BOSTON: Make them an offer they can’t refuse and a massive collection of papers by author Mario Puzo can be yours. The 45-box archive, which includes multiple drafts with handwritten revisions to both the novel and the screenplay of Puzo’s “The Godfather,” is being sold by Boston-based RR Auction on Feb. 18.
The collection covers the author’s entire career, including manuscripts of his early books and late-career screenplays, and even his old typewriter. That said, there’s no doubt that the cache’s thousands of pages of “Godfather” documents are the highlight.
They shed light on the creative process, including the back and forth between Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola as they collaborated on the screenplay. “This,” said Tricia Eaton, RR’s director of specialty catalogues, “is one of the neatest things I have ever seen in my job.”
The scripts include some of Puzo’s own scribbles and thoughts on what the American Film Institute called the second-most famous movie quote of all-time – Marlon Brando’s Don Vito Corleone saying, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Apparently the most famous movie quote is, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” from “Gone with the Wind.”
One manuscript reads “He’s a businessman. I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.” Puzo changes the line, scratching out the phrase “He’s a businessman” and scrawling in, “I’ll reason with him.” In another, Puzo intensifies the famous line’s ominous finality by crossing out a line of dialogue immediately following it.
“It seems that Puzo and Coppola together simplified a lot of the book’s dialogue for the screen,” Eaton said. “The way it came out in the movie makes it a little more like everyday gangster slang.”
Another fascinating piece of the collection is a letter from Puzo to Brando dated March 1970. Puzo envisioned Brando playing Corleone in the 1972 movie, but it almost never happened. Apparently thinking that Brando was out of the project, Puzo wrote the letter expressing his disappointment.
“I’m sorry I wasted your time,” Puzo wrote. “I still think it was a good idea. And thanks for taking the trouble to call and talk to me.”
RR executive vice president Robert Livingstone said the collection is expected to sell for at least $400,000 at auction.
The archive is being offered by Puzo’s five children. Anthony Puzo, who was in his late teens when his father was writing “The Godfather,” says the collection is full of memories, but he and his siblings are selling so it can be cared for properly.
“Dad loved to live the high life,” Anthony Puzo said, “even when he couldn’t afford it, and he was often in debt. He always used to say he’d be all right once he wrote his best-seller.”