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Godfather: The Intimate Francis Ford Coppola

Gene D. Phillips
With a Foreword by Walter Murch
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 424
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    WITH A FOREWORD BY WALTER MURCH Gene Phillips blends biography, studio history, and film criticism to complete the most comprehensive work on Coppola ever written. The force behind such popular and critically acclaimed films as Apocalypse Now and the Godfather trilogy, Coppola has imprinted his distinct style on each of his movies and on the landscape of American popular culture. In Godfather, Phillips argues that Coppola has repeatedly bucked the Hollywood "factory system" in an attempt to create distinct films that reflect his own artistic vision -- often to the detriment of his career and finances. Phillips conducted interviews with the director and his colleagues and examined Coppola's production journals and screenplays. Phillips also reviewed rare copies of Coppola's student films, his early excursions into soft-core pornography, and his less celebrated productions such as One from the Heart and Tucker: The Man and His Dream. The result is the definitive assessment of one of Hollywood's most enduring and misunderstood mavericks.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4671-3
    Subjects: History, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword: Collaborating with Coppola
    (pp. ix-xiv)

    It disappeared long ago, but in 1972 the Window was still there, peering through milky cataracts of dust, thirty-five feet above the floor of Samuel Goldwyn’s old Stage 7.I never would have noticed it if Richard hadn’t suddenly stopped in his tracks as we were taking a shortcut on our way back from lunch.

    “That … was when Sound … was King!” he said, gesturing dramatically into the upper darknesses of Stage 7.

    It took me a moment, but I finally saw what he was pointing to: something near the ceiling that resembled the observation window of a 1930s dirigible,...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Chronology for Francis Ford Coppola
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. Prologue: Artist in an Industry
    (pp. 1-4)

    At 7:00 pm on the evening of May 7, 2002, Francis Ford Coppola took his place in a special box overlooking the auditorium of Avery Fisher Hall in New York City’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The occasion was a gala tribute sponsored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center honoring Coppola’s lifetime achievement as a filmmaker. Several cinema artists associated with his career were on hand to pay tribute to him, and these same individuals will be cited throughout this book. But Coppola himself was the main attraction.

    One of the reasons that Coppola’s career is so fascinating...

  7. Part One Hollywood Immigrant

    • 1 Point of Departure: The Early Films and Screenplays
      (pp. 7-35)

      “Hollywood’s like Egypt,” the late producer David O. Selznick once remarked, “full of crumbled pyramids. It will just keep crumbling until finally the wind blows the last studio prop across the sands…. There might have been good movies if there had been no movie industry. Hollywood might have become the center of a new human expression if it hadn’t been grabbed by a little group of bookkeepers and turned into a junk industry.”¹

      These are bitter words indeed to come from the man responsible for producing films likeGone with the Wind(1939). Nonetheless, Selznick has accurately expressed the perennial...

    • 2 Going Hollywood: You’re a Big Boy Now and Finian’s Rainbow
      (pp. 36-52)

      The collapse in the 1960s of Hollywood as the center of mass entertainment in America was precipitated by the advent of television, which became America’s principal source of entertainment for the mass audience. The big Hollywood studios became aware that they must make an effort to present audiences with fresh material, not just a rehash of old commercial formulas long since overfamiliar to moviegoers.

      Coppola had written a screenplay while he was still working for Seven Arts that was a fresh and inventive take on the usual “coming of age” movie, and he thought he could interest a studio in...

    • 3 Nightmares at Noon: The Rain People and The Conversation
      (pp. 53-84)

      Warners-Seven Arts was satisfied with Coppola’s direction ofFinian’s Rainbow, particularly his filming of the musical numbers. What’s more, although the picture was not a box-office bonanza, it earned $5.5 million in its initial run, and Coppola had brought the picture in on a budget of $3.5 million. The front office was therefore interested in the movie he wanted to make next, a modest production based on an original scenario of his own entitledThe Rain People. Production chief Kenny Hyman was continuing to pursue his policy of encouraging young directorial talent at Warners-Seven, and with good reason.

      As noted...

  8. Part Two The Mature Moviemaker

    • 4 In a Savage Land: The Godfather
      (pp. 87-111)

      When Francis Coppola first considered filming Mario Puzo’s novelThe Godfather, he perused the book and found it a rather sensational, sleazy crime novel. But, then, Puzo was not aspiring to create a work of literature. When he conceived it, as he confesses inThe Godfather Papers, he had already published two novels that did have literary pretensions, but they went largely unread. He decided to write a novel about the Mafia because this time around he was determined to turn out a bestseller. And that accounts for the liberal doses of sex and violence in the book, which are...

    • 5 Decline and Fall: The Godfather Part II and The Godfather Part III
      (pp. 112-142)

      WhenThe Godfatherbecame a runaway hit, Coppola’s earnings from the film’s profits amounted to a small fortune. So he could now afford to move the offices of American Zoetrope, his independent film production unit, from the old Folsom Street warehouse in San Francisco to more ample quarters. He took over the eight-story Sentinel Building at 910 Kearney Street, which had survived the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. The edifice, which was painted sea green, was topped by a blue and gold dome that he christened “Coppola’s cupola.” He remodeled the new home of American Zoetrope to encompass a penthouse...

    • 6 The Unknown Soldiers: Apocalypse Now, Apocalypse Now Redux, and Gardens of Stone
      (pp. 143-180)

      Apocalypse Nowwas originally conceived by George Lucas and John Milius as a film about the Vietnam War when Francis Coppola was just starting American Zoetrope. In early 1970 Coppola presented to Warner Brothers a package of seven projects that Zoetrope had in the works, among them a proposal forApocalypse Now. Several months later, in November 1970, Warners summarily rejected six of the seven projects—Lucas’sTHX 1138was the only one that Warners produced—and the rest were shelved (see chapter 3).

      After Coppola repaid Warners for the development money the studio had spent on the other six...

    • Photographs
      (pp. None)
  9. Part Three Artist in an Industry

    • 7 Exiled in Eden: One from the Heart
      (pp. 183-201)

      Although both of theGodfatherfilms were productions originated by Paramount Pictures, Coppola continued to maintain his own independent production company through which he initiated projects, such asApocalypse Now, that he arranged to finance, shoot, and release in cooperation with various major studios. He initially named this operation, which he established in San Francisco in 1969, American Zoetrope, after the primitive mechanism that was a forerunner of the motion picture projector.

      In 1980 he purchased the old Hollywood General Studios in the heart of the film colony, which had all the elaborate technical facilities necessary for shooting a motion...

    • 8 Growing Pains: The Outsiders and Rumble Fish
      (pp. 202-225)

      In the fall of 1980 Coppola received a joint letter from the librarian of Lone Star High School in Fresno, California, Ellen Misakian, writing on behalf of several of the students who also signed the letter. After the release ofApocalypse NowCoppola had served as executive producer onThe Black Stallion(1980), which was made under the banner of American Zoetrope in San Francisco and directed by Carroll Ballard, who had attended film school with him at UCLA.The Black Stallion, a touching story of a boy and his beloved horse, became a hit with the youth market. The...

    • 9 Night Life: The Cotton Club
      (pp. 226-244)

      Robert Evans, who was production chief at Paramount when Francis Ford Coppola filmedThe Godfatherthere, in due course left his position to become an independent producer, releasing films through Paramount. After producing successful movies likeChinatown(1974), Evans subsequently turned out some flops. To make matters worse, he was convicted of cocaine possession. By the early 1980s, Evans’s career was in dire straits, and he hoped to get back on top by makingThe Cotton Club.

      In 1982 Evans optioned James Haskins’sThe Cotton Club, a coffee-table book that was a nonfiction picture-history of the famous Harlem nightclub that...

  10. Part Four The Vintage Years

    • 10 The Past as Present: Peggy Sue Got Married and “Rip Van Winkle”
      (pp. 247-260)

      At this juncture Francis Coppola still considered himself a hireling who was compelled to accept projects brought to him by the studios because he was not in a position to originate projects of his own. Still facing bankruptcy because of the demise of Zoetrope Studios in Los Angeles, he had arranged to pay off some of his debts at thirty cents on the dollar. But this accommodation depended on his making regular payments to his creditors.

      Even the Sentinel Building, the headquarters of American Zoetrope in San Francisco, which continued to house his offices and editing facilities, was in danger...

    • 11 The Disenchanted: Tucker: The Man and His Dream and New York Stories
      (pp. 261-282)

      Preston Tucker, the maverick automobile inventor who was the subject of Coppola’s biographical film, first came to Coppola’s attention when, as a child of eight, he saw the first Tucker automobile on display in 1948. He never forgot the experience and decided to make a movie about the flamboyant inventor many years later.

      Preston Tucker was born in suburban Ypsilanti, Michigan, in 1903. He got his start in the auto industry by selling used cars. By 1935 he was entering racing cars in the Indianapolis 500, sponsored by none other than auto tycoon Henry Ford. During the Second World War,...

    • 12 Fright Night: Brum Stoker’s Dracula
      (pp. 283-299)

      Because Winona Ryder had had to bow out ofGodfather IIIbecause of illness, she was anxious to work with Coppola in another film. When she read James Hart’s screen adaptation ofDracula, based on Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel, she not only wanted to play the heroine in the film, but she also asked Coppola to direct it. She passed the script on to him, and Coppola was immediately interested. What especially impressed him about Hart’s screenplay was that it followed the novel so closely, for all of the previous movie adaptations had tossed out large sections of the book....

    • 13 The Vanishing Hero: The Rainmaker and Jack
      (pp. 300-312)

      While waiting for his flight to Paris to take off from JFK in New York, Francis Coppola bought a copy of John Grisham’s novelThe Rainmaker. No less than five of Grisham’s books had made it to the big screen, and so Coppola decided to take a gander at this one. By the time his plane touched down at Orly, he was hooked on filming Grisham’sThe Rainmakeras an American Zoetrope production. “I was down on my knees in gratitude that I had a book that I liked—with characters that I liked,” he says.¹

      Coppola took the novel...

  11. Epilogue: The State of the Artist in the Industry Today
    (pp. 313-324)

    Francis Ford Coppola learned during his career that a director not only has to work hard to achieve the kind of artistic independence that qualifies him to be an auteur, but also that the director has to work just as hard to keep it. For example, although a director like Coppola has often been looked upon as a maverick who makes films perhaps more subjective and personal than those of many of the other Hollywood directors, it is important to realize that his motion pictures have often been financed by some of the oldest and largest of Hollywood studios: Paramount,...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 325-344)
  13. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 345-352)
  14. Filmography
    (pp. 353-366)
  15. Index
    (pp. 367-382)