In January, a big deal was made when HBO began braodcasting The Godfather Epic, a film that combined The Godfather and The Godfather Part II into a single film told in chronological order, from Vito’s early childhood to Fredo’s death. However, it was not the first time this had been done. Far from it.
In November, 1977, NBC aired a miniseries over four nights titled The Godfather: The Complete Novel for Television [more commonly referred to as The Godfather Saga]. This was a big deal, not only because it rearranged the order, but more so because most people had no opportunity to watch movies at their discretion. The VCR was still a brand new concept in America. For the most part, if you didn’t see a film in the theater, you probably never saw it again.
Four years later, a shorter version was ultimately released on home video, titled The Godfather 1902-1959: The Complete Epic, and finally, in 1992, another iteration that included Part III was released on video titled The Godfather Trilogy: 1901-1980. There were other cuts – a showing titled The Godfather Novella played on television in 1982 and another version that USA Network created and aired 1997.
The original Godfather Saga was only broadcast on television one other time, in March of 2012 when AMC showed it to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the theatrical release of The Godfather.
While these versions eliminated one of the greatest aspects of Part II – the artistic, operatic portrayal of the family’s fate, juxtaposed between Vito’s rise to power and Michael’s corruption by it – they did provide additional footage that had never before been seen, resulting in nearly 75 extra minutes of new scenes, some of these have been included in the various DVD releases, but certainly not all of them.
When it first aired in 1977, The Godfather Saga was introduced on television by Talia Shire, who played Connie Corleone and is also Francis Ford Coppola’s sister:
Since The Saga was broadcast on four separate evenings, each part had its own opening credits scene that mixed important points of the film with new scenes that show the aftermath of the events of the end of Part II, from the dilapidation of the Lake Tahoe estate to Michael having only Connie by his side.
Nearly forty deleted scenes can be found on this YouTube playlist, but I’ll just include a few more of my favorites.
Genco Abbandando is a major character in the novel, but is only referenced in The Godfather. One of the best deleted scenes – and one that adds both depth and texture to the film and the characters – is when Don Vito and his sons visit his old friend, his first consigliere, as he lay dying in the hospital:
Sonny in Charge
Two other important scenes focus on when Sonny gets the news that Vito has been shot (and presumably killed). While the expectation is that Sonny, who could never control his temper, would fly into a rage, he actually remains relatively calm, not because he wants to be like his father, but because he’s so frightened that he’s nearly paralyzed:
He then delivers the news to his mother before demanding that Tessio get “fifty good men” over to the house:
In the book, Michael tracks down Fabrizio, the bodyguard that tried to kill him (but only succeeded in killing Apollonia). Coppola filmed a scene in which Michael, toting a lupara just like Fabrizio, confronts him and blows him away, but it was so bloody that it was cut.
But Coppola returned to it in Part II, showing Michael getting the news that Fabrizio had been tracked down:
As if Michael killing Fabrizio with a lupara was not symbolic enough, blowing him up with a car bomb is wicked:
Candles for His Soul
The ending of The Godfather is iconic, when Kay realizes that Michael has lied to her just as Al Neri closes the door on her (and us). But there was one last scene that served as an addendum. Kay, after having converted to Catholicism, goes to church every day, lights candles, and prays for her husband’s soul, just as Michael’s mother does for Vito in the novel:
There are more. Wikipedia has a complete list of the additional scenes not shown in theaters that were added to the Saga, Epic, and Trilogy. Some helped the story, others did not (although none would have ruined it like Marlon Brando playing young Vito in Part II), but, regardless of their importance, it’d be nice if The Godfather Saga, with all of these scenes, were available to the public.
Christopher Pierznik’s nine books are available in paperback and Kindle. Check out more of his writing at Medium. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Medium, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.