In the Summer of 1999, the Johns Hopkins University Barnstormers began preparation for their annual Orientation performance. The show to be produced: David Ives' "All in the Timing." One of the plays, Words, Words, Words, called for a tire swing to be suspended from the ceiling of the theater so that a character representing a monkey could swing on it.

Since the "theater" was actually a converted lecture hall, there was no lattice of supporting beams from which human-and-tire-load-bearing ropes could be hung. Enter one anonymous yet creative technical director who, with the help of some scraps of lumber, a concrete drill bit, and several 3/4" bolts, attached a rig to the building structure that could be used as an attachment point for a variety of set pieces.

As the show closed, it quickly became apparent that the administrators of the building were suspicious of the hack-job that had been accomplished, so it was decided by the production staff of the show that the rig should be removed and most evidence covered up. During the typical set tear-down, the technical director who built the ceiling-mounted atrocity climbed a ladder with a circular saw and went to work on destroying his masterpiece.

One of the scraps of lumber that fell back to earth consisted of a 4x4 with a 2x4 securely attached to it. There were two slots in in the 4x4 on the side facing the 2x4 such that a person with large enough hands could carry the piece of scrap and have his or her fingers "guarded" from any attack. This particular piece of wood also had a short length of 4x4 attached at a 90 degree angle on one end. Thus, with someone holding the wood by the "handles," it appeared to be a large wooden Thor-like hammer. The Official Barnstormers Beat Down Stick was born.

The implement of destruction was quickly dubbed The Godfather and was used for dismantling remaining portions of the set. It has remained in the custody of Barnstormers technical crew and has been decorated numerous times in the shows that have occurred since.

Names have been removed to protect the guilty.

There are unsubstantiated rumors of students crying for the Gods of Dongtar prior to swings of The Godfather.

The Godfather

1972 Drama / Crime Movie
Based Upon the novel by Mario Puzo.
"Mr. Corleone is Johnny's godfather. To the Italian people, that is a very religious, sacred, close relationship."Tom Hagen to Woltz
Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Screenplay: Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo. Adapted from the novel The Godfather by Mario Puzo.
Music: Nino Rota
Running time: 175 minutes

Minor Spoilers Below: Go watch the movie!

Best Movie of All Time!... as voted upon by the users of it makes top 5 for most everyone else's lists.

This movie follows the exploits of the Corleone family, one of the five major Mafia families in New York City, right after the end of World War II.

This movie portrays the Mafia from the inside. It shows us a group of folk loyal to the Godfather, a patriarch who metes out wisdom and justice. A man who is willing to help out his friends in need, and expect perhaps nothing in return other than another favor owed back.

"You shall have your justice. Some day, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do me a service in return. Until that day, consider this justice a gift from my wife, your daughter's godmother." -Don Vito Corleone to Bonasera

Granted, the justice dished out in this movie is hardly the type that most people think of when they hear the word. But Coppola is brilliant in making us sympathize with these violent criminals. He convinces the audience that those who run up against the judgement of the family deserved what was coming to them.

One scene which does this quite well is when we see Don Corleone (Brando) arguing that they should stay out of Narcotics. Liquor, Gambling, Women, these are victimless crimes. But to the Don, drugs are a dirty business, and it is best to keep his hands out of it.

The movie follows the actions that the Godfather's sons are forced to take in order to protect their father, and the rest of their family, when the Godfather is injured by a would-be assassin.

Coppola's attention to detail is amazing. Every little thing is arrayed just so, to either convince you that it really is New York in the middle 40's, or as a piece of subtle symbolism that, when they all add up, hammer his point through. Aren't subliminal messages fun?

This movie was one of the few that was able to achieve both critical acclaim, and box-office success. It received the following Academy Awards and Nominations: Winning:


While this movie was hardly the original Mafia / Gangster movie, it certainly revitalized the genre, setting the stage for classics such as Goodfellas, The Usual Suspects, Scarface, and of course, The Godfather Part II & III. It was one of the first steps leading to the Glorification of Organized Crime in popular culture.

It also had a tremendous effect on the careers of most of the actors in it. It made the careers of Pacino and Keaton, vaulting them into the spotlight from relative obscurity. It was also the defining role for most of the other actors, most notably Marlon Brando. Whenever people think of Brando, one of two things usually pops to mind, his appearance in A Streetcar Named Desire, or The Godfather, and for most people it's The Godfather.

Oh yes. And another thing I've noticed while doing a little research for this node. The general consensus is that you have no right to call yourself a man if you haven't seen this movie. Ladies, you're still fine, but you guys had better see it.

Marlon Brando           Don Vito Corleone  
Al Pacino               Michael Corleone  
Diane Keaton            Kay Adams Corleone  
Robert Duvall           Tom Hagen  
Richard S. Castellano   Peter Clemenza  
James Caan              Santino 'Sonny' Corleone  
Sterling Hayden         Police Captain McCluskey  
Talia Shire             Constanzia 'Connie' Corleone-Rizzi  
John Marley             Jack Woltz  
Richard Conte           Don Emilio Barzini  
Al Lettieri             Virgil 'The Turk' Sollozzo  
Abe Vigoda              Sal Tessio  
Gianni Russo            Carlo Rizzi  
John Cazale             Frederico 'Fredo/Freddie' Corleone  
Rudy Bond               Ottilio Cuneo  
1: Marlon refused his award, sending an actress portraying an American Indian in his stead, who passed along the message that he didn't want this, his 2nd Academy Award, due to the portrayal of Indians in the Cinema and Television.
2: That's right, Three freaking different nominations from one movie in the same category. Wooha!

A fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm.

A poor man had so many children that he had already asked everyone in the world to be godfather, and when still another child was born, no one else was left whom he could invite. He knew not what to do, and, in his perplexity, he lay down and fell asleep. Then he dreamt that he was to go outside the gate, and ask the first person he met to be godfather. When he awoke, he determined to obey his dream, and went outside the gate, and asked the first person who came up to him to be godfather. The stranger presented him with a little glass of water, and said, "This is a wonderful water, with it you can heal the sick, only you must see where death is standing. If he is standing by the patient's head, give the patient some of the water and he will be healed, but if death is standing by his feet, all trouble will be in vain, for the sick man must die." From this time forth, the man could always say whether a patient could be saved or not, and became famous for his skill, and earned a great deal of money.

Once he was called in to the child of the king, and when he entered, he saw death standing by the child's head and cured it with the water, and he did the same a second time, but the third time death was standing by its feet, and then he knew the child had to die.

Once the man thought he would visit the godfather, and tell him how he had succeeded with the water. But when he entered the house, the strangest things were going on within. On the first flight of stairs, the broom and shovel were disputing, and knocking each other about violently. He asked them, "Where does the godfather live?"
The broom replied, "One flight of stairs higher up."
When he came to the second flight, he saw a heap of dead fingers lying. He asked, "Where does the godfather live?"
One of the fingers replied, "One flight of stairs higher."
On the third flight lay a heap of dead heads, which again directed him to the flight beyond. On the fourth flight, he saw fishes on the fire, which frizzled in pans and baked themselves. They, too, said, one flight of stairs higher. And when he had ascended the fifth, he came to the door of a room and peeped through the keyhole, and there he saw the godfather who had a pair of long horns. When he opened the door and went in, the godfather got into bed in a great hurry and covered himself up.

Then said the man, "Sir godfather, what a strange household you have. When I came to your first flight of stairs, the shovel and broom were quarreling, and beating each other violently."
"How stupid you are," said the godfather. "That was the boy and the maid talking to each other."
"But on the second flight I saw dead fingers lying."
"Oh, how silly you are. Those were some roots of scorzonera."
"On the third flight lay a heap of dead men's heads."
"Foolish man, those were cabbages."
"On the fourth flight I saw fishes in a pan, which were hissing and baking themselves." When he had said that, the fishes came and served themselves up. "And when I got to the fifth flight, I peeped through the keyhole of a door, and there, godfather, I saw you and you had long, long horns."
"Oh, that is not true." The man became alarmed, and ran out, and if he had not, who knows what the godfather would have done to him.

A friend of mine once got a cat, for free natch. It was wire-thin, having spent the first couple of months of its life as a stray, but it would eat anything and everything, and in huge amounts too. This cat once ate three or four rashers of bacon, and my friend had to hide all his food in cupboards and drawers where the cat couldn't get at it.

As you could guess, it soon got to be a right fat little bastard, and as it grew up it just became a fat bastard. It's days of running around eating everything were numbered, but even with various diets and only being fed one meal a day, the cat still swelled to the proportions of a middle class white American child with $50,000 in McDonalds' vouchers.

So now, if you go to their house, you will most likely see the cat sitting on the sofa like a person with its front paws in the air. With its eyes half closed, and the mumbled "rowr" it occasionally emits when addressed or petted, it resembled for the death of me Marlon Brando in the aforementioned movie.

This cat is the Godfather.

Wasn't sure what to categorize this, but hey, cats are people too
Here's a strange little bedtime story about one of my favorite films, and how life imitiates art imitates life.

As it happens, The Godfather was produced by Paramount Pictures. Paramount at this time was owned by Gulf + Western. The CEO of Gulf + Western was a man by the name of Charles Bludhorn. Reports are Bludhorn enjoyed trading fraudulent stocks with one Michele Sindona, head banker of the Roman Curia, and the brains behind the Vatican Bank. Moreover, Sindona was a member of p2, and a member of the Mafia. In 1972, the same year that The Godfather was being filmed, Bludhorn was slapped by the FEC for his trades with Sindona.

As it happens, part of the land where the film was being shot was owned by an Italian company named Immobiliare (meaning "biggest landlord") which had previously been owned by the Vatican, but sold by Sindona. Reportedly, Sindona kept an interest in Immobiliare, and when Paramount was filming The Godfather, some of this rent to Immobiliare went directly to Sindona.

And so, a film about the Mafia funneled money to the Mafia. Years later, in The Godfather Part III, Coppola would make a nod to this, by incorporating the Vatican banking scandal, Immobiliare, and the death (assassination?) of John Paul I into the script.

Many people have wondered at the symbolism of Don Corleone's mysteriously holding a kitten in the first scene of the movie -- whether it showed the inner disjunction of a man who could order the cold-blooded death of two young men, and still gently pet a baby cat at the same time.

The true story is this: the kitten (brown mackerel, female) was a stray, who was attracted by the fictional Italian wedding going on over several days (in a nice Staten Island neighborhood, held by th Norton family), with food, long skirts, general chaos and suchlike, and had held up several scenes by distractingly popping up at odd intervals. Brando, however, happened to like cats, and always said "Let me handle this.". He proceeded to pick up and play with the kitten, and soon the kitten was no problem, since she was always where Brando was.

It came time to film the ultra-serious Office Scene. The kitten, now totally inured to cameras, lights and general goings-on, trotted obediently behind Brando. Ever the professional, Brando smiled.
"Let me handle this."

That the kitten was more than satisfied with this, is evident in that several of Brando's lines had to be rerecorded because of the cat's purring. Indeed, this meant that most of the bits and pieces of film where the kitten appeared or could be heard could now be salvaged, since the kitten was now simply a naturalistic detail, since it had been established that the Corleone family kept cats.

That Brando was able to upstage a small, cute, helpless kitten remains one of the greatest acting achievements on film.

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