Albert Rudy: This was the legendary producer of The Godfather

He met his first success on the small screen as a producer of the comedy series “Hogan’s Heroes” about the life of a group of prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp, fought for the shooting of the legendary film “The Godfather” and won his second success. Clint Eastwood’s Oscar for Million Dollar Baby.

The life of Hollywood producer Albert Rudy, who died in Los Angeles at the age of 94, was like a movie script. In fact, his adventures on the set of The Godfather inspired the excellent 2022 TV miniseries The Offer, based on his memoirs.

Randy was a gruff ex-computer programmer and shoe salesman who had made a name for himself with the runaway success of Hogan’s Heroes and some low-budget films as Paramount was preparing to make The Godfather. New York Times article.

Among the many obstacles he faced as a producer of the iconic film about the Corleone mobster family in New York was hostility from the Italian-American community and members of the US Congress for perpetuating stereotypes of gangster life.

Randy believed so strongly in the film adaptation of Mario Puccio’s book that he fought daily battles on multiple fronts from the day the shoot was announced until its completion. He faced Paramount’s fear of boycotting the film, the studio’s dislike of first director Francis Ford Coppola and then star Al Pacino, and finally death threats from the New York mob.

Randy’s biggest concern is Joseph Colombo Sr., the notorious mob boss who founded the Italian American Union for Civil Rights (IUCR) and convinced the FBI to stop using the terms “Mafia” and “Cosa Nostra” in its press releases.

Randy rightly believed that the contract with the Union (see Mafia) would guarantee that there would be no problems during the production phase – and they did. He allowed offensive Italian words to be removed from the script, allowed anything else that might harm the union’s image of Italian-Americans to be explored in the script pages, and donated the proceeds from the film’s New York premiere to the IEPD.

The producer attended a press conference at Union’s Manhattan office to announce the deal. The truth is that he did not expect such a reaction from the media. The New York Times ran a front-page story about the deal the next day.Between the Hollywood studio and the New York mafia“.

The publicity the incident gained infuriated Gulf & Western (owned by Paramount) chairman Charles Blandhorn, who promptly fired Randy. But when he asked Coppola and the studio’s head of production, Robert Evans, to find a replacement for him, both replied that Randy was the only person who could guarantee the completion of the film.

After Blanthorne resigned and was rehired, Randy continued to clash with the studio on matters both minor and major. In 1971, he forced the hiring of Marlon Brando, considered persona non grata because of his unpredictable nature, and insisted for months that Al Pacino was perfect for the role of Michael Corleone, despite Paramount’s strong objections.

After securing the two stars to remain in the cast, he was faced with the studio’s intention to fire Coppola, who felt the film was too dark, literally, due to the director’s innovative lighting, looking at unimaginative everyday footage. Photograph by Gordon Willis, but also metaphorically because of its atmosphere. At the same time, after the struggle, he managed to finance the filming in Sicily.

At the same time, he tried to satisfy the growing discontent of the mafia led by Frank Sinatra, who reacted to the character of singer Johnny Fontane, on which Puccio based it, by offering peripheral roles to real-life gangsters. His choice was justified because the real mobsters give the film a rare air of authenticity.

In the end, he fought hard and finally imposed the then-large length of the film’s final cut, as Paramount executives deemed its 175 minutes unimaginable—which meant fewer daily theatrical runs. His persistence in all these matters was ultimately rewarded both commercially ($7.2 million vs. $300 million) and artistically (seven nominations and five Academy Awards).

In 2022, Randy’s memoirs on the set of The Godfather were turned into an extraordinary ten-episode TV series called The Proposal – with him as an executive producer. The irony is that the series was aired on Paramount+, its streaming platform, which brought all of the aforementioned hurdles for the producer, the production company behind The Godfather.

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