The Godfather' Celebrates 50th Anniversary With Ties To LI

As published on
By Jerry Barmash
March 3, 2022

ROCKVILLE CENTRE, NY — The lines are part of movie history. "Leave the gun, take the cannoli," "Don't ever take sides with anyone against the Family again. Ever," and "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."

Fifty years later, "The Godfather" is still seared in people's minds and made a return to theaters in celebration of its milestone anniversary. It was released on March 24, 1972.

The classic mob movie starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino has strong ties to Long Island, starting with Don Corleone's home and famed opening wedding scene. It's supposed to be a mansion in Long Beach, although it was actually filmed on Staten Island.

"When the film was released in 1972, I remember my parents going to see it," Phil Harwood, who grew up in West Hempstead and is a film historian, who works at Elmont Memorial Library, told Patch.

Harwood, who was eight years old at the time, was in summer camp and missed the movie until it came to television.

He's watched it multiple times over the years and puts it as one of the all-time best crime dramas.

Another memorable scene from "The Godfather" is when Sonny (James Caan) is gunned down in a barrage of bullets at a toll booth approaching Jones Beach. Reports indicate that was actually at Mitchel Field, a decommissioned Air Force Base near Uniondale.

The movie is part of Brian Cogan's syllabus as professor of communication studies at Molloy University.

"I usually use the opening scene to say, 'This is a slow camera movement. Who's the protagonist? Who's the antagonist?'" Cogan said.

The "horse's head" scene is supposed to be in Los Angeles, but Cogan said that is actually 127 Middle Neck Road, at Sands Point Preserve.

Cogan's students also get an education from the classic movie juxtaposition pitting a baptism against rapid gunfire.

"It's a brilliantly shot scene, where you don't realize time is sped up for some characters and slowed down for others," Cogan said.

The film made Francis Ford Coppola a superstar director. He went to Great Neck High School, after his family was uprooted from Queens, and graduated from Hofstra University.

"The Godfather" was nominated for 11 Oscars, winning only three, but all major, awards-- Best Picture, Best Actor (Brando) and Best Screenplay (from another medium).

Coppola would have to wait two more years for his Academy Award, as "The Godfather Part 2" was on an equal footing with its predecessor for its quality. The sequel would win six trophies.

"It shows both the brilliance of Coppola in imaging this world and also getting an all-star team of actors to get together," Cogan said.

Harwood concurred, "It stands up completely because of the drama, the acting. I see that film over and over."