The Godfather director, Coppola turns 80

Christopher Gibson, Courier Staff

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Yesterday marked Francis Ford Coppola’s 80th birthday. The director is most well-known for the Godfather trilogy, with parts I and II in the trilogy winning best picture in their respective years.

Born in Detroit on April 7, 1939, Coppola is the middle of three children. He has an older brother Augustus Coppola and a younger sister Talia Shire. Francis fell ill to polio as a child and would spend his long days in bed by allowing his imagination to unfold with sock puppets. At age 15 he read “A Streetcar Named Desire,” which he credits to being instrumental to him choosing to go into theater. However, after enrolling at Hofstra College for a major in theater arts, he decided he’d rather work in cinema, then the theater, due to watching the film “October: 10 Days that Shook the World.” Coppola was especially impressed by the quality of editing in the film.

Coppola went on to attend graduate school at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and was hired as an assistant by Roger Corman. Mainly helping Corman with dialogue, Coppola was given an opportunity in 1963 to make a low-budget horror film. The film, “Dementia 13,” would later go on to have a cult following. He also met his future wife, Eleanor Jessie Neil, on the set of “Dementia 13.”

Once Coppola graduated from UCLA, he began to write and direct films. His first big break came in 1970 when he would co-write the film “Patton.” The film centers around General Patton and his exploits during the second World War. Coppola went on to win Best Original Screenplay for the film at the Academy Awards. Two years later was when Coppola hit the bigtime for “The Godfather.” Centered around the Corleone Mob family, Coppola adapted the book by Mario Puzo into a film. Coppola had a star-studded cast that featured James Caan, Marlon Brandon, Al Pacino and Shire. The film would win numerous awards including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Coppola isn’t the only one in his family who has had a successful film career. His sister, Talia, is best known for her role as Adrian in “Rocky” as well as Connie Corleone in “The Godfather.” One of his nephews is Nicholas Cage, who has been in all sorts of films including National Treasure. Another of one of his nephews is Jason Schwartzman. Schwartzman is the son Shire and was in “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”

Coppola would go on to have a successful career. He directed more than 20 films and other than The Godfather saga, he directed “Apocalypse Now” and “The Outsiders.” Coppola’s work has influenced so many. I remember sitting in my basement watching “The Godfather” or “The Godfather: Part II” with my dad. He would often recite the lines as they happened. Coppola’s work is something that anybody, no matter who they are and where they come from, can become enthralled with.

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