When The Godfather first hit the big screens in 1972, it revolutionized the manner in which gangster movies were made. Prior to that, gangsters were portrayed, at best, as bad guys on a random killing-spree. For the first time the world watched a film that added psychological depth to the workings of a mafia, coupled with the skillfulness and thrill of politics.
The classic had a broad canvass on which numerous tales and sub-tales, and its many characters were painted. The filming encompassed atmospheric locations – from California to Sicily, via New York. On The Godfather's trail, one experiences not just the tension of the movie, but also the life of the many contrasting locales.
Our Godfather, Vito Corleone, and the much-famed Corleone family, the Italian mafia clan presented in The Godfather series, hailed from Sicily – an island off the coast of Italy – a silent, sensuous land.
Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in Sicily
Many iconic scenes were filmed in many Sicilian towns. Though the town of Corleone (Yes, there is a town called Corleone!) wasn’t used much owing to its “overdeveloped” nature, yet the villages of Forza D’Agro and Savoca were used extensively. The old-world charm and the almost eerie character of the Sicilian landscapes gelled perfectly with the mood of the film.
Like Michael Corleone (the prince of the clan) and his newfound love, head into the countryside for a long, lonely walk . . .
Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) with Apollonia Vittelli (Simonetta Stefanelli)
. . . and meet the locals and make merry with the traditional, joyous folks.
Towards a Sicilian Village
The Town of Corleone
Arrive at the bar in the town of Savoca where, now almost half a century ago, Al Pacino had sat down for a drink while playing Michael Corleone. It still stands – Bar Vitelli – and opens its doors for weary travelers and The Godfather fans.
Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in Bar Vitelli, Savoca
Bar Vitelli still stands in Savoca
From the laid-back Sicilian ambience, The Godfather dives headlong into the lights and sounds of New York.
The famous store on Fifth Avenue, where Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and Kay Adams (Diane Keaton) shop
Moved by the buzz of the city, Salman Rushdie once said: “One of the things that people don’t say about New York is that it is an incredibly hard working town. Everybody works really hard! And, as a result, it is a very easy city to work hard in, because everybody else is. You feel like an idiot if you are not.”
It was amidst such rigor, around the skyscrapers and in the back-alleys of New York, that Vito Corleone settled . . .
Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and Kay Adams (Diane Keaton), New York
. . . and, slowly and coldly, the Corleone family wove its influence.
A man about to be executed in the car; outskirts, New York
California and Nevada
The Godfather, the Don reached a stage in his life from where he could shoot for the stars. Putting on his father’s mantle, and in the hope of legitimizing the dated style of the family’s operations, Michael Corleone enters the dazzling Las Vegas.
The Corleone Family enters Las Vegas
Earlier, the Godfather had himself sent the family-lawyer – the consigliere – Tom Hagen, to negotiate with a Hollywood big shot, and to “make him an offer he can’t refuse”.
Both Vegas and Hollywood cut a larger-than-life facet in the film. They project the enterprising nature of man, and they stand as bright examples of man’s creative abilities.
It is in Nevada, by the Lake Tahoe, that Michael Corleone builds his estate. The dim rooms with large, glass-windows hint at the many conspiracies and plans being hatched out in the compound. Lake Tahoe lends the perfect mysterious backdrop.
Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and Fredo Corleone inside their estate in Sierra Mountains, Nevada
By Lake Tahoe, Nevada
The estate filmed in the movie is the famous Fleur Du Lac mansion.
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Is it really a maximum life, or just an appearance of maximum living? Michael Corleone, nevertheless, wields huge power and sets out to achieve his aims.
Fun and frolic on the Corleone Estate by Lake Tahoe
Perhaps a character in the movie sums it up when he witnesses the glamor of the Corleone Family and exclaims: “Michael, you’re sitting high up in the Sierra Mountains and drinking champagne cocktails!”