Godfather: When Michael Corleone tries to convert his mob empire to legitimate businesses, he’s forced into violence. Courtesy image

This December marks the 32nd anniversary of  Godfather III. In an odd way, I  identified with Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone. Why? In March 2020, after fifteen years of “Laughing Matters,” I was encouraged (aka “chastised”) by SMDP management to cut way back on covering just the current president. Soon thereafter, “Laughing Matters” went from weekly to every other week.

In “Godfather III,” Michael Corleone  is converting his mob empire into “legitimate” enterprises but “dangerous circumstances” make it impossible. In a tirade Pacino screams, “Just when I quit, they pull me back in!” (Thankfully, I have no “dangerous circumstances” unless you include typos.)  

Like all of America, I loved “The Godfather” and “Godfather II” which remains the only sequel to win the Best Picture Oscar. (Including “Smokey and the Bandit 2.”)  So I eagerly attended opening night of “Godfather III” at the U.A. Multiplex in Marina Del Rey.

Not surprisingly the theater was packed and instead of a comfortable aisle seat I was trapped between a rowdy looking guy and a seemingly nice heavy set man but who seemed to take up part of my seat.  Meanwhile, the rowdy guy began talking to the screen almost immediately as though he was in his living room watching Monday Night football. 

I’m a big “ssh-er” to people who talk during a movie. In fact there have been times when I could have used a body guard. But after fifteen minutes I didn’t care because I could tell “Godfather III” was a real stinker. (Plus the rowdy screen talker had some surprisingly funny one liners.)

The highlight was the overly dramatic ending which featured the death of Mary Corleone, played by director Francis Ford Coppola’s daughter, Sofia, who had been a last minute replacement. She was only 18 with almost no acting experience and, unfortunately,  it showed. 

Mary Corleone is the daughter of Michael, played by Al Pacino, and his wife Kay, played by Diane Keaton. Poor Sofia was so inept I wondered why Coppola had put his daughter in such an impossible situation. (Actually there was a reason I will reveal shortly.)

Not surprisingly, Sofia’s reviews were brutal. Film critic Jason Bailey wrote, “Her performance was stiff, awkward, amateurish and full of vacant line readings.” And that might have been one of the good reviews. 

The absurdity highlight was the final scene where seemingly half the actors get shot, including Sofia, who received a bullet in the heart. Inexplicably,  she didn’t seem to notice until she saw a torrent of blood on her dress. Like a death scene in a bad opera, it’s fittingly I suppose, she ultimately collapses on the steps of the Palermo Opera House.

As I recall it seemed to take so long the screen talker finally shouted, “Die already, b**ch!” Rude or not, the audience erupted in laughter and I could only imagine what Coppola would have thought had he been there. But he was likely at his plush Napa Valley vineyard counting grapes and money.

 Speaking of money, “The Godfather” and “Godfather II” grossed over $800 million. “Godfather III,” on the other hand, 7 weeks behind schedule and 11% over budget, lost $25 million. 

I just recently discovered why Sofia Coppola was the last second replacement as Mary Corleone  for Winona Ryder whose supportive young boyfriend was Johnny Depp. (Given what Amber Heard reportedly has done to beds, I hope she isn’t reading this.) 

Ryder had considerable acting experience whereas Sofia had none. But after Winona showed up on set, the next day she suffered what studio doctors diagnosed as “an emotional breakdown” and she never returned. (Maybe she anticipated being yelled at, “Die already, b**ch?”) 

In the meantime, Sofia has won an Oscar for screenwriting and has been nominated for directing and producing. Apparently she has given up acting which, in retrospect,  was a wise choice. I gather the 2020 “Godfather III” re-release had a different beginning and ending but I didn’t go see it for two reasons: Covid, and maybe I’d wind up sitting next to screen talker guy.

This brings me to this past August 8th when the FBI Mar-a-Lago search warrant discovered 11,000 documents, some reportedly with nuclear secrets. They were stolen from the National Archives and wound up in Mar-a-Lago and were  actually compared to “an overdue library book.” Incensed, I started pulling out my hair, only I don’t have that much to pull. (Top secrets in boxes in the basement of a country club with high rollers free to roam members, along with the occasional Chinese spy, hey, what could go wrong?)

Remembering Pacino’s iconic “Just when I quit…” I resisted venting my rage, at least here. So dear reader, if it’s okay with you, I’d like to categorize this issue of “Laughing Matters” as  not having been about “you know who.”  In two weeks, however,  stay tuned.

Jack is at: facebook.com/jackneworth,twitter.com/jackneworth  and jackdailypress@aol.com 

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