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Marlon Brando did not memorize most of his lines and read from cue cards during most of the film.
Most of the cars have wooden bumpers. Bumpers were removed by car owners during the war and replaced with wooden ones. The chrome ones were turned in to help with the war effort. After the war, it took years for them to be replaced.
For the scene where Clemenza is cooking, Francis Ford Coppola originally wrote in the script, “Clemenza browns some sausage.” Upon seeing this, Mario Puzo crossed out “browns” and replaced it with “fries,” writing in the margin, “Gangsters don’t brown.”
Al Pacino’s maternal grandparents emigrated to America from Corleone, Sicily, just as Vito Corleone had.
Francis Ford Coppola didn’t care for the horse head scene in the novel, but recognized that it was too iconic to delete.
the godfather 1 – 1972 godfather Photo by: Everett Collection
Whenever oranges appear in the film, they foreshadow death or a near death involving the Corleone family.
There is a rumor that Burt Reynolds was originally cast as Sonny Corleone, but Marlon Brando wouldn’t act with him, considering him more of a TV star.
Francis Ford Coppola cast Diane Keaton for the role of Kay Adams due to her reputation for being eccentric.
Al Pacino really had his jaw wired shut for the first part of the shoot after Michael is punched in the face.
Cinematographer Gordon Willis was forced to use overhead lighting for Marlon Brando’s scenes, because of his makeup. He decided to extend it throughout, which is one reason the movie is so dark. Source: Visions of Light (1992).
BONUS: The Pranksters on Set
There was a great deal of mooning on set, started by James Caan and Robert Duvall. In an effort to break some tension during a rehearsal for the first scene, the pair mooned Francis Ford Coppola, Marlon Brando and Salvatore Corsitto. Caan told Time Magazine, “My best moon was on Second Avenue. Bob Duvall and I were in one car and Brando was in another, so we drove up beside him and I pulled down my pants and stuck my ass out the window. Brando fell down in the car with laughter.” Richard Bright claimed that it got to the point where every time you turned opened a door, you expected to see someone’s behind. Even Al Pacino got in on the act, as he told Ladies’ Home Journal, “In a scene where I sit behind a desk, wardrobe made a big fuss about getting me a shirt with a smaller collar. So while everyone was looking at the shirt, I took off my pants. When I came out from behind the desk, I got a laugh, even though we had to do the scene over.” The ultimate moon came when Brando and Duvall mooned 400 cast and crew members. They planned it carefully and Caan, who overheard the plan, started to shout, “No, no, not here!” Everyone working on the production and most of the extras roared with laughter (some of the older ladies didn’t appreciate the view). Eventually, Brando was crowned best prankster, designated by a heavyweight-style leather belt with the title, “Moon Champion.”