Tuesday 18 October 2011

Symbolism, oranges, and "The Godfather"

Oranges are golden in colour and sometimes represent gold, wealth, and by extension, greed.

The Godfather, part 1, employs oranges as a symbol of greed and impending judgment. Consider these shots. 

At the start, at the wedding, Tessio the caporegime is seen holding and contemplating an orange.

If it's not too fanciful, Tessio is already contemplating his rise in the family. Before this story is over, he will betray Michael Corleone, and try to lead him into a trap where he will be killed. Instead, it will be Tessio who dies.

Jack Woltz, the nasty studio head, boasts of being a pedophile and threatens to destroy Johnny Fontane's career, while sitting in front of a pile of oranges. In the next scene, he wakes to find his favourite horses' head in his bed. 

Immediately before he is shot, Vito Corleone buys some oranges

The orange card in the b.g., between the greengrocer and the Don, advertises a Jake LaMotta fight at Madison Square Garden. LaMotta's life story was told in the film Raging Bull, which starred Robert De Niro, who also played Vito Corleone in The Godfather, Part II. LaMotta admitted to a US Senate sub-committee in 1960 that he had thrown a fight on the orders of the Mafia, in exchange for $20,000 and a crack at the world title.

The real-lfe LaMotta appears as a barman in the 1961 movie The Hustler. Paul Newman starred in that movie. By a curious twist, Newman – one of the greatest movie actors ever – won his only Academy Award for the follow-up film, The Color of Money, directed by Martin Scorsese in 1986. But that's a digression.

When Vito Corleone is shot, oranges are shown scattered over the roadside behind the gunmen.

At the meeting of the heads of the Mafia families, Barzini is shown with a bowl of fruit in front of him, including a prominent orange. It is at this meeting that Vito first realises that Barzini was the guy behind all the trouble from the start. Barzini is killed at the end of the movie. 

The final orange on view is one Vito Corleone uses to make some fake scary teeth for himself. At the end of his life, the Godfather is an old man who frightens a child. 

Yeah, I know it was a playful moment, but under that playfulness lies the truth about his character. This is the first time someone in the movie places part of an orange in his mouth. Moments later Vito Corleone dies of a heart attack. 


Kathy said...

That's amazing. I never even noticed the oranges. Thanks for the analysis.

Imbi said...

Thats an interesting thread you've identified and is well conveyed. I like how youve included the relevant scenes for illustration.

Bob Blackburn said...

Have you ever seen the British drama... Oranges are not the only fruit?

Anonymous said...

very good!