'The Godfather' author's papers on display in Baker

by Rachel Pakianathan | 4/17/18 2:35am

Bruce and Diana Rauner ’78 have donated their collection of novelist and screenwriter Mario Puzo’s draft manuscripts, correspondence and other records to the College’s Rauner Special Collections Library. The collection includes notes for several of Puzo’s published works, including his best-selling novel “The Godfather” and its subsequent film adaptations, the script for the 1978 Superman movie, a children’s book and Puzo’s novels released before “The Godfather, according to head of special collections Jay Satterfield.

While selections from the papers and Puzo’s typewriter will be exhibited to the public in Baker-Berry Library from Apr. 5 to June 30, special collections processing specialist Elena Cordova will prepare the rest of the collection for research use in Rauner Library. This process includes cataloging and organizing each document in the collection and highlighting those of interest, Cordova said.

“The primary value of the collection is its documentation of the life of a working writer,” film and media studies professor Mark Williams said. “He did a lot of different kinds of writing and had this gigantic success with the novel ‘The Godfather’ that led to these genuinely historic adaptations.”

Cordova added that having gone through the collection, she believes it will intrigue those interested in the screenwriting process.

“I think for people that are interested in the production aspect of screenwriting, it’s a really rich collection,” she said. “You can see the editorial process at work, and it’s been really fascinating even just examining handwritten notations that suggest small changes in language.”

Satterfield said he anticipates that some of research value of the collection will relate to The Godfather’s portrayal of the mafia and the experiences of Italian-American immigrants in the United States. He added that “The Godfather” also has unique connections the College, as the novel’s protagonist Michael Corleone enrolled at Dartmouth to escape taking part in the family business.

“It’s great that the papers are here, because Michael Corleone’s got to be one of the most famous fictional alumni of Dartmouth,” he said.

Satterfield also said that while author Mario Puzo is not known to have a direct connection to Dartmouth, the College and the town of Hanover are mentioned frequently in both “The Godfather” trilogy and in Puzo’s papers.

“Dartmouth and Hanover just pop up over and over again in The Godfather trilogy, and in the scripts, and even things that didn’t make it in,” he said. “We think that he visited here as a kid and saw it. I’d say it’s like the antithesis of the world of the Corleone family, both in the physical environment and the social environment.”

After the collection is prepared for research use, Satterfield and Cordova said they welcome inquiries from both researchers and fans of Puzo’s work.

“People might come in and ask about seeing the papers with famous lines from ‘The Godfather,’ like ‘Leave the gun, take the cannoli!’ only to find that ‘Take the cannoli’ was improvised in the film,” Cordova said.

Andrew Skow ’21 said he is excited to look at Puzo’s papers more closely, particularly those relating to background research on the mafia.

“He basically created the image people picture when they think about the Italian mafia,” Skow said. “I’d be interested to look at what research he did to construct his narrative.”

Williams said that collections such as Puzo’s papers are often used for research by students and faculty in the film and media studies department at Dartmouth.

“We’re the first department of film and media studies in the Ivy League,” Williams said. “And there’s this really rich, unknown legacy of professional film makers and aspiring film makers studying at Dartmouth.”

He added that he anticipates the collection will be useful to those interested in studying the writing process and progression careers like Puzo’s.

“[The collection] puts students and scholars in a position to think about a career of that stature and think about Puzo’s career in particular,” he said. “There’s a lot to discover about him.”