Immigration Mafia Pop Culture Tradition

Fifty Years of The Godfather

If you’re like the majority of America, you didn’t watch The Oscars live. However, we all heard what transpired once we logged on or watched television the next day. That’s unfortunate because there were some wonderful moments during the show. Lady Ga Ga sharing a heartfelt moment with the incomparable Liza Minnelli; celebrating 60 years of 007; and recognizing 50 years of The Godfather.

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t seen one of the greatest movies of all time. And I’m sure there are some Americans of Italian descent who do not like the portrayals of Italians in the film. However, growing up in an Italian-American community, I never heard a bad word about it. Actually, the movie was regularly quoted growing up. When my husband was a band director, he and his partner director put the movie’s iconic music on the field as a halftime show as an homage to this masterpiece of a movie. Shockingly, a local Italian-American organization condemned the show and called it an insult to the community. Go figure. Despite his medigan last name, he has Italian heritage in his blood.

The Godfather movie poster
The Godfather movie poster. (Source: American Film Institute)

In 1990, The Godfather was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 1990, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and is ranked the third-greatest film in American cinema (behind Citizen Kane and Casablanca) by the American Film Institute.

What did I always hear when the movie came up with friends? They bring up what I’ve always thought. The Godfather was less of a “mob movie” and more of an “Italian immigrant family story.” People would talk about the family gatherings, the one hot head who would do anything to protect the family (often to his own detriment), dancing the Tarantella at weddings. It was about an authentic experience. It was about honor, loyalty, and family.

Unfortunately, it did perpetuate a stereotype between Italians and the mafia. I’ve had the occasional stupid comment thrown my way. I respond one of two ways, depending on my mood. I embrace my Gen-X side and ignore with a massive eyeroll or I embrace my Jersey side and throw out a seriously sarcastic remark. Sometimes it annoys me, but rarely.

Ultimately, I am thankful for my upbringing. For my ancestry and my family stories.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of this incredible film, I recommend you read The Godfather by Mario Puzo. It provides additional storylines that were left out of the movie. More importantly, however, I highly recommend you read The Fortunate Pilgrim; Puzo’s finest novel. This is the novel that really deserved the attention that wound up going to The Godfather. Trust me, it is worth the read.

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