Today, we look at how an iconic ad-libbed line created a plot hole in the classic film, The Godfather Part II.
This is “How Can I Explain?”, which is a feature spotlighting inexplicable plots.
One of the all-time great movies is the brilliant sequel to The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, the first sequel to ever win the Best Picture Academy Award (and one of only two sequels to EVER win the award).
One of the key plots in the movie is that one of Michael Corleone’s capos (captains), Frank Pentangeli, who had inherited his role from his old boss, Peter Clemenza (the initial plan was, of course, to use the more iconic character, Clemenza, but Richard S. Castellano, the actor who played Clemenza in The Godfather, wouldn’t return for the sequel), has a conflict with Corleone over how to handle the Rosato brothers, two mob guys who claimed that Clemenza had promised them some territory before his death. The problem for Corleone was that the Rosato brothers were backed by Hyman Roth, who Corleone needed for an upcoming deal, so he told Pentangeli to hold off for now, which angered Pentangeli. Well, Corleone is then almost assassinated and he realizes that Roth was behind it. He then visits Pentangeli and asks him to capitulate to the Rosatos so that Roth won’t realize that Corleone is on to him. Pentangeli reluctantly agrees and meets with the Rosatos without his bodyguard.
Tony Rosato then shockingly tries to kill Pentangeli.
Luckily, a local cop happened to walk in on the attack and opened fire and Pentangeli survived. Pentangeli now believed that Corleone had set him up to be murdered, so he was willing to testify against Corleone at an upcoming Senate committee on organized crime (a committee that Roth was manipulating from behind the scenes). In the end, though, he is intimidated into recanting his testimony and then kills himself to protect his family from retribution.
Okay, so here’s where the ad-lib caused so much trouble, plot-wise.
The late, great Danny Aiello played Tony Rosato and he’s the guy who starts to strangle Pentangeli. In the original scene, he has no dialogue. Aiello, however, ad-libbed “Michael Corleone says hello”…
Director Francis Ford Coppola thought that the line sounded cool, so he kept it in the film. The problem is that it doesn’t make any sense for the plot of the movie, since Pentangeli only survives by happenstance. The cop was clearly not in on the plan. It was just a coincidence that Pentangeli survived and Roth just adjusted and took advantage of the situation to get Pentangeli to testify against Corleone. So why would you bother to frame Michael Corleone for a crime when the person you’re framing Corleone for is about to be dead? The answer is you wouldn’t, because it wouldn’t make any sense.
And the reason it didn’t make sense is because Aiello just ad-libbed a line that wasn’t supposed to be there, which explains it OUTSIDE the film and just leaves it inexplicable in the film itself.
Thanks to my pal Dan B. for explaining how Aiello’s ad-lib changed the whole scene.
If anyone else can think of a good inexplicable plot, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org!