Sometime ago, I was involved in an online debate within NB Magazine. It weighed up the pros and cons of the film trilogy The Godfather. Nothing got resolved at all, but it fostered interesting theories from several sources. Recently, a book entitled Hollywood Godfather has come my way. Gianni Russo with Patrick Picciarelli has written this autobiography, and it tells of Gianni Russo’s life in the mob and in films.
Russo’s life on the periphery of the Mafia is a roller coaster of circumstance, murder, assassinations, corruption, fast women, faster cars, large sums of money, smuggling, stealing and much more. In fact, the sheer volume of situations that Russo finds himself in beggars belief, but all the dates correlate, the names which are frequently dropped are also true-life characters, but something is maybe wrong with a ‘normal’ life here. There is maybe too much coincidence to be 100% credible.
As a boy, Gianni Russo spent several years as a polio sufferer, almost fully isolated in a New York hospital ward. It was here that he killed his first man whilst under duress. He eventually left the hospital and began his life on the streets, hustling, making money where he could, until he met a prominent Mafia figure, Frank Costello, who took him under his wing.
The book is very easy to read It is also a very difficult book to put down because of its fast-paced revelations, and they are exposed in multitudes. Smuggling skimmed off profits from gambling, in cash, into the Vatican banks is just one of them.
By careful manipulation of situations and people, Russo somehow secured a part in The Godfather film. He had never acted before, yet after an initial hiatus, Russo befriended Marlon Brando, who gave an enormous amount of his own time to teaching the art of acting to Russo. It is implied that he did this so as to make his own role that much better. Gianni Russo has since appeared in other films, but, even after virtually fifty years having passed, since The Godfather was made (1972), Russo is still living off the role he played as Carlo Rizzi.
I thoroughly engaged with the book, especially in light of the NB Magazine debate. It reveals much that would otherwise remain hidden, for example, it highlights the John F. Kennedy assassination in another expose and considers how Marilyn Monroe died. The book is full of these revelations. An excellent read even if it sounds a mite far fetched; yet, it could all be true.
Reg Seward 5*
Hollywood Godfather by Gianni Russo with Patrick Picciarelli
John Blake 9781789460551 pbk Aug 2019