Frank Sinatra’s Godfather outrage: Crooner ‘loomed over’ iconic flick amid row
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The Godfather turned 50 this year, with fans marking the anniversary by retelling stories of how the film franchise was developed and created. The first instalment in the trilogy is often described as one of the greatest films ever produced when it hit screens in the early Seventies. The Godfather was based around the Corleone crime family, and saw a stellar cast perform in it, including the likes of Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and James Caan.
The film’s impact was huge, and it is ranked second on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Great American Films of All Time.
But what is often unknown about the film is the story of how crooner Sinatra nearly played a role in the film, but was also outraged at claims one of the characters was based on his life.
Mark Seal, author of 2021’s Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli: The Epic Story of the Making of The Godfather, noted the tension after the book the film was based on was initially released in 1969.
Written by Mario Poza, The Godfather incensed Sinatra as speculation that Johnny Fontaine may have been modelled on him emerged.
Fontaine was well-known for his hard-drinking, womanising attitude to life, and who turned to The Godfather to help revive his lagging singing career with a movie role.
And when production for the film started, Seal wrote about how Sinatra’s impact on the film evolved.
He wrote: “In many ways, Sinatra loomed over the ‘The Godfather’ production from afar.”
Reports suggest that Sinatra’s anger towards Puzo affected the writer.
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In The Godfather Papers and Other Confessions, Puzo described Sinatra as “an idol.”
He added: “I felt depressed.
“I thought Sinatra hated the book and believed that I had attacked him personally.”
However, later Puzo would claim Sinatra warmed to the movie, and even told Coppola he would have had a role in The Godfather.
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In the book, published in 1972, Puzo said Sinatra told Coppola: “Francis, I’d gladly play the Godfather for you.
“I wouldn’t do it for those guys at Paramount.
“But I’d do it for you.”
The Godfather was a blockbuster, breaking many box office records to become the highest-grossing film of 1972.
The Godfather has received overwhelming critical acclaim and is seen as one of the greatest and most influential films of all time, particularly in the gangster genre.
It won three Oscars, including for Brando as Best Actor, though he famously turned down the honour.
The role of Fontaine eventually went to singer Al Martino.
Speaking with Seal, Martino remarked how he was warned that were he to take the role, Sinatra would attempt to blacklist him from future events in Las Vegas.
He said in Seal’s book: “If you take the role, Sinatra will bar you from Las Vegas.
“I’m the last guy you could threaten. I got hard-nosed about it. I took the bull by the horns!”
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