Saturday, February 11, 2012

Tom Santopietro's "The Godfather Effect"

Tom Santopietro is the author of The Importance of Being Barbra, Considering Doris Day (a New York Times Editor’s Choice) and Sinatra in Hollywood. He has worked for the past twenty years in New York theater as a manager of more than two dozen Broadway shows.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Godfather Effect: Changing Hollywood, America, and Me, and reported the following:
The p. 99 test- great idea and I’m intrigued. I apply the test to my new book: The Godfather Effect, and full of confidence I read p. 99 only to find- hmmm....

I’ve structured The Godfather Effect on three levels: film study- a look at Coppola’s three iconic films and the hold they exert around the world forty years after the initial release, ethnic study- the (extraordinarily negative) images of Italian-Americans on film- and cultural study- growing up with an Italian name in a very WASPy world of private schools and Anglo society. (The idea for the book was planted during my years in law school when a friend smilingly observed: “Yeah, you’re Italian all right- Italian by way of the Taft prep school.” In other words, if you don’t act like a goombah from the Mean Streets, how can you call yourself Italian. Challenge accepted.) My goal was to try and write a book which would appeal to film lovers, observers of American life, and as I call them, Italians of all nationalities.

So how did I do on p. 99? I was 1 for 3- a stat I’m choosing to look at in baseball terms.

Page 99 delivers on the level of ethnic study, discussing the early, dynamic, flawed images of Italian-Americans as exemplified by Edward G. Robinson’s dying Rico in Little Caesar: “Mother of mercy—is this the end of Rico?”

It is not, however, a page on which I discuss The Godfather or my own family, which are the most important threads of the book. What’s missing on p. 99 is the central tribute to my grandfather, who arrived alone in the U.S. at age 13, armed only with 20 lira in his pocket and a fierce ambition to succeed. That he did, while faced with anti-Italian prejudice that considered all Italians to be mobsters like the Corleones.

You’d think I’d hate The Godfather- but I love it- for the sheer Italian-ness of it all, for its Italianization of American culture.

Well, we’re all at war with ourselves. Can we make this the p. 175 test?
Learn more about the book and author at Tom Santopietro's website.

Writers Read: Tom Santopietro (November 2008).

--Marshal Zeringue