Friday, April 20, 2012

"He Never Asks a Second Favor When He's Been Refused the First": Godfather Analysis Part IV

Go to Part III: "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."

The next section opens with some stock footage establishing shots of Hollywood and then a few long range shots of Tom making his way around the studio back lot until he finds the soundstage where Jack Woltz is. We know from the last conversation in Don Corleone’s office that Tom was meant to go to California that night. These establishing shots remind us of that conversation and the problem that Johnny is having with getting a part in a new war film.


Tom finds Woltz and proposes the deal explaining that if he gives Johnny the part in the film, some future union problems will disappear. Woltz interrupts Tom, insisting he can’t be muscled. Tom looks as though he either expected this reaction or has seen it before. He simply tells Woltz he will wait for his call. Tom is a professional and likely a seasoned veteran at these kinds of negotiations. He knows Woltz will send someone to check him out and that when he learns who he works for, his tune will change.

Sure enough, it does. Next we see Tom and Woltz walking around the exterior of his mansion. Tom tells Woltz he doesn’t like to use Corleone’s name unless it’s “really necessary.” Woltz takes Tom to his horse stable to show off his prized possession: a $600,000 race horse named Khartoum. Woltz is obviously very proud of the animal (and what he paid for it, highlighting that Russian Czars probably never paid that much for a horse). Little does he know he’s just given Tom the ammunition he needs to get to him.
Next Tom and Woltz are eating dinner together inside. Woltz indicates he respects Tom’s and Don Corleone’s position, but that there’s no way he can grant this favor. He explains explicitly in a perfectly-delivered speech:

JACK WOLTZ:  Johnny Fontane never gets that movie. That part is perfect for him. It’ll make him a big star. And I’m gonna run him out of the business. And let me tell you why. Johnny Fontane ruined one of Woltz International’s most valuable protégées. For five years we had her under training – singing lessons, acting lessons, dancing lessons. I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on her. I was gonna make her a big star. And let me be even more frank just to show you that I’m not a hard-hearted man, that it’s not all dollars and cents. She was beautiful. She was young, she was innocent! She was the greatest piece of ass I’ve ever had and I’ve had ‘em all over the world! And then Johnny Fontane comes along with his olive oil voice and guinea charm. And she runs off. She threw it all away just to make me look ridiculous. And a man in my position can’t afford to be made to look ridiculous!

Tom takes this whole speech in stride, continuing to eat, continuing to demonstrate his professionalism and also probably the fact, as mentioned before, that he’s probably seen this happen many times. He thanks Woltz for the dinner and asks for a car to the airport because “Mr. Corleone is a man who insists on hearing bad news immediately.”

After Tom leaves there is a dissolve, indicating the passage of time, to a tranquil California morning outside the mansion. The theme music comes in softly giving an indication that something is about to happen. At this point we have heard about what Don Corleone is capable of. There is a cut to Woltz’s bedroom and we see him asleep under his covers. The camera slowly pushes in as the score becomes more ominous. Woltz begins to stir awake and we can see some blood on his covers. Woltz then begins to sit up and slide back the sheets revealing his hand and pajamas covered in blood. At this point neither Woltz nor the audience knows what has happened. We assume, as I’m sure Woltz does, that he’s been wounded in his sleep. He begins to panic, moving more quickly, throwing the covers back to reveal his legs soaked in blood and finally tosses the sheets away and we see the head of Khartoum at the foot of the mattress. This entire shot lasts 1 minute and 5 seconds with constant camera movement. It’s a great technique combined with the tonal shift in the score to build the tension of the scene. Woltz begins to scream off camera and then we see him in three different shots, progressively farther away, screaming. Now the audience has witnessed firsthand what the Don is capable of and the lengths to which he will go to help his family.

Coppola cuts from a medium close...

...to a long shot...

...to an exterior after Woltz finds the horse's head.

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