Francis Ford Coppola

Mario Puzo
Mario Puzo writes The Godfather, which later is made into an Award-winning yet often criticized movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

Mario Puzo (1920-1999), who was born in New York City, became one of the most famous and perhaps controversial Italian American novelists and screenwriters. He was raised in Hells Kitchen --in its day a boisterous and wild section of New York --where he became a school drop out in order to help the family economically after his father' desertion of the family. Following his Army hitch in the Second World War when he served in Germany, he returned to civilian life in Long Island and worked as a civil servant to support his wife and five children. He also enrolled in courses in the New School for Social Research and Columbia University. After a stint writing pulp fiction, in 1955 Mario wrote his first novel, The Dark Arena, an account of an American soldier in post war Germany. In 1964 he wrote The Fortunate Pilgrim essentially an account of his immigrant family's survival of hardships in the interim between the Great Depression and the immediate post World War II period. This latter has earned acclaim from discerning critics for its credibility in reflecting the Italian American experience. When he realized that while these works elicited literary praise, they did not attract the attention of Hollywood that would bring him wealth, he decided to go into the Godfather business. Sex, violence and crime were the ingredients that Hollywood desired and these were what he was determined to provide in his 1964 work The Godfather. A best selling book, it naturally drew Hollywood's interest, especially that of director Francis Ford Coppola, who was also of Italian heritage. Puzo and Coppola teamed up to become screenwriters that prepared the work for the screen with the movie "The Godfather" the result. A sweeping epic drama, with remarkable acting performances and visual authenticity, the movie was a huge hit and winner of nine Academy Awards in 1972. The Puzo-Coppola team followed with "The Godfather II" that won seven Academy Awards, and "The Godfather III". Other novels that Puzo wrote were Fools Die in 1976, The Sicilian in 1984, also made into a movie, and The Last Don that became a television miniseries. As popular as Puzo's writings were, they were also subjects of criticism especially in Italian American circles that saw Puzo's presentations as inaccurate representations of the Italian American family as well as vehicles that affirmed stereotypes regarding sex and violence. Other critics, however, praised him for dealing with a seamy but real side of life.

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