Make them an offer they can't refuse: Puzo archive for sale

BOSTON -- Make them an offer they can't refuse and a massive collection of "The Godfather" author Mario Puzo's papers can be yours.

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The 45-box archive, which includes multiple drafts with handwritten revisions to both the novel and the screenplay, is being sold by Boston-based RR Auction on Feb. 18.

The collection covering Puzo's entire career includes manuscripts of his early books and late-career screenplays, and even his old typewriter. But there's no doubt that its thousands of pages of "Godfather" documents are the highlight.

They shed light on the creative process, including the back and forth between Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola as they collaborated on the screenplay.

"This is one of the neatest things I have ever seen in my job," said Tricia Eaton, RR's director of specialty catalogues.

The scripts include some of Puzo's own scribbles and thoughts on what the American Film Institute called the second most famous movie quote of all-time, Marlon Brando, as Don Vito Corleone, saying: "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse." (The most famous movie quote is, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," from "Gone with the Wind.")

In one manuscript, Puzo makes a change to the line: "He's a businessman. I'll make him an offer he can't refuse," scratching out the phrase "He's a businessman" and scrawling in: "I'll reason with him."

In another, Puzo intensifies the famous line's ominous finality by crossing out a line of dialogue immediately following it.

"It seems that Puzo and Coppola together simplified a lot of the dialogue from the book for the screen," Eaton said. "The way it came out in the movie makes it a little more like everyday gangster slang."

Another fascinating piece of the collection is a letter from Puzo to Brando dated March 1970. Puzo envisioned Brando playing Corleone in the 1972 movie, but it almost never happened. Apparently thinking that Brando was out of the project, Puzo wrote the letter expressing his disappointment.

"I'm sorry I wasted your time," Puzo wrote. "I still think it was a good idea. And thanks for taking the trouble to call and talk to me."

RR executive vice-president Robert Livingston said the collection is expected to sell for at least $400,000 at auction.

The archive is being offered by Puzo's five children. Anthony Puzo, who was in his late teens when his father was writing "The Godfather," says the collection is full of memories, but he and his siblings are selling so it can be properly cared for.

"Dad loved to live the high life, even when he couldn't afford it, and he was often in debt. He always used to say he'd be all right once he wrote his bestseller," Anthony Puzo said.


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