Winter Premier Auction 2021

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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 4/3/2021

Today with the proliferation of mafia books, movies and TV shows it is hard to image what a shocking and revelatory Mario Puzo’s novel “The Godfather” was when it was released in 1969. Essentially the first successful fictional depiction of mafia life, “The Godfather” spent 67 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list and sold over 9 million copies in two years.  The public was fascinated with Puzo’s family of mobsters, from the widely different Corleone sons, Michael, Sonny and Fredo to the yin and yang of the female characters of sister Connie and Michael’s wife Kay. The cast of underworld associates such as consigliere Tom Hagan and rival family bosses Barzini, Sollozzo and Tattaglia created a layered universe that readers immersed themselves in. But the most powerful character in the novel was that of Vito Corleone, the family’s patriarch and boss of the biggest crime syndicate in New York.

The runaway success of the book meant that a major motion picture was soon to follow. Indeed, Paramount Pictures had bought the rights to the book before it was published, solely based on a 60-page treatment. So when the Godfather novel made the bestseller list, Paramount quickly announced their intention to make the film. Many stories have been told of authors who become disillusioned with the screen version of their novels, with the characters miscast and far from what they intended. That is what makes the adaptation of The Godfather rather unique in Hollywood. Right from the start, Mario Puzo knew whom the actor would be to portray Vito Corleone, and he wasn’t shy about taking the reigns in an attempt to secure that actor’s interest. Hence this extraordinary personal letter from Mario Puzo to the person he believed was the only actor who could make Don Corleone come alive on the big screen: Marlon Brando.

On January 23, 1970, Puzo took a sheet of his personal stationary and a red ballpoint and penned a letter to the Hollywood icon: “Dear Mr Brando, I wrote a book called THE GODFATHER which has had some success and I think you're the only actor who can play the part...Godfather with that quiet force and irony the part requires. I'd love you to read the book and like it well enough to use whatever power you can to get the role. I'm writing Paramount to the same effect for whatever good that will do. I know this was presumptuous of me but the best I can do by the book is try. I really think you'd be tremendous. Needless to say I've been an admirer of your art...Mario Puzo,”

While today Don Corleone is one of the roles Brando is known for, Puzo’s note was met with rejection from the actor. As Brando later related, “I read the note but wasn't interested. Alice Marchak remembers my throwing it away and saying "I'm not a Mafia godfather". I had never played an Italian before and I didn't think I could do it successfully. By then, I had learned that one of the biggest mistakes an actor can make is to try to play a role for which he is miscast. But Alice took the book home, read it and said she thought I should take the part if it was offered me. She didn't change my mind, though I did call Mario without having read the book and thanked him for his note.

As the screenplay was being written and the pre-production begun, Puzo repeatedly wrote to Brando to change his mind. Finally, once the screenplay was complete, Brando read both it and the novel and consented to do the role. The concept of changing the stereotypical way a mobster is portrayed in movies appealed to him and Don Corleone became a blank canvas upon which he could create a great character. Brando later said of the character he created, “I had a great deal of respect for Don Corleone; I saw him as a man of substance, tradition, dignity, refinement, a man of unerring instinct who just happened to live in a violent world and who had to protect himself and his family in this environment.”

The film, released in 1972, became for a time the largest grossing movie of all-time and met universal praise from the critics and audiences. The Godfather produced iconic portrayals of timeless characters that garnered countless awards and nominations including Oscars for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and of course, Best Actor for Marlon Brando. His brilliant portrayal of Don Corleone broke all stereotypes of the mafia crime boss and has gone down as one of the most memorable acting performances in film history. And this single-page hand-written letter from Mario Puzo to Marlon Brando was the beginning.

Written in red ballpoint on Mario Puzo’s personal stationary. There is toning from age and edge wear from storage as well as horizontal folds from mailing. A true piece of film history that documents the beginning step taken to create one of films most iconic characters.

Originally sold as part of the Marlon Brando Collection at Christies in 2005 for $132,000.

Accompanied by full Letters of Authenticity from PSA/DNA and Beckett Authentication Services.

Estimate: $100,000+

This lot has a Reserve Price that has not been met.
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Minimum Bid: $20,000
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Number Bids: 16
Auction closed on Saturday, April 3, 2021.
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