Franchises of All Time
The Godfather Trilogy
The Godfather, Part II (1974)
The Godfather (1972) | The Godfather, Part II (1974) | The Godfather, Part III (1990)
The Godfather, Part II (1974)
Film Plot Summary
The film was masterfully intercut back and forth between two parallel stories: the prologue story (about one-quarter of the entire film) to the sequel, contrasting the two eras and their protagonists. The prologue portion followed the background story of the rise of youthful Don Vito Corleone (Robert DeNiro replacing Marlon Brando) to godfather Mafia chief in the early 1900s in the Little Italy section of New York City. About fifteen minutes of the prologue portion was in Sicilian with English sub-titles. The major portion of the sequel began in 1958 - about three years after the conclusion of the first film and followed the career of Corleone's son, the new family don Michael (Al Pacino again) from his patriarchal prime to his decline a year later. The saga led to the inexorable passage of 'sins' from the immigrant father to his modern-day son.
After this brief prologue, the film then moved to the 1958 First Communion ceremony of Michael Corleone's (Al Pacino) seven year old Anthony Corleone (James Gounaris) at his Lake Tahoe compound and his conducting of business dealings with Nevada's sinister and corrupt US Senator Pat Geary (G. D. Spradlin) and the Corleone expansion plan in the state after moving westward from the East Coast.
A second, darkly-lit meeting was conducted in Michael's boathouse office with Sicilian Johnny Ola (Dominic Chianese) and his men. Ola presented Michael "an orange from Miami" - the contact represented ailing Jewish crime czar Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg) from Florida who was the real financial, wily mastermind of the Nevada casino (the Tropicana), where Michael wished to amass his own influence. An advantageous alliance between Roth and Michael would assure the smooth takeover of a third casino for Michael in Las Vegas (and grease other efforts to expand casinos into pre-revolutionary Cuba).
A third conference concerned family problems with Michael's recently-divorced, thirty-one year old, irresponsible sister Connie "Constanzia' Corleone (Talia Shire) in attendance with blonde gigolo/escort Merle Johnson (Troy Donahue) - her future third husband. A fourth meeting in the boathouse finally allowed Frankie Pentangeli (Michael Gazzo), one of the old-time gangsters who used to work for Vito Corleone, to meet with Michael - they discussed Pentangeli's operation in his New York (Bronx) territories. Pentangeli complained that his competition there, the Rosato brothers, were encroaching on his territory without any help from Michael to contain them. Michael wouldn't "touch" the brothers or interfere in the affairs of the East Coast because the Rosatos answered to Hyman Roth in Miami - his new business associate.
There were repercussions after an assassination attempt later that night on Michael's life (in his own bedroom), as he suspected that someone on the inside betrayed him - "somebody close to us" in the Corleone family.
After meeting with Roth in Miami, Michael also paid a visit to Pentangeli's Long Beach Estate, where he confronted Pentangeli and decided how to ultimately catch "the traitor" in his family ("It was Hyman Roth that tried to have me killed. I know it was him"). To still demonstrate his loyalty to Roth (his guiding principle was: "Keep your friends close but your enemies closer") and keep him off-guard, Michael asked that Pentangeli arrange a meeting with the Rosato brothers to give up the properties that were once promised to them. An assassination attempt (planned by Michael) on Pentangeli failed when he went to meet the Rosato brothers. And when Senator Geary was found in a compromising situation with a murdered prostitute, consigliere Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) used the opportunity to force the Senator's cooperation.
During a meeting in Havana, Cuba between Michael and Roth, rebel forces were causing political unrest and threatening their business dealings - the impending guerrilla rebellion would most likely upset Roth's plans in Cuba. Michael doubted the rosy prospects of wealth and fortune at Roth's 67th birthday celebration. Corleone's $2 million investment in the business partnership was held up and "never got to the island." Inside Roth's Havana suite in the Capri, Roth ("Michael, we're bigger than U.S. Steel") was concerned that Michael was deliberately stalling with fears about Castro's revolution and the rebel situation.
Michael's brother Fredo (John Cazale) arrived at Michael's Capri suite from the Havana airport, carrying the millions in Corleone money for "an investment in Havana - this is a little gift for the President." He denied knowing anything about Havana, or his brother's associates Hyman Roth or Johnny Ola - both lies. Fredo's main "specialty" was escorting dignitaries and Michael's associates around for entertainment - including Senator Geary and other government officials from Washington - to "show 'em a good time in Havana" on the eve of the New Year 1958. To bait his suspected brother Fredo, Michael described his hunch about Hyman Roth trying to kill him, and Roth's plan to try and assassinate him again that evening - and his plan to seek revenge.
The repercussions of knowing there was a traitor in his midst led to Michael's bodyguard strangling Johnny Ola with a coat hanger, and there was a failed attempt on Roth's life in his hospital room. Michael confronted his betraying brother Fredo during a ballroom dance celebrating the coming of 1959, with a kiss: "I know it was you Fredo. You broke my heart." The revolution led by Fidel Castro's guerrilla army forced Michael to flee from Cuba back to the US. Michael wanted to reestablish contact with Fredo: " I know he's scared. Tell him everything is all right, tell him I know Roth misled him, that he didn't know they were gonna try to kill me." Roth had also escaped from Cuba and was recovering in Florida.
In the film's conclusion, Michael was investigated by a US Senate Committee (Senator Geary was a member), but found not guilty when witnesses could not be brought forth to testify against him ("I never knew no Godfather"). However, there was one witness who could possibly testify against him - Frankie Pentangeli. Fredo divulged that the Senate Committee's chief counsel was on Roth's payroll when he described his guilty complicity to his brother, causing Michael to order an execution-hit on Fredo at his Lake Tahoe compound - telling him: "You're nothing to me now. You're not a brother, You're not a friend, I don't want to know you or what you do...", although it would have to wait until their mother's death.
Frankie Pentangeli had planned on testifying in court, but he remained silent and upheld the Mafia code of honor when he saw Vincenzo Pentangeli (Salvatore Po), his middle-aged, non English-speaking brother accompanying Michael.
In Michael's Hotel Washington fourth floor room, his wife Kay (Diane Keaton) announced she was abandoning Michael, after she suffered a miscarriage (actually she willingly aborted his third child). And relations continued to be strained between them - she was shut out - Michael literally rejected Kay by coldly shutting the door in her face.
The Godfather's three major enemies were killed simultaneously in a rapid succession of scenes, cross-cut between each other, as the film ended: (1) the killing of Hyman Roth at a Miami airport, (2) the suicide of old-time gangster Frankie Pentangeli by wrist-slashing in his bathtub, and (3) the killing of Fredo while fishing and saying a "Hail Mary" in a boat.
There was also a flashback of better times for the Corleone family, during a birthday party for Vito Corleone (offscreen) around the old Corleone dining room table in their Long Island compound in late 1941. [A rapid, super-imposed dissolve showed father Vito waving little Michael's hand from the train window as they left the village of Corleone.]
The film's final devastating image was of a ruthless, prematurely-old Michael as he sat quietly and introspectively, staring blank-eyed at his chilly Lake Tahoe compound on a lawn chair as winter approached.
Film Notables (Awards, Facts, etc.)
Both a sequel-continuation and a prequel to the 1972 film, with two parallel storylines.
With eleven Academy Awards nominations, and the winner of 6 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Robert De Niro as the young Don Corleone), Best Adapted Screenplay (co-written by Mario Puzo and Coppola), Best Art Direction, and Best Score Oscars.
The Godfather: Part II (1974) won twice as many Oscars as the first film in the series.
It was the first sequel to win Best Picture - and considered an equal to the original.
With a production budget of $13 million. It did $48 million in box-office business (domestic).
It was the first movie sequel to be named "Part II" in the title, setting off a trend.
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