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Archive for October 15, 2011

Mario Puzo

Mario Gianluigi Puzo (October 15, 1920 – July 2, 1999) was an American author and screenwriter, known for his novels about the Mafia, primarily ‘The Godfather’ (1969), which he later co-adapted into a film by Francis Ford Coppola. He won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in both 1972, and 1974.

Puzo was born in a poor family from Pietradefusi, Avellino province, Italy living in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York. Many of his books draw heavily on this heritage. After graduating from the City College of New York, he joined the United States Army Air Force in World War II. Due to his poor eyesight, the military did not let him undertake combat duties but made him a public relations officer stationed in Germany. In 1950, his first short story, The Last Christmas, was published in American Vanguard. After the war, he wrote his first book, ‘The dark Arena’, which was published in 1955.

Puzo’s most famous work, ‘The Godfather’, was first published in 1969 after he had heard anecdotes about Mafia organizations during his time in pulp journalism. He later said in an interview with Larry King that his principal motivation was to make money. He had already, after all, written two books that had received great reviews, yet had not amounted to much. As a government clerk with five children, he was looking to write something that would appeal to the masses. With a number one bestseller for months on the New York Times Best Seller List, Mario Puzo had found his target audience. The book which was later developed into the film ‘The Godfather’ (1972), received 11 Academy Award nominations, winning three, including an Oscar for Puzo for Best Adapted Screenplay. Coppola and Puzo collaborated then to work on sequels to the original film, ‘The Godfather Part II’ (1974) and ‘The Godfather Part III’ (1990).

Puzo wrote the first draft of the script for the 1974 disaster film ‘Earthquake’ (1974), which he was unable to continue working on due to his commitment to ‘The Godfather Part II’. Puzo also co-wrote Richard Donner’s ‘Superman’ (1978) and the original draft for ‘Superman II’ (1980). He also collaborated on the stories for the 1982 film A Time to Die and the 1984 Francis Ford Coppola film ‘The Cotton Club’ (1984).

Puzo never saw the publication of his penultimate book, ‘Omerta’, but the manuscript was finished before his death, as was the manuscript for ‘The Family’. Puzo died of heart failure on Friday, July 2, 1999 at his home in Bay Shore, Long Island, New York.