Puzo in 1996
|Born||Mario Gianluigi Puzo
October 15, 1920
Manhattan, New York
|Died||July 2, 1999
Manor Lane in West Bay Shore,
|Pen name||Mario Cleri|
|Notable work(s)||The Godfather (1969)|
|Spouse(s)||Erika Puzo (1921–78)|
Dorothy Antoinette Puzo
Virginia Erika Puzo
Mario Gianluigi Puzo (October 15, 1920 – July 2, 1999) was an Italian American author and screenwriter, known for his novels about the Mafia, including The Godfather (1969), which he later co-adapted into a film by Francis Ford Coppola. He won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in both 1972 and 1974.
Puzo was born into a poor family from Pietradefusi, Province of Avellino, Campania, Italy living in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York. 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."
|This unreferenced section requires citations to ensure verifiability.|
Puzo's favorite writer was Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He was deeply influenced by his books, particularly The Karamazov Brothers that he quoted in his books: The Dark Arena, Fools Die, The Fourth K, and The Family. The character Stefano Andolini in The Sicilian was derived from Dostoyevsky's major character Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky in The Possessed. And Luca Brasi came from Raskolnikov. Puzo referred to Dostoyevsky as his "personal favourite" to the editor Jonathan Karp. Although Balzac is said to have influenced Puzo, it was really Dostoyevsky who influenced Puzo the most. And Dostoyevsky was also a Balzac as he began his career by translating Balzac's Eugénie Grandet in 1843.
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