Amusing fusion of memoir and cultural critique, focusing on the family saga none of us could refuse.
Broadway theater manager Santopietro (Sinatra in Hollywood, 2008, etc.) asserts that with the 1972 release of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, “notions of ethnicity in America had been upended in rather spectacular fashion” especially for young Italian-Americans who felt conflicted about many aspects of their heritage, including a stifling emphasis on family ties, love for America paired with distrust of authority and, of course, a convenient stereotype of pervasive criminal involvement. The author claims that it was his early viewings of the film and its sequels that revealed to him “just what had transpired in my grandfather’s leap to L’America,” allowing him to transition into a family history in which his grandparents settled in Waterbury, Conn., around 1917, where the effects of anti-immigrant prejudice were evident despite the Italian community’s established local roots. Since his most of his mother’s family were locally prominent WASPs, this resulted in an embarrassed confusion regarding his upbringing and inner identity. His narrative shifts between this personal history and an examination of the production and impact of the three Godfather films. He discusses many intriguing aspects of the original production, including studio resistance to Coppola and the actors Al Pacino and Marlon Brando (their indelible performances notwithstanding), and the long-rumored presence of actual mobsters on the set. He also explores other relevant cultural tangents, such as the many shoddy pastiches of mob culture (and some good ones, like The Sopranos) and the transformative impact of unapologetic paisano Frank Sinatra. The writing is slick, and most engaging when Santopietro looks back nostalgically at his personal history, but many of the observations drawn about the Godfather trilogy’s effect on American society since then seem familiar.
An entertaining but slight merger of social and personal history, via the lens of popular culture.