The Chicago Syndicate: Godfather
Showing posts with label Godfather. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Godfather. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Godfather is Restored to Its Glory

The Godfather is remembered as a dark picture. But over the years it has become less dark than intended.

The opening scene of the best-picture Oscar winner is the ultimate example. Emerging from shadow is the face of Bonasera (Salvatore Corsitto), the father who asks Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) for a favor on the day of the Don's daughter's wedding. But when director Francis Ford Coppola saw the 1972 film on a screen for its 25th anniversary, he thought, "Gee, the picture doesn't look like I remember it looking. This very, very beautiful photography of (cinematographer) Gordon Willis over the years had faded."

The movie is back to its inky finest — thanks to an assist from Steven Spielberg — on The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration, available today on a new five-disc DVD collection with all three Godfather films and two discs of bonus features, as well as a four-disc Blu-ray set ($73 and $120, respectively; each film on individual DVDs, $20).

The Godfather was a victim of its own success. It earned $135 million in the USA, which in modern terms would make the film the No. 21 box-office earner of all time, according to boxofficemojo.com.

To meet demand, Paramount quickly made large numbers of copies to ship to theaters. As a result, "the negative was ultimately destroyed through the practice of printing it so much," Coppola says from Buenos Aires while editing the film Tetro.

A decade ago, Paramount stored all its Godfather film elements in a cold vault to help preserve them until a full digital makeover was possible. "No matter how seriously the studio wished to solve the problems at that time, it would not be possible until digital technology provided the tools," says Robert Harris of The Film Preserve, which eventually handled the restoration of both The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II (1974).

Fast-forward to 2005: Coppola, looking to renew the preservation effort, wrote to Spielberg when DreamWorks was acquired by Paramount. Could Spielberg, who had been involved in restoring Lawrence of Arabia, spur on the project? It was an offer Spielberg could not refuse. He took the request to studio chairman Brad Grey, who set into motion the two-year process, overseen by Paramount post-production executive Marty Cohen and done at Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging in Burbank, Calif.

No single usable Godfather negative remained that was suitable as a source. In the end, Harris and the preservation team gathered a bunch of backup film elements and an Italian-subtitled print used as a color reference.

Over months, the restoration technicians carefully scanned the material and then began cleaning up the footage in its digital form, 4K files (meaning the video is made up of 4,000 lines of horizontal resolution, more than four times the quality of HDTV).

In addition to digitally removing scratches and repairing damage — more than 1,000 man-hours of dirt removal was performed on The Godfather— the technicians were able to fix errors that were more than three decades old. The restaurant scene in which Michael (Al Pacino) shoots Sollozzo (Al Lettieri) and Capt. McCluskey (Sterling Hayden) had been filmed over two nights. But one night's footage had been incorrectly processed, resulting in less detail and a washed-out look — an error that has been corrected digitally.

"Without those innovations, we would not have been able to move forward with the same results," Cohen says. "This is about rebuilding to some degree and putting new paint on the house."

Coppola and Willis consulted on every step of the restoration, which is detailed in a documentary on the new collections. Thanks to the restoration, Willis has regained his title "Prince of Darkness," Coppola says.

"So much of his art was to have the blackness of the black be so vividly black that everything else stood out from it," he says. "The restoration achieved that again."

Thanks to Mike Snider

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Godfather II Video Game to be Released in Early 2009

Electronic Arts is looking to pull gamers back in.

Publisher is developing "The Godfather II," a sequel to its 2006 videogame based on the classic Paramount film, for release in February.

Original "Godfather" game saw worldwide sales of more than 4 million unitsThe Godfather Video Game. A total solid enough that EA greenlit a sequel almost immediately after production on the final version of the game was done in late 2006. According to industry tracker NPD, the first game grossed $62 million in the U.S.

Follow-up will follow elements of "The Godfather Part II" film plot that take place in the late 1950s, but not the flashbacks to Vito Corleone's early life that starred Robert De Niro. As in the first game, players control a new member of the Corleone crime family who is rising through the ranks. "The flashbacks that are so great as a film experience don't really work for a game," said Nick Earl, senior VP-general manager for the EA Games label. "We've created our own story that weaves in and out with the film and hits its major touchpoints."

Most of the film's stars except, notably, Al Pacino, are providing likeness rights to EA. In addition, Robert Duvall, whose Tom Hagen plays a prominent role in the game as an adviser to the character, is recording original voiceovers. Director Francis Ford Coppola, who publicly criticized the first game, is again not involved.

Sequel makes "Godfather" the rare Hollywood license to turn into a videogame franchise, along with titles like "Harry Potter," James Bond and "Lord of the Rings." Paramount's long-term deal with EA allows the publisher to continue making more games if the sequel performs better than the original, as is common for successful videogame franchises. "So many movie-based games are just one-offs, so to create a franchise, especially off a property from the 1970s, is pretty phenomenal," said Paramount senior veep of interactive and mobile Sandi Isaacs, who noted that the "Godfather" games benefit from not having to match the release date of a new film.

Studio's homevideo and pay TV groups are already considering plans to re-release "The Godfather: Part II" next winter tied to the game.

"Godfather" is one of several games based on movies from the 1970s and early '80s, including "Jaws" and "Scarface," to come out in the past few years, but it's the only one to get a sequel. Warner Bros. has had a videogame based on "Dirty Harry" in the works for several years.

Like the first "Godfather" game, "Godfather II" will take place in an open world similar to Rockstar's "Grand Theft Auto." However, the follow-up takes place in three different cities: New York, Miami and Havana. Gameplay elements include up-close action as well as a the ability for players to manage their organized crime family from a citywide perspective.

Game will also feature online multiplayer features with battles between mob families.

EA is developing "Godfather II" at its Redwood Shores studio for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, though for other consoles, the game may come out later in 2009.

Thanks to Ben Fritz

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Son of The Godfather Creator Sues Over Royalties

The son of The Godfather creator Mario Puzo sued Paramount Pictures on Wednesday, claiming the studio failed to pay royalties from a 2006 video game based on the book and movie characters.

Anthony Puzo of New York claims in a court filing that he represents his father's estate and is seeking more than $1 million in damages for breach of contract.

The suit seeks damages for a game created by Electronic Arts, which was not named in the lawsuit that prominently features elements of the film.

A Paramount spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Mario Puzo died in 1999. Seven years earlier he entered into an agreement with Paramount to receive a "significant share" of the revenues from any audio or visual products that included elements of The Godfather films, according to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The agreement was made, the suit claims, because Puzo was a "young, relatively unknown author, struggling to support his family" when Paramount approached him about licensing the The Godfather and bought the rights for "an extremely low price."

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Godfather Doctrine Applied in Today's World

IT IS ONE of the most well-known scenes in cinematic history. Don Vito Corleone, head of the most powerful of New York’s organized-crime families, walks alone across the street from his office to buy some oranges from the fruit stand. He mumbles pleasantly to the Chinese owner, then turns his attention to the task at hand. However, his peaceful idyll is shattered by the sounds of running feet and multiple gunshots—and he is left bleeding to death in the street, as his son Fredo cradles his body.

By a miracle, he is not dead, only gravely wounded. His two other sons, Santino (Sonny) and Michael, as well as his consigliere, Tom Hagen, an adopted son himself, gather in an atmosphere of shock and panic to try to decide what to do next—and how to respond to the attempted assassination of the don by Virgil “the Turk” Sollozzo. This, of course, is the hinge of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, one of the greatest movies ever produced by American cinema. However, given the present changes in the world’s power structure, the movie also becomes a startlingly useful metaphor for the strategic problems of our times.

The aging Vito Corleone, emblematic of cold-war American power, is struck down suddenly and violently by forces he did not expect and does not understand, much as America was on September 11. Even more intriguingly, each of his three “heirs” embraces a very different vision of how the family should move forward following this wrenching moment. Tom Hagen, Sonny and Michael approximate the three American foreign-policy schools of thought—liberal institutionalism, neoconservatism and realism—vying for control in today’s disarranged world order.

The Consigliere

AS VITO’S heirs gather, the future of the Corleone dynasty hangs in the balance. The first to offer a strategy is Tom, the German-Irish transplant who serves as consigliere (chief legal advisor) to the clan. Though an adopted son, Tom is the most familiar with the inner workings of the New York crime world. As family lawyer and diplomat, he is responsible for navigating the complex network of street alliances, backroom treaties and political favors that surround and sustain the family empire. His view of the Sollozzo threat and how the family should respond to it are outgrowths of a legal-diplomatic worldview that shares a number of philosophical similarities with the liberal institutionalism that dominates the foreign-policy outlook of today’s Democratic Party.

First, like many modern Democrats, Tom believes that the family’s main objective should be to return as quickly as possible to the world as it existed before the attack. His overriding strategic aim is the one that Hillary Clinton had in mind when she wrote in a recent Foreign Affairs article of the need for America to “reclaim its proper place in the world.” The “proper place” Tom wants to reclaim is a mirror image of the one that American politicians remember from the 1990s and dream of restoring after 2008—that of the world’s “benign hegemon.”

This is the system that Tom, in his role as consigliere, was responsible for maintaining. By sharing access to the policemen, judges and senators that (as Sollozzo puts it) the don “carries in his pocket like so many nickels and dimes,” the family managed to create a kind of Sicilian Bretton Woods—a system of political and economic public goods that benefited not only the Corleones, but the entire mafia community. This willingness to let the other crime syndicates drink from the well of Corleone political influence rendered the don’s disproportionate accumulation of power more palatable to the other families, who were less inclined to form a countervailing coalition against it. The result was a consensual, rules-based order that offered many of the same benefits—low transaction costs of rule, less likelihood of great-power war and the chance to make money under an institutional umbrella—that America enjoyed during the cold war.

It is this “Pax Corleone” that Sollozzo, in Tom’s eyes, must not be allowed to disrupt. In dealing with the new challenger, however, Tom believes that the brothers must be careful not to do anything that would damage the family business. The way to handle Sollozzo, he judges, is not through force but through negotiation—a second trait linking him to today’s liberal institutionalists. Like more than one of the leading Democratic contenders for the presidency, Tom thinks that even a rogue power like Sollozzo can be brought to terms, if only the family will take the time to hear his proposals and accommodate his needs.

Throughout the movie, Tom’s motto is “we oughta talk to ‘em”—a slogan which, especially since the publication of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, is the line promoted by the lawmakers and presidential hopefuls of the Democratic Party, who now say that immediate, unconditional talks with America’s latest “Sollozzo” (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) are the only option still open to Washington for coping with the Iranian nuclear crisis.

The party’s growing veneration of diplomacy as the sine qua non of American statecraft rests, as it did for Tom, on two assumptions: first, that despite their aggressive posturing, the Sollozzos of the world would rather be status quo than revolutionary powers; and, second, that the other big families have a vested interest in sustaining the Pax Corleone and will therefore not use the family’s distraction with Sollozzo as an opportunity to make their own power grabs. Working from these assumptions, today’s consiglieres have prescribed the same course of action regarding Iran that Tom prescribed for dealing with Sollozzo: a process of intensified, reward-laden negotiation that they believe will pave the way for his admission as a normalized player into the family’s rules-based community.

This near-religious belief in the efficacy of diplomacy brings Tom into bitter conflict with those in the family, led by Sonny, who favor a military response to Sollozzo. To Tom, as to many Democrats, Sonny’s reveling in the family muscle runs counter to the logic of institutionalized restraint that Vito used to build the family empire. In the world that Tom knows, force is used judiciously and as a last resort: only on the rarest of occasions, and after repeated attempts at negotiation, would the don dispatch Luca Brazi to cajole and threaten an opponent—“To make them an offer they can’t refuse”—and even then, it was usually with the foreknowledge and multilateral consent of the other families. By contrast, the street war Sonny launches against Sollozzo is an act of reckless unilateralism, which, unless ended, threatens to upset Tom’s finely tuned institutional order and squander the hard-won gains of the Pax Corleone.

At first blush, Tom’s critique of Sonny’s militarist strategy sounds reasonable. Compared with the eldest son’s promiscuous expenditures of Corleone blood, treasure and clout, Tom’s workmanlike emphasis on consensus building has much to recommend it; if successful, it would permit the Corleones to resume their peaceful hegemony to their own and the other families’ benefit. But the hope Tom offers the family is a false one.

For in order to be successful, the consigliere’s diplomacy must be conducted from a position of unparalleled strength, which the family no longer possesses. Tom no longer has the luxury of always being the man at the table with the most leverage. The era of easy Corleone dominance is over. Power on the streets has already begun to shift into the hands of the Tataglias and Barzinis—the mafia equivalent of today’s BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China). Like the current international system, the situation that confronts the Corleone family is one of increasing multipolarity—a reality that is lost on Tom, who thinks he is still the emissary of the dominant superpower (a delusion that many Democrats apparently share).

But even if Tom doesn’t know the world is shifting, Sollozzo does. Like the two-bit petty tyrants that challenge Washington with mounting confidence in today’s world, Sollozzo senses that fundamental changes are underway in the global system and knows that they give him greater latitude for defying the Corleones than he had in the past. As Sollozzo tells Tom, “The old man is slipping; ten years ago I couldn’t have gotten to him.” The consigliere is wrong about Sollozzo. He is not, like challengers in the past, out to join the Pax Corleone. He is an opportunist who will take things as they come—either as a revolutionary power or a status quo power, but certainly as one out to accelerate and profit from the transition to multipolarity. The other families have no more incentive to thwart his maneuvers than Russia and China have to thwart those of Iran. And because Tom fails to see this, his strategy is the wrong one for the family, and the wrong one for America.

Shoot First and Ask Questions Later

SONNY’S SIMPLISTIC response to the crisis is to advocate “toughness” through military action, a one-note policy prescription for waging righteous war against the rest of the ungrateful mafia world. Disdaining Tom’s pleas that business will suffer, Sonny’s damn-the-torpedoes approach belies a deep-seated fear that the only way to reestablish the family’s dominance is to eradicate all possible future threats to it. While such a strategy makes emotional sense following the attempted hit on his father, it runs counter to the long-term interests of the family.

The don himself knew that threats against his position were a fact of life; while his policy revolved around minimizing them, he knew well that in a world governed by power, they could never be entirely eliminated. As he put it to Michael, “Men cannot afford to be careless.” By contrast, Sonny’s neoconservative approach is built around the strategically reckless notion that risk can be eliminated from life altogether through the relentless—and if necessary, preemptive—use of violence.

In Sonny, Tom is confronted with the cinematic archetype of the modern-day neoconservative hard-liner. Their resulting feud resembles the pitched political warfare between Democrats and neoconservatives that has come to dominate the American political landscape:

Tom Hagen, the liberal institutionalist: “We oughta hear what they have to say.”

Sonny, the neocon: “No, no more. Not this time, consigliere; no more meetings, no more discussions, no more Sollozzo tricks. . . . And do me a favor: no more advice on how to patch things up—just help me win alright?


Where Tom sees Sollozzo as a reasonable if aggressive businessman whose concerns, like those of previous challengers, can be accommodated through compromise and conciliation, Sonny sees an existential threat—a clear and present danger that must be swiftly cauterized, no matter what the cost. Sonny wants to “stop being weak” and doesn’t want to “waste time”; showing any opposition to using force confirms for him that “I knew you didn’t have the guts to do this.” (One can imagine that Sonny’s shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later approach would meet with the firm approval of arch-neoconservatives such as Norman Podhoretz and Michael Ledeen, given their stance on how to deal with Iran.)

So, by starting a gangland free-for-all in the wake of the hit on his father, Sonny unwittingly severs long-standing family alliances and unites much of the rest of the mafia world against the Corleones. The resulting war is one of choice rather than strategic necessity. Sonny’s rash instinct to use military power to solve his structural problems merely hastens the family’s decline.

For as the past few years have shown, military intervention for its own sake, without a corresponding political plan, leads only to disaster. Yearning for the moral clarity that the Corleones’ past dominance had given them—a dominance not dissimilar to that enjoyed by America during the cold war—Sonny cannot begin to comprehend that the era that made his military strategy possible has come to an end. Blinded by a militant moralism bereft of strategic insight, he proves an easy target for his foes. Unwisely, and against the advice of his mother, Sonny attempts to arbitrate the escalating domestic disputes between his sister, Connie, and her abusive husband, Carlo Ricci, failing to see that the beatings his sister endured from Carlo came at the behest of Don Barzini, the Corleone’s closest peer competitor. For Sonny’s reaction to all the evils of the world, whether beyond his ability to solve or not, is entirely predictable: “Attack.” Unilaterally rushing to avenge his sister by pummeling Carlo, Sonny is struck down by his legion of foes, his body riddled with bullets. As has proven true for the neoconservatives over Iraq, there is a depressing logic to his hit. In place of understanding the world, Sonny based his strategy on accosting it; the world striking back, as happened in Iraq, is an obvious conclusion.

Michael’s Realism

THE STRATEGY that ultimately saves the Corleone family from the Sollozzo threat and equips it for coping with multipolarity comes from Michael, the youngest and least experienced of the don’s sons. Unlike Tom, whose labors as family lawyer have produced an exaggerated devotion to negotiation, and Sonny, whose position as untested heir apparent has produced a zeal for utilizing the family arsenal, Michael has no formulaic fixation on a particular policy instrument. Instead, his overriding goal is to protect the family’s interests and save it from impending ruin by any and all means necessary. In today’s foreign-policy terminology, Michael is a realist.

Viewing the world through untinted lenses, he sees that the age of dominance the family enjoyed for so long under his father is ending. Alone among the three brothers, Michael senses that a shift is underway toward a more diffuse power arrangement, in which multiple power centers will jockey for position and influence. To survive and succeed in this new environment, Michael knows the family will have to adapt.

First, Michael relinquishes the mechanistic, one-trick-pony policy approaches of his brothers in favor of a “toolbox,” in which soft and hard power are used in flexible combinations and as circumstances dictate. While at various times he sides with Tom (favoring negotiation) or Sonny (favoring force), Michael sees their positions as about tactics and not about ultimate strategy, which for him is solely to ensure the survival and prosperity of the family. Thus, he is able to use Sonny’s “button men” to knock out those competitors he cannot co-opt, while negotiating with the rest as Tom would like. This blending of sticks and carrots ensures that Michael is ultimately a more effective diplomat than Tom and a more successful warrior than Sonny: when he enters negotiations, it is always in the wake of a fresh battlefield victory and therefore from a position of strength; when he embarks on a new military campaign, it is always in pursuit of a specific goal that can be consolidated afterwards diplomatically. Can any of the Iran policies currently being advocated by the leading candidates of both parties be said to proceed from these assumptions?

Second, Michael understands that no matter how strong its military or how savvy its diplomats, the Corleone family will not succeed in the multipolar environment ahead unless it learns to take better care of its allies. Like America after the Iraq War, the mafia empire that Michael inherits after the hit on Sonny possesses a system of alliances on the brink of collapse. Having flocked to the Corleone colors when the war against Sollozzo broke out, the family’s allies—like America’s in the “New” Europe—have little to show for the risks they have undertaken on the family’s behalf. Exhausted by war and estranged by Sonny’s Rumsfeld-like bullying, they have begun to question whether it is still in their interests to backstop a declining superpower that is apparently not interested in retaining their loyalty.

For all his talk about diplomacy, Tom believes in the family’s dominance; like today’s liberal institutionalists, he assumes that allies will continue to pay fealty to the family as a matter of course, as they have in the past. Similarly, Sonny assumes that other powers will gravitate toward the family or risk irrelevance; like most neocons, he sees allies as essentially disposable. By contrast, Michael intuitively grasps the value of family friends and the role that reciprocity plays in retaining their support for future crises. Thus, he is seen offering encouragement and a cigarette to Enzo, the timid neighborhood baker, whose help he enlisted to protect his father at the hospital. In this, he is imitating his father, Vito, who saw alliances as the true foundation of Corleone power and was mindful of the need to tend the family’s “base” of support, not only with big players like Clemenza and Tessio (Britain and France) but with small players like the cake maker and undertaker (Poland and Romania), whose loyalty he is seen cultivating in the opening scenes of the movie. As Michael knows, even small allies could potentially prove crucial in “tipping the scales” to the family’s advantage, as they will for America, once multipolarity is in full swing. Relearning the lost Sicilian art of alliance management will be necessary if Washington is to regain the confidence of the growing list of allies whose blood and treasure were frittered away, with little or nothing to show in return, in the sands of Iraq.

Finally, while addressing the family’s immediate need for a more versatile policy tool kit and shoring up its teetering alliances, Michael also takes steps to adjust the institutional playing field to the Corleones’ advantage on a more fundamental, long-term basis. Where Tom sees institutions as essentially static edifices that act as sources of power in their own right and Sonny sees them as needless hindrances to be bypassed, Michael sees institutions for what they truly are: conduits of influence that “reflect and ratify” but do not supplant deeper power realities. When the distribution of power shifts, institutions are sure to follow. As the Tataglias and Barzinis gain strength, Michael knows they will eventually overturn the existing order and replace it with an institutional rule book that better reflects their own needs and interests. Evidence that this process is already underway can be seen in the ease with which Sollozzo is able to enlist the support of a local precinct captain—the mafia equivalent of a UN mandate—when police loyalties formerly belonged to the Corleones. Similarly, Washington increasingly finds the very institutions it created after World War II being used against it by today’s rising powers, even as new structures are being built (like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization) that exclude the United States as a participant altogether.

Rather than ignoring this phenomenon like Tom or launching a frontal assault against it like Sonny, Michael sees it as a hidden opportunity. For Michael knows that if the family acts decisively, before the Tataglias and Barzinis have acquired a commanding margin of power, it can rearrange the existing institutional setup in ways that satisfy the new power centers but still serve vital Corleone interests. This he does through a combination of accommodation (dropping the family’s resistance to narcotics and granting the other families access to the Coreleones’ coveted New York political machinery) and institutional retrenchment (shifting the family business to Nevada and giving the other families a stake in the Corleones’ new moneymaker, Las Vegas gambling). In this way, Michael is able to give would-be rivals renewed incentives to bandwagon with, rather than balance against, the Corleone empire, while forcing them to deal with him on his own terms.

A similar technique could prove very useful for America in anticipating and preparing the way for the emergence of its Tataglias and Barzinis, the rising and resurgent powers. Such an effort at preemptive institutional regrouping, with decision making predicated on new global power realities, is vital if America’s new peer competitors are to eschew the temptation to position themselves as revolutionary powers in the new system. Doing so now, while the transition from the old system to multipolarity is still underway and before the wet cement of the new order has hardened, could help to ensure that while it no longer enjoys the privileged status of hegemon, America is able to position itself, like the Corleones, as the next best thing: primus inter pares—“first among equals.”

CAN ANY of the candidates vying to become the next president of the United States match Michael’s cool, dispassionate courage in the face of epochal change? Will they avoid living in the comforting embrace of the past, from which both Tom and Sonny ultimately could not escape? Or will they emulate Michael’s flexibility—to preserve America’s position in a dangerous world?


Thanks to John C. Hulsman and A. Wess Mitchell

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cue the Godfather's Theme Music, Horse's Head Left for Italian Politician

A horse’s head Cue the Godfather's Theme Music, Horse's Head Left for Italian Politicianhas been found outside the office of an Italian politician, in a scene reminiscent of The Godfather.

An anonymous call alerted police to the macabre discovery which outside deputy mayor Vincenzo Pomes’ office in Osturni, near Bari.

Mr Pomes, a centre left politician, said: “There is no explanation for such a stupid act.

“I have no idea why anyone would make such a horrific gesture.

“I don’t think it’s a warning with regard to my political life or private life.

“It’s obviously the gesture of a madman to embarrass me and the town of Ostuni.

“I am not afraid but obviously my wife and family have been left upset.”

Police said they were keeping an open mind and were also examining two shotgun cartridges found at the scene.

They were also trying to trace the slaughterhouse where the horse was killed - horse meat is a delicacy in Italy.

The discovery echoes the Mafia film, The Godfather, starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino.

A Hollywood director who crosses Brando’s Don Corleone Mafia boss wakes up to find the severed head of his prize $600,000 stud horse in his bed.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Italian Eatery is Home of The Godfather - A Sangwich You Can't Refuse

It's safe to say that few area eateries have their kitchens located in a place that formerly housed a hydraulic hoist for automobiles. Then again, most also aren't named for fictional organized crime business fronts.

The menu at Genco Italian Eatery Genco Italian Eatery - The Home of the Godfather Sangwichprominently features a signature creation known as The Godfather: "a sangwich you can't refuse!" The acclaimed series of books and movies sets the tone for the establishment, which operates out of a renovated filling station north of Lockport's downtown shopping district. Its name is a nod to Genco Abbandando and the Genco Olive Oil Company, a business venture of Mafia don Vito Corleone in the sweeping "Godfather" mafia epics.

Of course, the restaurant's food-preparation area bears little resemblance to its previous incarnation. The oversized car jack is long gone, leaving plenty of room for intensive cooking.

"We make everything homemade here," said Lou Caracci, who owns the restaurant with his business partner, Mike Carter.

When Genco opened four years ago, its focus was centered on sub sandwiches. The selection was later expanded to include pasta, and now there is pizza too.

The lasagna, featuring homemade tomato sauce, is especially popular, Caracci said. Among the subs, the Underboss - a layering of ham, salami, capocollo, Swiss and provolone cheese - goes over especially well.

Pizza possibilities include the popular Tessio - sausage, peppers, onions and mushrooms - and the white versions, such as the Frank Pentangeli (alias Frankie Five Angels, alias Frankie Pants, from "The Godfather Part II"), which features olive oil, garlic, ricotta cheese and tomato. The savory pies are all available with thin crust or, for two bucks more, double dough.

Under the "specialties" heading on the food lineup are oversized sub sandwiches, made in three- and six-foot lengths, and something called Joey Zaza's calzones, named for the mob underling portrayed by Joe Mantegna in "The Godfather Part III."

An extensive catering menu also is available, offering such dishes as "famous pot roast," cooked nice and slow in Grandma's red gravy and spooned over a bed of rigatoni. Grilled tuna steak "served in our infamous wine sauce," tilapia with asparagus in wine sauce and lemon chicken are some of the other catered items available by the half or full pan. Several platters also are available, with themes that include wraps, seafood and fruit, among others. Genco also offers packages priced by the plate for groups of 20 and up.

The establishment does quite a bit of off-site business, Caracci said.

"We've done a lot of TV and movie sets. 'Prison Break' - we did all their food," he said, adding that they also supplied food at the production sites for the movies "The Breakup" and "The Return," part of which was filmed in Naperville last May.

While relocation to a larger space is possible one day, the restaurant's owners are staying put for now. They plan to apply for a beer and wine license later this year, and will be adding a deck for outdoor seating, Caracci said.

Thanks to Susan Frick Carlman

Monday, January 14, 2008

Beyond Wiseguys: Italian Americans and the Movies

DON’T get her wrong: Rosanne De Luca Braun loves “The Godfather.” Ditto, “The Sopranos.” But she has devoted much of the last seven years to exploring why certain Italian-American stereotypes — especially the gun-toting, cannoli-loving mobster — loom so large on screen, and in the national psyche.

The result of her labors is the documentary “Beyond Wiseguys: Italian Americans and the Movies,” which will have its Long Island premiere on Jan. 20 at the Cinema Arts Center in Huntington. Dominic Chianese, who played Uncle Junior in “The Sopranos” television series, is scheduled to make a guest appearance at the theater.

Running 57 minutes, “Beyond Wiseguys” interweaves celebrated movie and TV scenes with interviews with scholars and members of the film and TV industries. Among those appearing are the directors Martin Scorsese, David Chase and Spike Lee, the actor-director John Turturro (who was co-executive producer of the documentary with Ms. Braun), and, from the acting ranks, Marisa Tomei, Paul Sorvino, Ben Gazzara, Isabella Rossellini, Susan Sarandon and Mr. Chianese.

Some tell of having endured typecasting or of fighting ethnic clichés. Yet Ms. Braun, 59, of Sicilian and Calabrian descent herself, says she is not merely beating a drum against intolerance. “I’m not anti mob movies,” she said recently over lunch in her condominium overlooking Long Island Sound in Northport. (She shares it with her husband, Edward Braun, the chairman of the technology-instrument company Veeco.)

“I don’t relate to the fact that these are ‘stereotypes,’ ” Ms. Braun said. “I relate to the characters. And in the case of a great work of art, I don’t view it as Italian-American — it’s American.”

Nevertheless, “Beyond Wiseguys” has its roots partly in community concern over negative screen images. In 2000, Ms. Braun, then director of marketing and development at the Cinema Arts Center, worked with its co-directors, Vic Skolnick, Charlotte Sky and Dylan Skolnick, to organize an Italian-American film festival devoid of “made” men, rubouts and the like.

Such films proved hard to find, though. The depiction of Italian-Americans as voluble, emotional and sometimes murderous had remained “largely formulaic,” Ms. Braun said, from the earliest days of the movie industry.

That was true, she said, even though “we found an endless supply of Italian-American craftsmen working behind the scenes in Hollywood from Day 1 — set designers, composers, writers, costume designers,” making their mark in often sophisticated ways.

Convinced she was “really onto something,” Ms. Braun left her job in 2000 to work on the idea. She sent her outline to Mr. Turturro.

In the film business, “I was nobody,” Ms. Braun explained. “I knew I was going to need a name attached to open some doors for me.”

Mr. Turturro soon signed on. The issue of ethnic sterotyping is something he deals with daily on a professional level, he said through an assistant.

It worked. “I could have said, ‘This is Daisy Duck,’ as long as I said, ‘John Turturro,’ ” said Ms. Braun, who rounded up interview subjects and, over time, raised “about $350,000.” (”Beyond Wiseguys” got its major financial backing from Italian-American sources, including LiDestri Foods of Rochester, a maker of pasta sauce and other products, and the National Italian American Foundation, but they had no editorial input, she said.)

When it came to making the film, two veteran documentary makers, Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher, collaborated with Ms. Braun, a neophyte.

Given the documentary’s many strands, Ms. Braun said she would most like viewers to take away the sense that Hollywood’s Italian-American sagas, at their best, transcend stereotype: “They’re filled with the aroma, and the real experiences, of Italian family life and Italian history,” she said.

Thanks to Karen Lipson

Monday, August 20, 2007

Mafia T-Shirts Cures Unemployment for One Man

AMafia T-shirts formerly unemployed man in Sicily is making a living hawking T-shirts sporting Mafia-inspired designs outside the theater seen in "The Godfather: Part III."

Salvatore Trippodo of Palermo says tourists -- perhaps influenced by the popularity of HBO's "The Sopranos" -- are loading up on the items, Italy's ANSA news service reported Friday.

One design features Marlon Brando as Don Corleone in "The Godfather." Others bear the omerta code of the Mafia -- often summed up as "don't see; don't hear; don't speak."

"The idea came to me when I was really depressed about my chances of ever finding a job," Trippodo told ANSA. "It's really hard to find work in Sicily and it's so easy to slip into doing something wrong; but with a bit of imagination, you can create your own job."

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Tony Soprano to be Whacked in Final Season?

IF any television character has a bullet, or meat cleaver, with his name on it, it's Tony Soprano.

As HBO's "The Sopranos" counts down its final nine episodes beginning next Sunday, the existential question hanging over the series is: Should Tony live or die? Given the show's bleak themes, anything less than killing him off could be construed as a miscarriage of justice — and a dramatic sellout.

After six seasons, even Tony doesn't seem to like his chances. In therapy, the married father of two admitted to his psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi, that there are two outcomes for "guys like me" — prison or death.

The New Jersey don has meted out death to family (cousin Tony Blundetto), friend (Sal "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero), and foe (witness protection turncoat Fred Peters) alike. He has sanctioned many more cold-blooded hits, of course, as on his daughter's boyfriend Jackie Jr. or on his nephew's fiancée, Adriana. He once even tried to snuff out his smothering mother, Livia, with, appropriately enough, a hospital pillow.

The crime boss' intuition is dead-on, argues Al Gini, who contributed an essay for the 2004 book "The Sopranos and Philosophy: I Kill Therefore I Am." By summer, says Gini, whose essay was called "Bada-Being and Nothingness: Murderous Melodrama or Morality Play?," Tony will be sleeping with the fishes.

"Tony has got to be killed. It's the only satisfying ending," said Gini, a philosophy professor at Loyola University in Chicago who has incorporated Soprano's leadership traits into a business ethics course. "We're not talking about Robin Hood here, someone that takes from the rich and gives to the poor. We're talking about a hood. If Tony doesn't lose everything, what's the message? The bad guy gets away with it all?"

Gini isn't suggesting a Sgt. Joe Friday "crime doesn't pay" lecture as much as a dramatization of the biblical injunction that those who live by the sword, die by the sword. God's judgment may be evident, but a sudden, violent death for Tony would also have to do with probability. In other words, those who live with mobsters, drug dealers, loan sharks and waste management consultants are probably going to die like them.

But popular L.A. mystery writer Robert Crais still would find such a finale overly simplistic, out of sync with the complexity and sophistication that have been earmarks of the show's storytelling. There are things worse than death, after all. Tony should survive some type of mob conflagration, said the former writer for "Hill Street Blues," "Miami Vice" and "Cagney & Lacey," but not without dire consequences.

"I don't think the audience would be happy if Tony gets a bullet to the head," said Crais, who wrote the bestselling fictional thriller "The Watchman: A Joe Pike Novel." "In the end, he should be promoted, but where the cost far exceeds the triumph."

When it comes to story lines, "The Sopranos" breaks all the rules, but that hasn't stopped oddsmakers from weighing in on how the show will end. The line seems to recommend not betting against the man with a back office at the Bada Bing! At an online gambling site based in Costa Rica called BoDog, the odds are running 1 to 2 against Tony's demise, according to Bodog.com founder Calvin Ayre. However, Tony's nephew Christopher Moltisanti is a 2-to-1 favorite to be a stiff before the final curtain falls. (Tony's son, A.J., is a 15-to-1 family long shot to die.)

Certainly, there are no shortage of "Sopranos" characters with the opportunity and motive to knock off Tony. Perpetually disgruntled Paulie Walnuts, rival mob boss and recently imprisoned Johnny "Sack" Sacramoni, even nephew Christopher all would be credible assailants to perform the foul deed. But perhaps there is someone closer still to Tony who would do him in.

"You see echoes of great Greek tragedy in all this," said Glen O. Gabbard, a psychiatrist at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston who has written extensively about the show. "I could see Carmela getting so furious that she killed Tony."

Long torn, as she once said, between doing what is right and doing what is easy, Carmela could become the fury behind Tony's death. All the goodwill built between the reunited couple could vanish in a flash if Carmela were to learn the truth behind Adriana's disappearance.

An equally powerful dramatic finish would be if the prone-to-depression mobster took his own life, contends Peter H. Hare, an emeritus philosophy professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo who also wrote an essay for "The Sopranos and Philosophy."

Tony's suicide should not be a personal moral reaction to his many evil acts but rather stem from a deepening melancholy that overtakes him as he realizes his life is without true meaning or purpose. The suicide can't be the result of a pill popping or a gun to the temple. Instead, in what Hare terms an "ambiguous suicide," Tony could deliberately maneuver himself into a heroic battle ostensibly for his Mafia family but actually meant as a way to kill himself.

"I don't want to imply Tony deserves to die," said Hare, whose essay is titled "What Kind of God Does This …?" "But the whole 'Sopranos' narrative has a great deal more meaning if it ends with his death."

SHOULD Tony die is one question. Will he die is quite another. Wrapping up any beloved and long-running television series is extraordinarily difficult, much less one that has drawn comparisons in breadth and depth to the works of Shakespeare and has so clearly stamped its brooding, darkly humorous soul onto the pop culture canopy.

Not surprisingly, series creator David Chase and his staff are in lockdown mode in their New York studios zealously guarding any hint over Tony's ultimate fate. Though the show's writers are renowned for their ingenuity and unpredictability, storytelling convention can still offer clues to the final days of Tony Soprano.

Endings typically hew closely to the logic established within a show's fictional universe while also resolving outstanding dramatic questions. This basic storytelling rule would, it is hoped, eliminate Tony's possible escape into the federal witness protection program, or worse, a "St. Elsewhere"-like scenario where the whole "Sopranos" pageant had been all in the mind of an autistic child. But memorable endings — Bob Newhart ending up back in bed with Suzanne Pleshette! — usually pack a surprise, and that as much as anything else could spare Tony.

"I watch shows like 'The Sopranos' for the unknown — the twists and turns and for the nice ride," said Saul Friedman, a writer for the website http://www.TVgasm.com. "We've all seen the mafia movies, and we know how they end. I want to see something different here."

It's worth noting the conclusions of "The Godfather" movies, which are frequently alluded to and even quoted outright in "The Sopranos." Mafia head Vito Corleone, after being nearly assassinated, turns over his empire to son Michael. Vito's brush with death seems enough punishment and he dies relatively peacefully in the family garden before his bewildered grandson.

Meanwhile, "The Godfather, Part II (Two-Disc Widescreen Edition)" would seem to offer an ending more in keeping with "The Sopranos" overall tone. There, Michael consolidates his rule, but it comes at the price of murdering his older brother and forever alienating his family. The final shot of a soulless Michael staring off at a frozen Lake Tahoe is more chilling than any murder could ever be. (Sorry, "The Godfather, Part III (Widescreen Edition)" doesn't count.)

From a strictly storytelling point of view too, killing off Tony now would seem repetitive and anticlimactic. It was only a handful of episodes ago that Tony escaped death after being shot in the belly by a senile Uncle Junior.

Another problem with killing Tony is how likable he is despite his pathologically long list of misdeeds and murder. We like him, that's why we watch the show, and doing him in may be more than the writers and the audience can bear. Indeed, they want to believe he can change.

"Arthur Miller used to say, 'You don't go to the theater unless you see yourself onstage,' " said Gabbard, who wrote "The Psychology of the Sopranos: Love, Death, Desire and Betrayal in America's Favorite Gangster Family." "The audience thinks that maybe, just maybe, this bad man can be transformed into a good man. That's what Melfi thinks, that's what the audience thinks."

And yet, something more powerful than the demands of storytelling may dictate Tony's final fate — Hollywood. Although Chase is ending the series because he's mined the show for all he can on television, rumors persist about a possible "Sopranos" feature film. A "Sopranos" movie without Tony? As the Bada Bing! boys might say, not going to happen.

Thanks to Martin Miller

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The "Scarface" Brand

What a difference 20 years makes. When Brian De Palma's "Scarface" hit theaters in 1983, it was panned by critics and earned a paltry $45.6 million at the domestic boxoffice -- enough to squeak by "Jaws 3-D" for the No. 16 position on the year-end rankings.

"We were trashed," says Martin Bregman, the film's producer. It was Bregman and Universal Pictures who had taken a chance on Oliver Stone's audacious script about a ruthless Cuban immigrant's rapid rise and fall in South Florida's underworld drug trade, and it was De Palma and star Al Pacino who had turned it into an operatic testament to the dark side of the American dream.

Today, "Scarface" resonates with a new generation of viewers that relates to the outsider status of Pacino's antihero and finds truth in the message of societal forces that reward -- however fleetingly -- aggression, naked ambition and greed.

Roger Ebert, one of the few reviewers to weigh in positively upon the film's initial release, lauded "Scarface" for its ability to "take a flawed, evil man and allow him to be human," writing in the Chicago Sun-Times that Pacino "does not make (Tony) Montana into a sympathetic character, but he does make him into somebody we can identify with in a horrified way, if only because of his perfectly understandable motivations. Wouldn't we all like to be rich and powerful, have desirable sex partners, live in a mansion, be catered to by faithful servants and hardly have to work? Well, yeah, now that you mention it." But most observers did not see so deeply into a story that, on its surface, contains entirely raw violence. Combined with a performance by Pacino that was trounced roundly as over-the-top, the violence generated a ripple of notoriety -- but not enough for the film to avoid becoming a commercial disappointment.

Universal Pictures chairman Marc Shmuger believes that "Scarface" was ahead of its time, suffering in the long shadow of Francis Ford Coppola's "Godfather" movies. To enter the epic gangster genre after 1972's "The Godfather" and 1974's "The Godfather: Part II" won a combined nine Academy Awards, he says, was an uphill battle.

Only later would "Scarface" find its niche among the broadband generation, which finds Tony's Cuban swagger more relatable than that of the old-school Corleones, who seem quaint by comparison. That youthful embrace has propelled "Scarface" into a marketing juggernaut, with more than 40 licensees in the U.S. alone that make everything from T-shirts, jackets and skullcaps to comic books, money clips and even a die-cast model of a Cadillac, complete with a miniature Tony Montana in his famous white suit and smoking a cigar.

Although the groundswell has bubbled up organically through bootleg goods, obscure musical references and the like, Universal's licensing group has been savvy enough to recognize an opportunity and take it to the next level. The latest installments in the "Scarface" merchandising phenomenon are the Vivendi video game "Scarface: The World Is Yours," set to hit store shelves Oct. 8, and Universal Studios Home Entertainment's planned Tuesday "Platinum Edition" DVD release, for which the film's sound effects and audio have been overhauled. Both products are launching into a market that has embraced "Scarface" as a part of pop culture.

The hip-hop community has adopted the film as its rags-to-riches morality tale, and clips from "Scarface" have appeared in countless movies and TV shows including the 2004 feature "Meet the Fockers," in which a precocious baby hits a remote control and changes the channel from a children's show to a blaze of bullets. "Scarface's" classic "money line" -- where Tony, about to open fire on a foe, sneeringly says, "Say hello to my little friend" -- has echoed around the globe.

"In one of my kids' middle school, there was a board, and every day there was a new quote -- by (William) Shakespeare, (Mahatma) Gandhi, people like that," Shmuger says. "One day, the quote was, 'Say hello to my little friend.' It has become a touchstone; it has left a lasting impression on our culture in ways that nobody could have imagined when it was originally released in 1983." Adds Bregman, "It's a major part of pop culture, and not just in this country: You can go to Israel and buy T-shirts with Pacino's face in every souvenir store."

"Scarface" was intended to be a remake of Howard Hawks' noirish 1932 mob drama of the same name, set in Chicago during that period. After producing 1973's "Serpico" and 1975's "Dog Day Afternoon," both starring Pacino, Bregman was seeking another vehicle for the actor. He approached De Palma, who began working on an adaptation with playwright David Rabe.

When it became clear that the script was not working, De Palma dropped out, and Stone and director Sidney Lumet were brought in. Lumet came up with the concept of moving the film to 1980s Miami and turning the Al Capone-inspired lead character into a Cuban refugee who makes his fortune in cocaine.

Stone, reportedly battling cocaine addiction at the time, took the idea and ran with it. When he submitted his draft, though, Lumet had problems with it -- so Bregman, who liked what Stone had written, turned back to De Palma.

De Palma liked Stone's graphic, violent script, and soon he and Pacino traveled to Miami, immersing themselves in the local culture. Big-screen newcomer Michelle Pfeiffer was cast as Pacino's girlfriend, and the supporting cast was filled out by several Latin Americans including Cuba-born Steven Bauer, then married to Melanie Griffith.

Crews began to set up the shoot in summer 1982, but trouble began almost immediately. A group of Cuban immigrants protested what they felt would be a slam on their culture, and a Miami city commissioner threatened to introduce a bill that would ban the shoot from taking place there unless Pacino's character was turned into a Communist spy sent by Fidel Castro.

An agreement was reached to screen "Scarface" before a group of Cuban-American leaders who could (and did) tag it with a disclaimer, but the filmmakers, fearing further repercussions, moved most of the production to Los Angeles. The Miami internment camp seen in the movie was built beneath the Santa Monica and Harbor freeways, and the Little Havana cafeteria in which Tony works is actually a restaurant in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo.

"Scarface" was pegged for U.S. release on Dec. 9, 1983, but the MPAA's Classification and Ratings Administration gave it an X rating that October for "cumulative violence," and the movie underwent several hasty edits. When the X rating stood after four go-rounds, the filmmakers appealed -- and the final vote was 17-3 in favor of an R rating, clearing the way for a wide release. But things would get worse: Reviews went from bad to scathing, and the filmmakers were lambasted for the movie's excessive violence.

"Even in our test screenings, the movie wasn't playing well," says Shmuger, who saw the film in a New York theater long before he joined Universal. "I was just stunned; I didn't know how to take it. 'The Godfather' had seemed so perfect and proper, but 'Scarface' just felt so aggressive."

"Scarface" earned only $4.6 million during its opening weekend and wound up grossing $45.6 million during its initial theatrical run -- hardly the makings of a blockbuster. Slowly but surely, though, a cult following developed, primarily among young urban audiences who kept coming back for repeat viewings.

In 2003, while preparing the release of a 20th anniversary "Scarface" DVD, Universal conducted a second round of test screenings -- and met with markedly different results.

"We put a print in front of audiences on the West Coast and the East Coast because we wanted to see if it would stand up as a theatrical release again in Los Angeles and New York, and scores were through the roof," Shmuger says. "The movie hadn't changed; what had changed was the audience and the culture."

Not only was the graphic violence more palatable to viewers raised on films like 1994's "Natural Born Killers" and video games like Midway's "Mortal Kombat" franchise, but also the premise of "Scarface" resonated among the test-screen throng.

"The whole story of trying to fight your way up, by hook or by crook or by violence -- of doing anything to achieve the American dream -- became something of an anthem to the hip-hop culture," Shmuger says. And the film's authenticity has endured. Says Bregman, "What makes all this possible, 23 years later, is a movie that is very much still a fresh and hot property."

Thanks to Thomas K. Arnold

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Actor Revisits Mob connection

One of the most prominent new faces on TV's most popular Mafia drama is an actor whose career in mob fiction began when he was just a boy.
The Sopranos
Though he's thoroughly ensconced in his new "Sopranos" role, Lou Martini Jr. fondly remembers one of his first acting gigs, in the wedding reception scene in "The Godfather."

"My part is when James Caan is taking the bridesmaid upstairs to go fool around . . . at the beginning of the movie," Martini said in a recent phone call from New York."Those two little kids run by into the kitchen, and there's the wedding cake the ladies are fixing, and we run around the cake. Well, the first kid is me."

Martini's father was cast as Luca Brasi in "The Godfather," the role that generated the memorable line "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes," a mob-movie quote that is second only to Marlon Brando's "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse." But Lou Martini Sr. got sick on his first day on the set and was replaced by wrestler Lenny Montana. Martini had a stroke and died in 1970, and young Martini's mother took him out of acting and had him focus on school.

Still, after falling back in love with acting in college, Martini had to make a decision: scrape his way up through the world of sports broadcasting (his major) or return to New York to be with family while pursuing a career in acting.He chose family and acting.

His latest Mafia-related role is only a little shadier than "young boy at wedding party," so far, anyway. On "The Sopranos," he plays Anthony Infante, the reluctant new liaison between the New York and New Jersey crime families. When Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) needs to communicate with John Sacramoni (Vince Curatola), the jailed boss of one of the New York families, he goes through Martini's character, an unassuming optometrist who happens to be Sacramoni's brother-in-law.

Martini plays Infante as a skittish, nervous bystander who is uncomfortable at having to play the go-between for the powerful criminals. But he has some underlying complexity that may surface later this season. "I think in the back of Anthony's mind somewhere, like a lot of people, he may be a little bit excited about getting involved," Martini said. "It could be a dream of his to maybe be a gangster one day." On the other hand: "He's pretty happy selling Armani sunglasses."

Martini recently appeared as Lou the Doorman in the reality show "Gastineau Girls" and has been in Broadway plays such as "Tony n' Tina's Wedding." He also had a Sundance Film Festival hit with "Lbs.," a story about eating disorders. It hits theaters in May. And he's shopping around a sitcom based on his relationship with his mother, who died last year.

He got cut out of the March 19 episode of "The Sopranos" because of a change in the story line. That was "disappointing," he said. But he does have "a little thing" in the fifth episode on April 9. "And then my really nice episode, if it sticks the way it is -- because you never know in this business -- is episode 10," he said.

Even with as much fun as he's having in the acting world, he'd love to get back into sports broadcasting. "If you were to snap your fingers and say, 'You can be doing the sports report at 6 and 11 on ABC here in New York,' I'd take the job in a second."

Thanks to Bill Hutchens

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"Godfather" Actor Killed

A debonair 68-year-old actor - whose half-century career included a memorable role in all three "Godfather" movies - was last night dragged to his death in a horrific tour-bus accident on the Upper West Side, police sources said.

Richard Bright, whose piercing blue eyes and dark hair saw him often cast as a cop or criminal, crumpled to the ground as he was hit by the rear wheel of an Academy bus at about 6:30 p.m. as it turned left on Columbus Avenue at 86th Street, according to witnesses. The driver was unaware of the accident until he reached the Port Authority terminal and was questioned by police. There was no indication of a crime and no charges were filed, police sources said.

Bright, whose winter coat and dentures were left behind on the street, was pronounced dead at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital. "His face was beat up. His leg was mangled," said Teri Robinson, who saw the accident from the back of a taxi. "It was very startling."

Movie fans would best know Bright from his performance as Al Neri, the bodyguard to Al Pacino's Michael Corleone character in "The Godfather" trilogy. He played a key part in one of the most haunting scenes in "The Godfather II," when he shot Corleone's older brother Fredo (John Cazale) during a fishing trip.

The veteran actor also had guest roles in cop shows, such as "Law & Order," "Third Watch" and "The Sopranos."

"He had beautiful blue eyes and a beautiful smile," said neighbor Graham Gilbert. Gilbert and other shocked residents of Bright's brownstone on 85th Street called the veteran actor was a kind man, who would help with the upkeep of the building. "He was always looking out for the neighbors," Gilbert said.

Garrett Ewald, who learned of the accident as he was sitting down to watch Bright's 1976 movie, "Marathon Man," said the elderly actor often used a cane to walk. He said Bright, in recent years, had found he had a lot of time on his hands after his wife and teenage son moved to California, allowing him to help young actors with coaching. "You would see him on the stoop talking to [a young actor], coaching him on how to handle an audition," Ewald said.

A manager at the 3 Star Coffee Shop, near the site of the fatal accident, said Bright ate at the diner every night, and was probably on his way to the eatery when he was struck.

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