“The slap heard around the world” may be all anyone is currently talking about in regards to the 2022 Oscars, but the awards show boasted several other notable moments, not the least of which was director Francis Ford Coppola and actors Robert De Niro and Al Pacino’s “sincere and brief” tribute to their legendary 1972 film “The Godfather,” which, incredibly, just turned 50 last week! A cinematic masterpiece through and through, the movie is still just as celebrated today as it was upon its original March 24, 1972 release.
Based upon author Mario Puzo’s 1969 tome of the same name, the iconic organized crime drama tells the story of the Corleone family, primarily Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), a Sicilian mafia boss living in 1940s New York, and his youngest son, Michael (Pacino), who winds up taking over the family business. Lush with rich backdrops, featuring a slew of A-listers and rife with lines that have since become staples of the cultural lexicon, “The Godfather” proved an instant classic. Spawning two sequels, 1974’s “The Godfather: Part II” and 1990’s “The Godfather: Part III,” the trilogy went on to rake up an incredible 28 Academy Award nominations and nine wins!
Fascination with the film remains high today, especially when it comes to one segment in particular. Mention the movie to anyone and the conversation will invariably shift to the infamous horse’s head scene. For those not in the know, early in the story, heartthrob singer Johnny Fontane (Al Martino) asks Vito, his godfather, to help him land the leading role in an upcoming film. Consigliere Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) is subsequently dispatched to Los Angeles to personally meet with Woltz International Pictures head Jack Woltz (John Marley) and secure the part, but Woltz is less than amenable, flat out refusing Corleone’s offer of a quid-pro-quo. So Don does what any respectable mob boss would do. Going straight to the mattresses, he has Woltz’s beloved $600,000 thoroughbred, Khartoum, decapitated and his bloody severed head placed in the studio mogul’s bed as he sleeps. Though brief, the scene very powerfully and quickly sets up the utter ruthlessness of the film’s titular character.
Interestingly, while Woltz is purported to live in Los Angeles, segments involving his opulent home were shot on both the East and West Coasts, with exteriors lensed at the famous Hearst Estate in Beverly Hills and interiors captured at a French Normandy-style manse on Long Island. Though the former is a private residence, the latter, a rambling cliffside castle known as Falaise, is open to the public! One of the last extant Gold Coast-era mansions, the property, located at 127 Middle Neck Rd., is currently part of Sands Point Preserve, a 216-acre park owned and operated by Nassau County.