A Mafia Hit

Mario Puzo’s Godfather archive gets a new home at Rauner Library.

“An incredibly generous gift.” That’s how Jay Satterfield, head of special collections at Rauner Library, describes the recent donation of about 50 boxes of papers, a typewriter, and books belonging to Mario Puzo, author of the 1969 bestseller The Godfather and coauthor of the three Godfather movies.

The saga of the Corleone crime family includes fictional alum Michael Corleone, who, in the novel, briefly attends the College in 1945. When he bumps off a mobster and a cop, he has to hightail it to Sicily. Puzo never says whether Michael got study abroad credit.

Though Puzo grew up in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen, thanks to the Fresh Air Fund, every summer from the ages of 9 to 15 he spent two weeks in the Hanover area living with a middle-aged couple. “I nearly went crazy with the joy of it,” he wrote, calling those days “quite simply a fairytale come true.” He later referred to Dartmouth as the “ultimate Ivy League…WASP college.”

Credit for the gift goes to Bruce Rauner ’78 and his wife, Diana, who made the donation this year. (In 2016 an anonymous bidder had purchased the papers at auction for $625,000.)

In a draft of The Godfather screenplay, Puzo’s first scene has Michael leaving an “Ivy League college building,” hopping into his convertible, and picking up future wife Kay at her “impressive” home in a New Hampshire village. The script says she is from “old money.”

The 1965 manual Olympia typewriter Puzo likely used to tap out The Godfather. “If anything happened to it, I would have to stop writing,” said the author.

In The Godfather novel, Kay’s parents tell her they weren’t worried about Michael being a bad influence, because “he’s a Dartmouth boy, he couldn’t be mixed up in anything sordid.”

Puzo fought to get the notoriously difficult Marlon Brando cast as the Don. After at first being rebuffed by producers, Puzo wrote Brando, telling him, “I’m sorry I wasted your time.”

Famous lines such as “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse” are in the novel, but nowhere do “Don’t forget the cannolis” or “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes” appear in the screenplay or book. They were improvised on the set.

Mobster Michael returns to Dartmouth in an early draft of The Godfather Part III. In this unused scene, he arrives at a Hanover “airfield” in his private jet. He is now a trustee and plans to endow an “ethnic studies” program.

The sequel has scenes set in the “secluded woodland” Hanover home of Michael’s estranged wife, Kay. Ultimately, they reconcile. Resigned to her fate, she delivers the script’s bleak last line: “There’s no place to go.”

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