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Item 882 - Francis Ford Coppola Catalog 570 (Nov 2019)

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(we are no longer accepting bids on this item)
Estimate: $8,000.00 +
Sold Price: $11,228.75 (includes buyer's premium)


Remarkable TLS signed "Francis," one page, 8.5 x 11, no date, but postmarked May 1, 1973. An important letter to Marlon Brando. In full: "I heard you were back from the South Pacific; but I didn't want to call you because I always feel stupid bringing up the matter of the Godfather. I know you return my calls on a personal and friendly basis, and so I can't bring myself to misuse that and bring up what is bothering me.

My problem is simply that I am stalling and stalling because I have the inkling that it may be possible that you will play the young Vito Corleone. I've seen in the past, that even a slight possibility may blossom into a fact, and so I've tried to kindle this as best I could. I've become a real behind-the-scenes monster playing Yablans and Evans and Bludhorn; trying to get them to do what I want. I tell Yablans that he's the only one who can do it. Then I tell Evans the same thing. I tell them the movie cannot be made without you; I tell Yablans he has to apologize to you. Now Yablans says that he's trying to do this, and get together on the money and stuff, but you don't return his call. Evans wants to approach you; but Yablans is terrified that Evans might make it work, where he failed…so he keeps preventing that.

But what it really comes down to is me. Marlon I respect you enormously; and if you told me that you did not want to do it under any circumstances, whatsoever…of course I would accept that, and never mention it again. And if you like, I wouldn't tell anyone else. I learned a lot from you…one thing being that it's only a movie, and what's that compared to everything else there is in the world. At times, I try really hard to imagine what you're like in your thoughts. I realized that you've been in the strange state of adoration and exhibition for 25 years now, intensely…and I think that would have driven me crazy. And the fact that you're really a good man, and warm, and love people is a tremendous achievement considering that you've been in a glass box for half your life. I always to tell you that,…although it has nothing to do with this letter. All I'm saying is that if you will be in this movie; I will do my very best to make it be good; and human, and express the notion that the Mafia is only a metaphor for America and capitalism, which will do anything to protect and perpetuate itself. (I will do this anyway, if you're not in the film…but if you were in it, it would be better, and you would help me with your ideas as I work on the script.)

If you will not be in it, I will love you no less. All I ask is to please tell me without the shadow of a doubt. I am very happy; having a terrific time up here. After this film I am quitting the movie business, and will do other things that I am excited about (that may involve film)." He then adds his phone number in the lower left corner. In fine condition, with intersecting folds. Accompanied by the original mailing envelope, addressed to Brando at 12900 Mulholland Drive.

Brando may have taken Vito Corleone to the grave in 1972's epic The Godfather, but director Francis Ford Coppola had a plan to bring him back from the dead—by portraying a young Vito Corleone in the film's sequel. "I've seen in the past, that even a slight possibility may blossom into a fact, and so I've tried to kindle this as best I could," Coppola here tells the mega-star, trying to entice him to sign up. Godfather II, released in 1974, served as both a sequel and a prequel to the original, chronicling the story of the Corleone family following the events of the first film while also depicting the rise to power of the young Vito Corleone.

In this one-of-a-kind piece of correspondence, Coppola does everything he can—short of making Brando an 'offer he can't refuse'—to convince the Oscar winner of reprising the role. Not wanting to damage their friendship, he also adds, "Marlon I respect you enormously; and if you told me that you did not want to do it under any circumstances, whatsoever…of course I would accept that, and never mention it again." In the end, that was the course Brando took, with the role eventually undertaken by Robert De Niro.

The original owner of this item was a family friend of Brando and came across the letter while assisting the actor in 1976. Amazed by the content and the fact that no one was aware of the director's request, he asked Brando if he considered taking the part, to which Brando just shook his head and brushed it off as if he had no interest. Nearing the age of 50 at the time, he was starting to put on weight and did not feel up to playing a young Vito Coreleone. Unbelievably scarce Godfather and Brando content, with great references to the games of upmanship at Paramount Pictures between high studio executives, including Paramount President Frank Yablans, executive Bob Evans, and Gulf and Western Company founder Charles Bluhdorn. One of the most remarkable Hollywood-themed letters ever made available!


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