By Judy Berman
Sometimes, life hands us a lesson when we’re least expecting it. That often happens to me when I’m reading a book or watching a movie.
Who knew that a mobster movie like “The Godfather” would have me carefully weighing words and watching my back?
In the opening scene, Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) listens as an undertaker seeks vengeance against the men who assaulted his daughter. The Godfather hesitates to grant his request until the undertaker declares his friendship and heartily kisses the Don’s ring.
* Lesson learned? Gifts can come with strings attached:
“Someday, and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service. Until that day, accept this justice as a gift on my daughter’s wedding day.”
Before the Mafia Don can join his daughter’s wedding party, his godson, singer Johnny Fontane (Al Martino) asks the Godfather to convince movie producer Jack Woltz (John Marley) to give him a role he craves.
“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” (Brando) says.
Woltz learns his lesson too late. He loses something valuable – his favorite horse – before he gives Johnny Fontane the part.
* It’s better to pick your battles.
Carlo and Connie’s marriage is disintegrating. Carlo (Gianni Russo) beats up his pregnant wife (Talia Shire). Sonny Corleone (James Caan) is furious when he sees the bruises on his sister’s face. Sonny tracks Carlo down and assaults him.
Angered by the public beating, Carlo plots with the Corleones’ chief rivals to have Sonny killed.
Paulie (John Martino), who was supposed to be Sonny’s body guard, is the first to pay for betraying The Family.
* Violence begets violence.
Paulie unwittingly goes on a last ride with Clemenza and a henchman. After Paulie is shot, Clemenza says: “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”
* Always remember what’s most important.
The gang rivalry escalates. Clemenza’s advice to Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) rings true for warring gangs and world rivalries:
“You know, you gotta stop them at the beginning. Like they shoulda stopped Hitler at Munich. They shoulda never let him get away with that.”
* When there’s a dispute, it’s better to nip it in the bud.
Former friends form new alliances. Tessio (Abe Vigoda) turns against the Corleones to gain a better advantage in the perks of crime. Before he is killed, Tessio tries to minimize his deception.
“Tell Mike it was only business.”
* Lesson learned? Choose your friends wisely.
The contradiction between Michael Corleone’s words and actions are clearly defined in the baptism scene toward the end of the film.
Michael is taking vows to be the godfather of Connie and Carlo’s baby. He swears that he will renounce Satan and his evil ways at the same time that carnage is being carried out on his orders.
But Michael has one more score to settle. He meets with Carlo after the ceremony and tells Carlo that the heads of five crime families are now dead.
Carlo quakes in his shoes. But Michael assures Carlo that no harm will come to him if he tells the truth about his role in betraying The Family.
Michael shows Carlo airline tickets to Las Vegas and tells Carlo that his ‘punishment’ will be that he’s out of the family business. Carlo fesses up.
Carlo’s short ride to the airport ends – as does his life – in the driveway.
* Be skeptical of empty promises.
What messages have you taken away from a book or movie?
Shakti Ghosal’s thoughtful post, “Air to the Bird, Water to the Fish, was the inspiration for my post. His was about the choices we have when we’re confronted with situations that sometimes bring out the worst in us. It got me to thinking of the baptism scene in “The Godfather” movie where Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is making vows to reject evil at the same time that evil is being carried out by his orders. http://esgeemusings.com/2015/09/01/air-to-the-bird-water-to-the-fish/
Main Photo: The Godfather – Marlon Brando and opening scene http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/the-godfather-trilogy/images/423734/title/godfather-photo
Photo: The Godfather – Michael Corleone at restaurant, killing Sollozzo (Al Lettieri) and a crooked cop. http://images.fanpop.com/images/image_uploads/The-Godfather-the-godfather-trilogy-423736_462_370.jpg
Photo: The Godfather – Clemente after shooting Paulie: “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.” (screen shot)
Photo: The Godfather – Tessio before being killed for betraying Michael Corleone: “Tell Mike it was only business.” (screenshot)
Photo: The Godfather – Michael Corleone vows to renounce evil at the baptism of his godchild at the same time that the heads of five crime famlies are being murdered on his orders. (screenshot)