Before helming The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for Patton, which featured one of the iconic opening scenes in 20th century cinema. As Coppola was writing The Godfather‘s screenplay, a friend suggested he try for an equally striking opening. Coppola said the part of the book he found most significant was that people call on the don on his daughter’s wedding day because on that day, the don cannot refuse a favor. The undertaker’s story introduced that concept, and also the idea that the laws of the country don’t always protect the citizens, so they call upon the don like clients in the oldest sense, asking for help. Using a “high technology” computerized zoom lens, Coppola started with a tight shot of the undertaker’s face, and then pulled back slowly for 2 min. 20 sec., before holding the shot for another 30 sec. while the undertaker whispers in the don’s ear.
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