July 2017

In the 1972 movie classic ‘The Godfather,’ Francis Ford Coppola  directed  what has come to be one of the most memorable wedding scenes in cinema history.  The scene took a week to film and used 750 extras. The wedding scene is staged in a garden at 120 Longfellow Road in the Emerson Hill neighborhood on Staten Island, New York.  The Corleone compound was next door at 110 Longfellow. The garden and the mansion were the last two properties on Longfellow Road. While Don Vito Corleone was discussing family business inside the house the elaborate wedding reception of his daughter was taking place outside where his wife, Carmela Corleone, portrayed by Italian American Morgana King was ‘belting’ out’ a favorite Sicilian song, ‘Luna Mezzo O’ Mare.’ The boisterous celebration continued with family members and others singing, dancing, cutting the wedding cake and posing for  wedding pictures. Tableside was one of their four sons, Michael portrayed by Al Pacino and his girlfriend and future wife, Kay (Diane Keaton). She is told about an “offer that a bandleader couldn’t refuse.”  The “offer that couldn’t be refused” released singer and godson Johnny Fontane (Al Martino) from a contract he had with a bandleader. This scene was inspired by a real situation in which Frank Sinatra reportedly wanted out of a contract with band leader Tommy Dorsey and Dorsey refused until a Corleone thug made an offer he couldn’t refuse as put a gun to his head. In fact, Frank Sinatra tried to block this scene but failed because of his real-life issue with bandleader Dorsey. The wedding scene also included the ‘busta’. These are the envelope gifts of money given by guests to the newly wedding couple. There was no need to be concerned that the busta would be stolen because  of the notoriety of the Corleone family. Also an aside to the colorful celebration were  number of roaming FBI agents who scoured the parking lot taking down the license plate numbers of guests.  This is a common occurrence at real life crime figure events. By contrast,  Michael’s (Pacino) wedding to his second wife Apollonia (Simonetta Stefanelli) is of traditional Sicilian lore. There’s a small church setting and reception in Savoca, Sicily.  The film setting evolves to Catania, Sicily film where  Simonetta  is killed in a car-bomb explosion. I found the 175 minute film entertaining and convincing and painstakingly crafted right from the beginning with a superior wedding scene.