12 Surprising Facts About The Godfather Part II

Al Pacino stars in The Godfather Part II (1974).
Al Pacino stars in The Godfather Part II (1974).
Paramount Pictures

Until 2012, the decennial Sight & Sound list of the best movies ever made treated The Godfather and The Godfather Part II as a single entry in order to leave room for other masterpieces in its coveted top 10. Maybe it seems unfair that a single franchise would gobble up so much of the list, but both are deeply beloved by critics and filmmakers alike.

Yet Part II almost didn't happen at all. Beleaguered by the first film's shoot, writer/director Francis Ford Coppola was not interested in diving back into the studio-led chaos with sparring partner and uber-producer Robert Evans. Fortunately, Paramount changed Coppola's mind and gave him the artistic freedom to create an enduring classic about organized crime, family loyalty, and the American Dream.

To celebrate the 45th anniversary of what is arguably the greatest movie sequel ever made, here are 12 facts about keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer.

1. Francis Ford Coppola suggested that Martin Scorsese direct The Godfather Part II, but the studio wasn't interested.

Paramount Pictures

After The Godfather's tumultuous production, Francis Ford Coppola wasn't excited about diving back into the world of the Corleone family, but the studio wanted a sequel. So Coppola suggested they hire up-and-comer Martin Scorsese, who was fresh off of Mean Streets, to direct the sequel. "I knew this was a really smart idea. He was such a natural," Coppola later said of his pick.

Paramount disagreed, and eventually got Coppola to direct the sequel by letting him tell parallel stories that featured flashbacks into Vito Corleone's early life—and by agreeing to pay the director the (then) outrageous sum of $1 million (or just over $5 million in today's dollars), which Coppola had asked for as a bluff.

2. Robert De Niro had auditioned to play sonny corleone in The Godfather.

Rober De Niro made an indelible impact playing a young Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II, but he almost played a far different role in the first film: Sonny Corleone. His audition is a far cry from how James Caan ended up playing the character in The Godfather, but it's still an amazing bit of acting bravado distilled into a markedly short amount of time. Producer Robert Evans was set on Caan getting the role, Coppola was set on Pacino playing Michael, and both castings became a compromise, leaving that De Niro kid out of the (original) picture.

3. Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro are the only actors to win Oscars for playing the same character.

In 1975, Robert De Niro won his first Oscar, for Best Supporting Actor. Coppola accepted the statuette on De Niro's behalf, calling it a "richly deserved award," without recognizing publicly that history had just been made. It's a record that remains. Actors like John Wayne and Jeff Bridges have been nominated for playing the same character (Rooster Cogburn between two versions of True Grit), but Brando and De Niro are the only ones to ever win for portraying the same figure.

4. An actor pulled a gun on Francis Ford coppola during an audition for The Godfather Part II .

After turning down the role of Luca Brasi in the first film, oddball actor Timothy Carey auditioned at Paramount Pictures where he pulled a gun out of a pastry box and shot Coppola (with blanks). The director reportedly loved it, but Carey didn't end up getting the part.

5. Robert De Niro only speaks eight words of english in The Godfather Part II.

Paramount Pictures

De Niro spent months studying the Sicilian dialect in order to play the role of Vito, since the character almost exclusively speaks in it. He also visited Sicily for research, saying, " Sicilians have a way of watching without watching; they'll scrutinize you thoroughly and you won't even know it."

6. An extra had the guts to improvise an important moment in The Godfather Part II.

During a scene in which Vito talks with Signor Roberto while walking down the street, a neighbor jumps in to greet Vito. The actor was Carmelo Russo, who was an extra and who was not supposed to talk. Coppola wasn't happy. It stayed in because De Niro found it endearing, a moment that showed the locals respected Vito and gave the scene an added texture.

7. The Ship that carried vito to America in The Godfather Part II is now a restaurant in philadelphia.

The Moshulu was built in Scotland in 1904, used to haul all sorts of goods all over the world, and was even taken over by Nazi pirates who used it to store weapons and ammunition. It eventually made its way into movies like Rocky and The Godfather Part II, where it can be seen porting Vito from Sicily to Ellis Island. Now it's a dining destination on the Delaware River.

8. The men who played the senators in The Godfather Part II were famous filmmakers and writers.

Coppola populated his senate committee investigating the Corleone family with an eclectic crew of Hollywood names making winking cameos. Low-budget pop master Roger Corman, Wild Bunch producer Phil Feldman, Oscar-nominated Western writer William Bowers, and sci-fi legend Richard Matheson all play unnamed senators.

9. The play within The Godfather Part II was written by coppola's grandfather.

It's well known that The Godfather trilogy is a family affair, featuring his sister Talia Shire, daughter Sofia Coppola, and music from his father Carmine Coppola. What's less well known is that Coppola honored his grandfather Francesco Pennino by including a musical play he'd written, "Senza Mamma," in the film. The musical is about a young man who travels to America for love, but has to leave his mother behind to do so. It was Pennino's connections to Paramount that got Coppola his entry into Hollywood.

10. The Godfather Part II was the last Technicolor film.

Technicolor started releasing films using its monochrome imbibition printing dye-transfer process in 1928, using a process first patented in 1880. The Godfather Part II is the last major release to use the process and, although there was a slight resurgence of interest in using it in the 1990s, Eastman Kodak stopped manufacturing the tools necessary for it in 1994.

11. James Cagney turned down a role in The Godfather Part II .

Coppola, with an eye toward cinema history, offered legendary gangster actor James Cagney a role in the sequel. It's easy to imagine his performance lending even more gravitas to the film, anchoring it immediately into a successive line of Hollywood crime films, but the reclusive Cagney refused to come out of retirement for it.

12. Francis Ford Coppola wanted Marlon Brando to reprise his role as the younger version of himself in The Godfather Part II.

Paramount Pictures

If Coppola had gotten his way, The Godfather: Part II would have seen Brando back as Vito, somehow playing a far younger man. Coppola reached out to the actor with a letter, where he asked Brando to join the production and explained that he'd told Paramount, "the movie cannot be made without you." Thankfully, the 49-year-old Brando refused the offer to play the 29-year-old Vito, and we got De Niro's powerful, star-making performance.

Amazon's Best Black Friday Deals: Tech, Video Games, Kitchen Appliances, Clothing, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Black Friday is finally here, and Amazon is offering great deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40)

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Home Appliances

Roomba/Amazon

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Video games

Sony

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Microsoft/Amazon

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Tech, gadgets, and TVs

Apple/Amazon

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Beats/Amazon

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HBO/Amazon

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Amazon

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Casper/Amazon

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Ganni/Amazon

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12 Spirited Facts About How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Each year, millions of Americans welcome the holiday season by tuning into their favorite TV specials. For most people, this includes at least one viewing of the 1966 animated classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Adapted from Dr. Seuss’s equally famous children’s book by legendary animator Chuck Jones, How the Grinch Stole Christmas first aired more than 50 years ago, on December 18, 1966. Here are 12 facts about the TV special that will surely make your heart grow three sizes this holiday season.

1. Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel And Chuck Jones previously worked together on Army training videos.

During World War II, Geisel joined the United States Army Air Forces and served as commander of the Animation Department for the First Motion Picture Unit, a unit tasked with creating various training and pro-war propaganda films. It was here that Geisel soon found himself working closely with Chuck Jones on an instructional cartoon called Private Snafu. Originally classified as for-military-personnel-only, Private Snafu featured a bumbling protagonist who helped illustrate the dos and don’ts of Army safety and security protocols.

2. It was because of their previous working relationship that Ted Geisel agreed to hand over the rights to The Grinch to Chuck Jones.

After several unpleasant encounters in relation to his previous film work—including the removal of his name from credits and instances of pirated redistribution—Geisel became notoriously “anti-Hollywood.” Because of this, he was reluctant to sell the rights to How the Grinch Stole Christmas. However, when Jones personally approached him about making an adaptation, Geisel relented, knowing he could trust Jones and his vision.

3. Even with Ted Geisel’s approval, the special almost didn’t happen.

By Al Ravenna, World Telegram staff photographer - Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Whereas today’s studios and production companies provide funding for projects of interest, television specials of the past, like A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, had to rely on company sponsorship in order to get made. While A Charlie Brown Christmas found its financier in the form of Coca-Cola, How the Grinch Stole Christmas struggled to find a benefactor. With storyboards in hand, Jones pitched the story to more than two dozen potential sponsors—breakfast foods, candy companies, and the like—all without any luck. Down to the wire, Jones finally found his sponsor in an unlikely source: the Foundation for Commercial Banks. “I thought that was very odd, because one of the great lines in there is that the Grinch says, ‘Perhaps Christmas doesn’t come from a store,’” Jones said of the surprise endorsement. “I never thought of a banker endorsing that kind of a line. But they overlooked it, so we went ahead and made the picture.”

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas had a massive budget.

Coming in at over $300,000, or $2.2 million in today’s dollars, the special’s budget was unheard of at the time for a 26-minute cartoon adaptation. For comparison’s sake, A Charlie Brown Christmas’s budget was reported as $96,000, or roughly $722,000 today (and this was after production had gone $20,000 over the original budget).

5. Ted Geisel wrote the song lyrics for the special.

No one had a way with words quite like Dr. Seuss, so Jones felt that Geisel should provide the lyrics to the songs featured in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

6. Fans requested translations of the “Fahoo Foraze” song.

True to his persona’s tongue-twisting trickery, Geisel mimicked sounds of classical Latin in his nonsensical lyrics. After the special aired, viewers wrote to the network requesting translations of the song as they were convinced that the lyrics were, in fact, real Latin phrases.

7. Thurl Ravenscroft didn’t receive credit for his singing of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

The famous voice actor and singer, best known for providing the voice of Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger, wasn’t recognized for his work in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Because of this, most viewers wrongly assumed that the narrator of the special, Boris Karloff, also sang the piece in question. Upset by this oversight, Geisel personally apologized to Ravenscroft and vowed to make amends. Geisel went on to pen a letter, urging all the major columnists that he knew to help him rectify the mistake by issuing a notice of correction in their publications.

8. Chuck Jones had to find ways to fill out the 26-minute time slot.

Because reading the book out loud only takes about 12 minutes, Jones was faced with the challenge of extending the story. For this, he turned to Max the dog. “That whole center section where Max is tied up to the sleigh, and goes down through the mountainside, and has all those problems getting down there, was good comic business as it turns out,” Jones explained in TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas special, which is a special feature on the movie’s DVD. “But it was all added; it was not part of the book.” Jones would go on to name Max as his favorite character from the special, as he felt that he directly represented the audience.

9. The Grinch’s green coloring was inspired by a rental car.

Warner Home Video

In the original book, the Grinch is illustrated as black and white, with hints of pink and red. Rumor has it that Jones was inspired to give the Grinch his iconic coloring after he rented a car that was painted an ugly shade of green.

10. Ted Geisel thought the Grinch looked like Chuck Jones.

When Geisel first saw Jones’s drawings of the Grinch, he exclaimed, “That doesn’t look like the Grinch, that looks like you!” Jones’s response, according to TNT’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas Special: “Well, it happens.”

11. At one point, the special received a “censored” edit.

Over the years, How the Grinch Stole Christmas has been edited in order to shorten its running time (in order to allow for more commercials). However, one edit—which ran for several years—censored the line “You’re a rotter, Mr. Grinch” from the song “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Additionally, the shot in which the Grinch smiles creepily just before approaching the bed filled with young Whos was deemed inappropriate for certain networks and was removed.

12. The special’s success led to both a prequel and a crossover special.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Given the popularity of the Christmas special, two more Grinch tales were produced: Halloween is Grinch Night and The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat. Airing on October 29, 1977, Halloween is Grinch Night tells the story of the Grinch making his way down to Whoville to scare all the Whos on Halloween. In The Grinch Grinches The Cat in the Hat, which aired on May 20, 1982, the Grinch finds himself wanting to renew his mean spirit by picking on the Cat in the Hat. Unlike the original, neither special was deemed a classic. But this is not to say they weren’t well-received; in fact, both went on to win Emmy Awards.