Having re-watched The Godfather last weekend I’ve been going around humming snippets of Nino Rota’s score ever since—the Sicilian love theme, of course, which Francis Ford Coppola has joked he is doomed to hear every time he enters an Italian restaurant, but also the waltz, which is arguably just as well-known (even to those few people who have never seen the film). At the time that he wrote the score for The Godfather Rota was probably the most prominent living Italian film composer, having written scores for every one of Fellini’s films as well as for others by Rossellini, Visconti and Zeffirelli. His music for The Godfather is both more romantic and darker than his scores for the Fellini films, with their bumptious jazz rhythms, or for sweeping historical epics like Visconti’s The Leopard (1963). Rota would go on to win an Oscar for scoring The Godfather Part II after being completely ignored by the Academy for his work on the first Godfather film—a somewhat shocking statistic, given that it now stands as one of the all-time classic film scores.
|Father and daughter: Don Corleone and Connie perform the "Godfather Waltz."|
At the end of the film’s next chapter—Tom Hagen’s visit to movie producer Jack Woltz—the waltz theme returns. But this time it signals the Corleone family’s capacity for violence and perversity. As Woltz awakens to find that his prize racehorse has been decapitated, the theme is heard in the form of several competing musical lines that overlap to create a demented, mischievous effect. A hideous joke has been played on Woltz by Don Corleone, with the music acting as a kind of aural calling card (even if we are the only ones who can hear it).
|Jack Woltz's rude awakening.|
|Michael in the garden.|
|The waltz's bridge.|