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Startling truths about ‘The Godfather’ in Mario Puzo archive

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Mario Puzo’s 1965 Olympia typewriter with manuscripts and versions of both Godfather I and II screenplays.RR Auction

Luca Brasi wasn't going to sleep with the fishes. Clemenza wasn't supposed to mention the cannoli. And Don Corleone? Marlon Brando wasn't going to play him.

These are some of the remarkable revelations in the literary archive of "The Godfather" author-screenwriter Mario Puzo, which is to be sold off Feb. 18 by a Boston auctioneer. Online bidding has begun for the 45-box collection; RR Auction has put a pre-sale estimate of $400,000 on the archive, but expects that it will sell for much more.

The collection, put up for auction by the late writer's family, includes thousands of pages of drafts, notes, and versions of the manuscript for "The Godfather" novel that spawned the iconic movies. The archive also includes the original screenplays for "The Godfather" and "The Godfather: Part II," which Puzo co-wrote with director Francis Ford Coppola.


Puzo’s copy of his letter to Marlon Brando, March 7, 1970.RR Auction

The archive also features Puzo's copy of a letter he wrote to Marlon Brando in 1970, expressing disappointment that Paramount Pictures appeared to be looking for someone else to play the head of the Corleone family.

"So unless you have read the book and want to use your muscle I guess thats it," Puzo wrote. "I'm sorry I wasted your time."

Brando apparently made someone an offer they couldn't refuse. He was chosen to play Don Corleone, and the film that shaped the country's view of the Italian-American mafia was born.

"How history could've changed if Brando doesn't get the part," said Robert Livingston, executive vice president of RR Auction. The archive, he said, is "a fantastic history of the making of these two films."

Notes in the margins of the screenplays reveal the interplay between Puzo and Coppola.

"Francis: you rascal, very clever," Puzo writes next to a subtle change Coppola made in the scene in which a Hollywood mogul wakes up with the severed, bloodied head of his prized horse in his bed.


The archive provides insight into the making of some of the most iconic scenes in the "Godfather" movies. An early draft of the screenplay for "The Godfather" announces the demise of Don Corleone's most trusted enforcer with the line "Luca Brasi is dead." The original screenplay then cuts to a shot of Luca Brasi under water. That scene was scratched, and was replaced by the immortal line, "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes."

Another line was never in the screenplay. When Corleone family lieutenant Clemenza orders his henchmen to shoot a traitor, he's supposed to say "Leave the gun." On the set, the wife of Richard Castellano, who played Clemenza, suggested that he add "take the cannoli."

Castellano later insisted that his wife write his lines in "The Godfather: Part II." Puzo and Coppola refused, and had to rewrite the story without the Clemenza character.

The archive spans nearly 50 years of the work of Puzo, who died in 1999, from his early years as an obscure writer to an Oscar-winning screenwriter. It includes scripts he wrote for the 1978 film "Superman" and Coppola's "The Cotton Club."

Among other discoveries is a handwritten outline of "The Godfather" novel, which confirms the widely held theory that mobbed-up entertainer Johnny Fontane was based on Frank Sinatra.

Livingston said the archives will be available for viewing next Tuesday and Wednesday at RR Auction, located at 236 Commercial St. in the North End.


Some more photos from the collection:

The line also could have been, “A Sicilian message. Luca’s with the fishes.”RR Auction
RR Auction
A storyboard outlining the Godfather novel’s progression.RR Auction
Notes about Michael and Apollonia’s relationship.RR Auction
Mario PuzoRR Auction

David Filipov can be reached at David.Filipov@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davidfilipov.