Before his work on The Godfather, cinematographer Gordon Willis had shot only one major film: 1971’s Klute. Later, he worked on The Godfather II, All the President’s Men, Annie Hall, Manhattan and several other Woody Allen films. One of his fellow cinematographers nicknamed him the “Prince of Darkness” for his work on The Godfather. His interior scenes were lit in such a manner as to partially obscure facial features and provide a general aura of wrongdoing. In the earliest scenes in his study, Vito Corleone’s eyes can barely be seen in some shots. Willis later said his lighting scheme for the film came out of a “necessity to deal with Marlon Brando in his makeup” (which was heavy) and as a means of providing contrast between two worlds — witness how the opening sequence jumps from the don’s dark inner lair to the sunlight-drenched wedding taking place outside. Amazingly, Willis did not receive his first Oscar nomination until 1983 (Zelig). His only honor for his work on the Godfather films was an Oscar nod for 1990’s inferior third, and final, entry in the series.
The Anniversary You Can’t Refuse: 40 Things You Didn’t Know About The Godfather
On March 15, 1972, The Godfather hit movie screens. In the four decades since, it has become acknowledged as one of the greatest movies of all time. TIME has compiled the most interesting stories, anecdotes and tidbits from the film's production
The Prince of Darkness
The Corleones at 40
- The Cat
- George Lucas Shot Some Footage
- That Opening Shot
- The Alternate Ending
- It Was Initially Set in the 1970s
- The Horse Head
- Coppola Wasn’t the First Choice
- There Was Originally a Different First Scene
- Very Few People Wanted Al Pacino for Michael
- Burt Lancaster as the Don?
- Brando Was Almost a No-Go
- Until His Incredible Screen Test
- Who Is This Coppola Guy?
- A Palace Coup
- The Prince of Darkness
- There Are Very Few Unorthodox Camera Shots
- Kay and the Wig
- Brando and the Cue Cards
- Pacino Hurt Himself Early in the Shoot
- Everyone Wanted to Know What Brando Looked like as the Don
- Luca Brasi Fumbles His Lines
- Lots of Bare Butt Cheeks
- What’s with All the Oranges?
- Marlon Brando Was a Real Prankster
- Luca Brasi Was a Pro at Dying
- Offensive to Italians?
- What’s the Mob?
- The Succession Scene Needed a Major Rewrite
- Death by a Thousand Bullets
- A Too-Realistic Fight
- Sofia Coppola Played a Boy
- The Baptism Montage
- Deleted Scene No. 1: Michael Shoots His Wife’s Killer
- Going to See Genco in the Hospital
- The Problem with Sinatra
- Vic Damone Was Almost Johnny Fontane
- The Film Was a Family Affair
- The Score Was Honored (and Then Rejected) by the Oscars
- Each of the Main Male Actors Got Oscar Noms
- Ushering in the Age of the Modern Blockbuster