Mario Gianluigi Puzo (October 15, 1920 – July 2, 1999) was an Italian-American author, screenwriter and journalist. He was the author of many novel about Italian-American organized crime, most famously The Godfather. He co-wrote the screenplay for its three film adaptations, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II and The Godfather Part III. He was also the author of The Sicilian.
Puzo was born in Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York to a poor family from Pietradefusi, Italy. Many of his books draw heavily on this heritage. After graduating from the City College of New York, he joined the United States Army Air Forces in World War II. Due to his poor eyesight, the military did not let him undertake combat duties but made him a public relations officer stationed in Germany. In 1950, his first short story, The Last Christmas, was published in American Vanguard. After the war, he wrote his first book, The Dark Arena, which was published in 1955.
At periods in the 1950s and early 1960s, Puzo worked as a writer/editor for publisher Martin Goodman's Magazine Management Company. Puzo, along with other writers like Bruce Jay Friedman, worked for the company line of men's magazines, pulp titles like Male, True Action, and Swank. Under the pseudonym Mario Cleri, Puzo wrote World War II adventure features for True Action.
Puzo's most famous work, The Godfather, was first published in 1969 after he had heard anecdotes about Mafia organizations during his time in pulp journalism. He later said in an interview with Larry King that his principal motivation was to make money. He had already, after all, written two books that had received great reviews, yet had not amounted to much. As a government clerk with five children, he was looking to write something that would appeal to the masses. With a number one bestseller for months on the New York Times Best Seller List, Mario Puzo had found his target audience. The book was later developed into the film The Godfather, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The movie received 11 Academy Award nominations, winning three, including an Oscar for Puzo for Best Adapted Screenplay. Coppola and Puzo collaborated then to work on sequels to the original film, The Godfather Part II and The Godfather Part III.
Puzo wrote the first draft of the script for the 1974 disaster film Earthquake, which he was unable to continue working on due to his commitment to The Godfather Part II. Puzo also co-wrote Richard Donner's Superman and the original draft for Superman II. He also collaborated on the stories for the 1982 film A Time to Die and the 1984 Francis Ford Coppola film The Cotton Club.
Puzo never saw the publication of his penultimate book, Omertà, but the manuscript was finished before his death as was the manuscript for The Family. However, in a review originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Jules Siegel, who had worked closely with Puzo at Magazine Management Company, speculated that Omertà may have been completed by "some talentless hack". Siegel also acknowledges the temptation to "rationalize avoiding what is probably the correct analysis – that [Puzo] wrote it and it is terrible".
- Mario Puzo was a friend of American journalist and author Peter Maas, who had assembled The Valachi Papers, which Puzo enjoyed access to during the research period he needed to write The Godfather.
- Mario Puzo admitted that he never associated with or knew an authentic mobster, and he drew upon his knowledge of the area in which he grew up, research, and his imagination to write The Godfather.
- The Dark Arena (1955)
- The Fortunate Pilgrim (1965)
- The Runaway Summer of Davie Shaw (1966)
- Six Graves to Munich (1967), as Mario Cleri
- The Godfather (1969)
- Fools Die (1978)
- The Sicilian (1984)
- The Fourth K (1991)
- The Last Don (1996)
- Omertà (2000)
- The Family (2001) (completed by Puzo's longtime girlfriend Carol Gino)
- The Godfather Papers and Other Confessions (1972)
- Inside Las Vegas (1977)
- The Last Christmas (1950)
- John 'Red' Marston's Island of Delight as by Mario Cleri (1964)
- Big Mike's Wild Young Sister-in-law as by Mario Cleri (1964)
- The Six Million Killer Sharks That Terrorize Our Shores as by Mario Cleri (1966)
- Trapped Girls in the Riviera's Flesh Casino as by Mario Cleri (1967)
- The Unkillable Six as by Mario Cleri (1967)
- Girls of Pleasure Penthouse as by Mario Cleri (1968)
- Order Lucy For Tonight as by Mario Cleri (1968)
- 12 Barracks of Wild Blondes as Mario Cleri (1968)
- Charlie Reese's Amazing Escape from a Russian Death Camp as by Mario Cleri (1969)
Screenplays and film adaptations
- The Godfather (1972)
- The Godfather Part II (1974)
- Earthquake (1974)
- Superman (1978)
- Superman II (1980)
- A Time to Die (1982)
- The Cotton Club (1984)
- The Sicilian (1987)
- The Fortunate Pilgrim (1988)
- The Godfather Part III (1990)
- Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992)
- Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006)
Video game adaptations
- The Godfather (1991)
Notes and references
- Homberger, Eric. "Mario Puzo: The author of the Godfather, the book the Mafia loved", The Guardian, July 5, 1999. "Born the son of illiterate Neapolitan immigrants, and one of 12 children, Puzo grew up in Hell's Kitchen on the west side of Manhattan."
- Flamm, Matthew. "A Demimonde in Twilight", New York Times (June 2, 2002).
- OMERTA by Mario Puzo
- Cowie, Peter (1997). The Godfather Book. Faber and Faber, 17. ISBN 0571190111.
- Puzo, Mario (1972). The Godfather Papers and Other Confessions. G.P. Putnam's Sons. ISBN B000733YVC.
- Raab, Selwyn (2005). Five Families. Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN 0312300948.