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A One-of-a-Kind First Edition of Mario Puzo's The Godfather, signed by him, Francis Ford Coppola, Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Robert Evans, and Robert Towne
Puzo, Mario. The Godfather. NY: G. P. Putnam, 1969.
4to.; red endpapers; quarter bound white boards with black cloth spine; decoratively stamped in gilt on cover; title stamped in gilt on spine; in original pictorial dust jacket; chipped and edge worn, spine lightly tanned, otherwise bright.
First edition. Signed by author Mario Puzo on the title page, and additionally by five people indelibly involved in the film versions of the book: director Francis Ford Coppola (first free endpaper); producer Robert Evans and screenwriter Robert Towne (verso of half title page); with inscriptions by actors Al Pacino on the half title (“Larry / Please try to understand / Al Pacino”) and Diane Keaton (“THEY ALL LIED! / Kay / (Diane Keaton)”) on the rear free endpaper.
An extraordinary association copy of the book that was the basis of two enduring American film classics, the first of which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel about the Corleone crime family was an instant commercial hit, selling over nine million copies in two years and remaining on The New York Times Best Seller list for 67 weeks. Upon its publication, the Times’ critic Roger Jellinek wrote that The Godfather was “…a voyeur’s dream, a skillful fantasy of violent personal power without consequences. … You never glimpse regular people in the book, let alone meet them, so there is no opportunity to sympathize with anyone but the old patriarch, as he makes the world safe for his beloved ‘family.’”
The story of how it was converted into two award-winning films is not only equally compelling, but legendary, and is currently the subject of an original TV miniseries, The Offer. Puzo co-wrote both screenplays, each of which retained the title of the book, but for the first movie, the plot was condensed to focus on the transformation of Vito Corleone’s youngest son, Michael, from returned war hero to Mafia don. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and starring Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, James Caan, and Diane Keaton, it was released in 1972 to rave reviews, was the highest-grossing film that year, and won three Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor (Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Puzo and Coppola); Pacino, Caan, and Duvall were each nominated for Best Supporting Actor (quite likely canceling each other out), and Coppola for Best Director. The Godfather Part II, released in 1974, included the rest of the book’s original narrative, and became the first sequel to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, in addition to five other Oscars, including Best Director (Coppola), Best Supporting Actor (Robert De Niro), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Coppola and Puzo). To date, both films together have totaled nearly $400 million in sales worldwide, and in 1990 and 1993 they were selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the U. S. National Film Registry, being deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
This particular first edition copy of The Godfather has been uniquely connected to the film versions by the author Lawrence Grobel, who personally obtained all the inscriptions present, the first of which was Al Pacino’s. Grobel already knew Pacino, and had actually written a book about him, but when he asked him to sign the book, he only expected a simple autograph; instead, the actor filled the half title page, echoing a line from the third movie iteration the Godfather saga, “Dear Larry, Please try to understand! Al Pacino.” He then garnered the signatures of Robert Evans, the film’s producer; Robert Towne, who script-doctored the hospital scene between Michael and Vito in Part I; and Puzo, when the author came to Los Angeles on a book promotion tour. Grobel had met Diane Keaton in the 1970s when she was dating Pacino, and after the couple separated, their friendship continued to grow, to the point where they regularly saw each other on a social basis, and his daughters babysat for her. When he presented Keaton with the book, she looked at the signatures in the front, then flipped to the rear endpapers, writing, “They all lied!,” and signing both her name and that of her character Kay underneath.
The only major film personality remaining at that point was Francis Ford Coppola. Grobel had met Coppola several times previously, and had his email, so he asked if the director would also be willing to sign the book, and Coppola agreed. Fearing the book might be lost if he mailed it to Coppola in San Francisco, Grobel asked his daughter, who resided in Northern California, to bring the book by hand to Coppola’s Napa home, and though it took some time to coordinate, the last signature was finally added, and this singular piece of literary and cinematic history was complete.
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