What real-life gangsters really thought of The Godfather

The FBI saw mobsters imitating the film – kissing rings, behaving like the characters, and using the term Godfather (which was coined by Puzo – possibly inspired by the Kefauver report, which noted that crime boss Frank Costello was the godfather of another criminal’s child). The film’s score was played at weddings and parties – the “national anthem” of the Mafia, said Selwyn Raab.

Salvatore ‘Sammy the Bull’ Gravano – who said he “floated” out of the movies because of the way The Godfather brilliantly portrays their lifestyle – admitted to stealing Don Corleone’s catchphrases. “I would use lines in real life like, ‘I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse,'” he told The New York Times. “And I always said to people, like in The Godfather, ‘If you have an enemy, that enemy becomes my enemy.'”

In 2001, a former Pennsylvania police officer told the Irish Independent how every raid on a gangster’s house found The Godfather films on videotape. Joe Coffey, a former racket investigator, said the same to the documentary. “When we walk in, with the guns and all the routine, they have the Godfather tape in the TV’s VCR,” he said.

Its influence can be even more sinister. In May 1991, building contractors in Palermo, Sicily found a horse’s head in a car. Ten years later, still in Palermo, the head of another horse was found in a car, this time with a knife between its eyes. In 2008, a bakery owner in Villafranca Padovana, northern Italy, was sent a donkey’s head after refusing to pay protection to a low-level gang (“The man didn’t know the donkey, he didn’t own the donkey, he doesn’t care about donkeys. It didn’t make sense. It was the work of idiots,” a police spokesman said).

Sammy the Bull credited the film with his own crimes. “I killed 19 people,” he told The New York Times. “I only committed one murder before seeing the movie.”

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