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Puzo in 1996
|Born||Mario Gianluigi Puzo|
October 15, 1920
Manhattan, New York City, New York
|Died||July 2, 1999 (aged 78)|
West Bay Shore, New York
|Pen name||Mario Cleri|
|Notable works||The Godfather (1969)|
|Spouse||Erika Puzo (1946–78)|
Dorothy Antoinette Puzo
Virginia Erika Puzo
BiographyPuzo was born in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York City, into a poor family from Pietradefusi, Province of Avellino, Campania, Italy. Many of his books draw heavily on this heritage. After graduating from the City College of New York, he joined the United States Army Air Forces in World War II. Due to his poor eyesight, the military did not let him undertake combat duties but made him a public relations officer stationed in Germany. In 1950, his first short story, The Last Christmas, was published in American Vanguard. After the war, he wrote his first book, The Dark Arena, which was published in 1955.
At periods in the 1950s and early 1960s, Puzo worked as a writer/editor for publisher Martin Goodman's Magazine Management Company. Puzo, along with other writers like Bruce Jay Friedman, worked for the company line of men's magazines, pulp titles like Male, True Action, and Swank. Under the pseudonym Mario Cleri, Puzo wrote World War II adventure features for True Action.
Puzo's most famous work, The Godfather (1969), was encouraged by a suggestion of the publisher of his The Fortunate Pilgrim (1965) who thought that if there was more mafia that it would have been more successful. A story outline was prepared and presented to the publisher who rejected it. After several publishers were approached, Putnam editors met with him without having read the outline. He told them a few stories and the project was approved. With the advance, he got on with the project. He had heard anecdotes about Mafia organizations during his time in pulp journalism.
He said in an interview with Larry King that the critical reception of his previous two books without the monetary success to follow made the issue all the more important in the next work in order to support his five children on a government clerk salary. He was looking to write something that would appeal to the masses. He found his audience with the novel; a number-one bestseller for months on the New York Times Best Seller List. The book was later developed into the film The Godfather, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The movie received 3 awards of the 11 Academy Award category nominations, including Puzo's Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Coppola and Puzo then collaborated on sequels to the original film, The Godfather Part II and The Godfather Part III.
Puzo wrote the first draft of the script for the 1974 disaster film Earthquake, which he was unable to continue working on due to his commitment to The Godfather Part II. Puzo also wrote the original screenplay for Richard Donner's Superman which, at the time, also included the plot for Superman II, as they were originally written as one film. He also collaborated on the stories for the 1982 film A Time to Die and the 1984 Francis Ford Coppola film The Cotton Club.
Puzo never saw the publication of his penultimate book, Omertà, but the manuscript was finished before his death as was the manuscript for The Family. However, in a review originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Jules Siegel, who had worked closely with Puzo at Magazine Management Company, speculated that Omertà may have been completed by "some talentless hack." Siegel also acknowledges the temptation to "rationalize avoiding what is probably the correct analysis – that [Puzo] wrote it and it is terrible."
Puzo died of heart failure on Friday, July 2, 1999 at his home on Manor Lane in West Bay Shore, New York. His family now lives in East Islip, New York.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky seemed to have had an influence on Puzo providing several quotations, particularly from The Brothers Karamazov, in Puzo's books: The Dark Arena, Fools Die, The Fourth K, and The Family.
- The Dark Arena (1955)
- The Fortunate Pilgrim (1965)
- The Runaway Summer of Davie Shaw (1966)
- Six Graves to Munich (1967), as Mario Cleri
- The Godfather (1969)
- Fools Die (1978)
- The Sicilian (1984)
- The Fourth K (1991)
- The Last Don (1996)
- Omertà (2000)
- The Family (2001) (completed by Puzo's longtime girlfriend Carol Gino)
- "Test Yourself: Are You Heading for a Nervous Breakdown?" as by Mario Cleri (1965)
- The Godfather Papers and Other Confessions (1972)
- Inside Las Vegas (1977)
- "The Last Christmas" (1950)
- "John 'Red' Marston's Island of Delight" as by Mario Cleri (1964)
- "Big Mike's Wild Young Sister-in-law" as by Mario Cleri (1964)
- "The Six Million Killer Sharks That Terrorize Our Shores” as by Mario Cleri (1966)
- "Trapped Girls in the Riviera's Flesh Casino" as by Mario Cleri (1967)
- "The Unkillable Six" as by Mario Cleri (1967)
- "Girls of Pleasure Penthouse" as by Mario Cleri (1968)
- "Order Lucy For Tonight" as by Mario Cleri (1968)
- "12 Barracks of Wild Blondes" as Mario Cleri (1968)
- "Charlie Reese's Amazing Escape from a Russian Death Camp" as by Mario Cleri (1969)
Screenplays and Film Adaptations
- The Godfather (1972)
- The Godfather Part II (1974)
- Earthquake (1974)
- Superman (1978)
- Superman II (1980)
- A Time to Die (1982)
- The Cotton Club (1984)
- The Sicilian (1987)
- The Godfather Part III (1990)
- Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992)
- Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006)
- The Family Corleone (unproduced)
- Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary: "Puzo"
- Homberger, Eric. "Mario Puzo: The author of the Godfather, the book the Mafia loved", The Guardian, July 5, 1999. Accessed August 10, 2009. "Born one of 12 children, Puzo grew up in Hell's Kitchen on the west side of Manhattan."
- Flamm, Matthew. "A Demimonde in Twilight," New York Times (June 2, 2002). Accessed March 15, 2009.
- Interview: http://www.mashpedia.com/videoplayer.php?q=KE3IYPQIp5o; viewed 9-2-2014.
- Larry King Live (CNN), August 2, 1996; http://www.mariopuzo.com/lking.shtml; viewed 9-2-2014.
- FreshAir Interview – Audio interview from Fresh Air. Originally broadcast July 25, 1996.
- Mario Puzo at the Internet Movie Database
- Mario Puzo biography
- Mario Puzo Books
- The Official Mario Puzo Library
- "Saying Goodbye to Mario Puzo", an affectionate recollection of Mario Puzo written by his friend Jules Siegel on being notified of his death.