violence in serious fare like “Goodfellas,” “Pulp Fiction” or “Drive.”

3. It had movie stars that didn’t resemble “movie stars.”

Paramount producers thought Robert Redford, or anyone else for that matter, should play Michael. Coppola fought for Al Pacino, and nearly cast Robert De Niro as Sonny before deciding on James Caan. Countless young actors screen tested for Michael, but once execs saw Pacino — too Italian, too New York, too short — in the restaurant scene where Sollozzo is shot, he was safe.

That paved the way for new wave of 1970s stars, and is surely echoed in the careers of Sean Penn, Adrien Brody and even Coppola’s nephew, Nicolas Cage.

4. It looked like nothing else.

Cinematographer Gordon Willis’ noir-inspired color scheme and use of shadows throughout upset the studio execs (who also thought Coppola should update the post-war setting of Mario Puzo’s novel). Since then, critical and commercial hits alike have embraced the dark side.

5. It was eminently quotable.

You could start a greeting card company with “Godfather” saga lines: From offers you can’t refuse to “I knew it was you” (from “Part II”) to “Go to the mattresses” to “I hope your first child is a mas culine child,” there’s one for every occasion. And as “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Fight Club,” “Gladiator” and others show, great lines can keep a movie from sleeping with the fishes

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/godfather-hits-40-article-1.1036207#ixzz1oq2OqSlk