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Warning: We’ll be discussing some spoilers from a 41-year-old movie. If you’d prefer to not be spoiled, then go watch the Godfather and then come back and read this article.
One of the most tragic scenes in The Godfather (and there is no shortage of tragedy in the film) is the death of Michael Corleone’s first wife Apollonia Vitelli. Michael has fled from the United States to Sicily after murdering rival mob leader Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo, who had twice attempted to murder Michael’s father Vito Corleone, and corrupt police Captain McCluskey. Michael seems content to live out his days in Sicily being protected by his Sicilian bodyguard (and interpreter) Fabrizio and wooing the beautiful Apollonia Vitelli, daughter of a local tavern owner. After a brief courtship, Michael and Apollonia were married.
However, Michael didn’t know that his bodyguard Fabrizio had been turned by one of the enemies of the Corleones and planted a car bomb in Michael’s car. Unbeknown to either Fabrizio or Michael, though, was that Apollonia had taught herself to drive (a rarity for Sicilian women at the time), and she gets into the car to demonstrate her newfound skill to her husband. The car explodes and she’s killed. Through the efforts of his father back in New York, Michael is permitted to return safely to the United States, where he takes over the Corleone crime family and settles “all family business” – by wiping out their enemies. Oddly enough, though, while he manages to kill the people who surely contacted Fabrizio, he doesn’t actually kill Fabrizio. That seems not too strange, considering the last time we saw Fabrizio he was in Sicily and Michael is in New York. However, director Francis Ford Coppola actually filmed scenes for The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II in which Michael gets his revenge — and yet neither one made it in to their respective movies! Read on for more details!
One of the fascinating things about how Coppola filmed both of the first two Godfather films is the way that he shot way more footage than he actually used. And we’re not even just talking scenes that were written but never filmed. Just based on work prints of each of the first two films, there was 45 minutes of additional footage filmed for the first Godfather film plus an astonishing and two hours and 25 minutes of extra footage for the second Godfather. Therefore, as you might imagine, there were plenty of interesting scenes left on the cutting room floor.
One of these scenes originally appeared in Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather: Michael discovers that Fabrizio has moved to the United States and opened a pizzeria in Buffalo, New York, under the name Fred Vincent. He sends an assassin with a shotgun to shoot his former bodyguard (Fabrizio notably carries a shotgun while “guarding” Michael in Sicily). In a scene shot for The Godfather, it’s Michael himself who carries out this revenge. In the continuity of the film, it takes place after the baptism scene and after the murder of Michael’s brother-in-law Carlo, but before Michael’s sister Connie accuses him of murdering her husband. The addition of the scene of Michael himself carrying out this murder adds an extra sort of ghastliness to his famous denial to his second wife of his involvement in Carlo’s death (right before the door to Michael’s office closed on her as she realizes he’s lying).
A still from this scene was used to promote the film, which makes sense, as the sight of Pacino touting a shotgun looked really cool. While no one knows for absolute certainty why the scene was cut, one theory that makes a lot of sense is that it was just so bloody and gruesome that it was nearly over the top and took the viewer out of the film. There were behind-the-scenes shots of actor Angelo Infantini (Fabrizio) so drenched in blood that it almost looks silly.
Undeterred, Coppola then filmed a scene in The Godfather, Part II in which Michael once again tracks down Fabrizio to Buffalo. This time, it’s a car bomb that does Fabrizio in (poetic justice). This, too, was cut, possibly because it was somewhat confusing, as it doesn’t tie in with the events of the sequel.
However, Coppola was able to sort of save the scene: When he edited the two films together to air on NBC in 1977 as The Godfather: A Novel for Television (now colloquially known as “The Godfather Saga”), he had to add scenes to make up for the removal of some of the more violent sequences. Obviously, he couldn’t add the original murder of Fabrizio, but the car bombing was fair game, so the second death of Fabrizio did make it into this version of the Godfather story.
So Michael finally got a chance to settle ALL family business … just five years late!
The legend is …
Thanks to the Godfather Museum for a lot of the information in this piece.
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