It could be said of so many movie moments, but describing the horse-head scene as one of the most iconic in American film history is no exaggeration. It was already famous from the book — only in Mario Puzo’s novel, the horse’s head was on the bedpost when Jack Woltz wakes up. Audiences rose up in anger over the death of the horse, and many asked if it were a real animal head.
Yes, it was. The studio had encouraged Francis Ford Coppola to use a fake horse head, but he didn’t like the mock-up. His scouts found a horse ready for slaughter at a dog-food plant in New Jersey. The art director picked one that looked like the horse in the film and said, “When that one is slaughtered, send us the head.” Coppola later remembered, “One day, a crate with dry ice came with this horse’s head in it.”