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Coppola, Francis Ford

COPPOLA, Francis Ford



Nationality: American. Born: Detroit, Michigan, 7 April 1939. Education: Hofstra University, B.A., 1959; University of California, Los Angeles, M.F.A. in cinema, 1967. Family: Married Eleanor Neil, 1963; children: Sophia, Giancarlo (died, 1987), Roman. Career: Worked in various capacities for Roger Corman at American International, 1962–64; director for Seven Arts, 1964–68; founder, American Zoetrope production organization, San Francisco, 1969; director for American Conservatory Theatre and San Francisco Opera Company, 1971–72; founder, with Peter Bogdanovich and William Friedkin, Directors Company, 1972; publisher, City magazine, 1975–76; opened Zoetrope Studios, San Francisco, 1980. Awards: Oscar for Best Screenplay (with Edmund H. North), for Patton, 1970; Oscar for Best Screenplay (with Mario Puzo), and Best Director Award, Directors Guild of America, for The Godfather, 1973; Palme d'or, Cannes Festival, for The Conversation, 1974; Oscars for Best Director and Best Screenplay (with Puzo) for The Godfather II, 1975; Palme d'or and FIPRESCI Prize, Cannes Festival, 1979, for Apocalypse Now, 1979. Address: Zoetrope Studios, 916 Kearny Street, San Francisco, CA 94133, U.S.A.

Films as Director and Scriptwriter:

1962

The Playgirls and the Bellboy (co-d, co-sc); Tonight for Sure (+ pr);

1963

The Terror (Lady of the Shadows) (co-d, + assoc pr); Dementia 13 (The Haunted and the Hunted) (co-sc)

1966

You're a Big Boy Now

1968

Finian's Rainbow (d only)

1969

The Rain People

1972

The Godfather (co-sc)

1974

The Conversation (+ pr); The Godfather, Part II (co-sc, + co-pr)

1979

Apocalypse Now (co-sc, + pr, role, co-mus)

1982

One from the Heart (co-sc, + pr)

1983

The Outsiders (+ pr); Rumble Fish (co-sc, + pr)

1984

The Cotton Club (co-sc)

1986

Peggy Sue Got Married (+ pr)

1987

Gardens of Stone (+ pr)

1988

Tucker: The Man and His Dream (+ pr)

1989

episode in New York Stories

1991

The Godfather, Part III

1992

Bram Stoker's Dracula (+ co-pr)

1996

Jack (+ co-pr)

1997

The Rainmaker (co-sc)



Other Films:

1962

The Premature Burial (Corman) (asst-d); Tower of London (dialogue d); The Magic Voyage of Sinbad (adaptor)

1963

The Young Racers (Corman) (sound, 2nd unit ph—uncredited); Battle beyond the Sun (Corman) (sc)

1966

This Property Is Condemned (Pollack) (co-sc); Is Paris Burning? (Paris brûle-t-il?) (Clément) (co-sc)

1967

Reflections in a Golden Eye (Huston) (sc)

1970

Patton (Schaffner) (co-sc)

1971

THX 1138 (Lucas) (exec pr)

1973

American Graffiti (Lucas) (exec pr)

1974

The Great Gatsby (Clayton) (sc)

1979

The Black Stallion (Ballard) (exec pr)

1982

Hammett (Wenders) (exec pr); The Escape Artist (Deschanel) (exec pr)

1983

The Black Stallion Returns (Dalva) (exec pr)

1985

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (Schrader) (exec pr)

1987

Tough Guys Don't Dance (Mailer) (exec pr)

1992

Wind (exec pr)

1993

The Secret Garden (exec pr)

1994

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (co-pr)

1995

My Family, Mi Familia (exec pr); Haunted (exec pr); Don Juan DeMarco (pr)

1996

Dark Angel (exec pr)

1997

The Odyssey (series for TV) (exec pr); Buddy (exec pr)

1998

Lanai-Loa (pr); Outrage (exec pr); Moby Dick (for TV) (exec pr); First Wave (series for TV) (exec pr)

1999

The Florentine (pr); The Virgin Suicides (pr); The Third Miracle (exec pr); Goosed (exec pr); Sleepy Hollow (exec pr)

Publications


By COPPOLA: book—


The Cotton Club, with William Kennedy, New York, 1986.


By COPPOLA: articles—

"The Youth of Francis Ford Coppola," an interview with R. Koszarski, in Films in Review (New York), November 1968.

"The Dangerous Age," an interview with John Cutts, in Films andFilming (London), May 1969.

"The Making of The Conversation," an interview with Brian De Palma, in Filmmakers Newsletter (Ward Hill, Massachusetts), May 1974.

Interview with Marjorie Rosen, in Film Comment (New York), August 1974.

"Journey up the River," an interview with Greil Marcus, in RollingStone (New York), 1 November 1979.

Interview with O. Assayas, and others, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), April 1982.

Coppola, Francis Ford, "Je me considere comme un compositeur de films," in Cinéma (Paris), April 1983.

"Ten Years of a Dreamer," interview with Gideon Bachmann, in Stills (London), September-October 1983.

"Idols of the King," an interview with D. Thomson and L. Gray, in Film Comment (New York), September-October 1983.

Interview in American Film (Washington, D. C.), June 1988.

"Francis Ford Coppola: Promises to Keep," an interview with Robert Lindsey, in New York Times Magazine, 24 July 1988.

Interview with Ric Gentry, in Post Script (Jacksonville, Florida), Spring-Summer 1987 and Fall 1988.

Interview in Time Out (London), 2 November 1988.

"Francis Ford Coppola," an interview with L. Vincenzi, in Millimeter, November 1990.

"Francis Ford Coppola," an interview with David Briskin, in RollingStone (New York), 7 February 1991.

"Lear et l'opera: entretien avec Francis Ford Coppola," an interview with Michel Ciment, in Positif, April 1991.

"A Conversation with Coppola," with P. Parisi, in American Cinematographer, August 1991.

"Dracula Doesn't Scare Coppola," an interview with Janet Maslin, in New York Times, 15 November 1992.

"His Bloody Valentine," an interview with M. Dargis, in VillageVoice (New York), 24 November 1992.

Interview with P. Biskind, in Premiere (Boulder), September 1996.


On COPPOLA: books—

Johnson, Robert, Francis Ford Coppola, Boston, 1977.

Coppola, Eleanor, Notes: On Apocalypse Now, New York, 1979.

Pye, Michael, and Lynda Myles, The Movie Brats: How the FilmGeneration Took over Hollywood, New York, 1979.

Chaillet, Jean-Paul, and Elizabeth Vincent, Francis Ford Coppola, Paris, 1984, New York, 1984.

Zuker, Joel S., Francis Ford Coppola: A Guide to References andResources, Boston, 1984.

Frundt, Bodo, and others, Francis Ford Coppola, Munich, 1985.

Chown, Jeffrey, Hollywood Auteur: Francis Coppola, New York, 1988.

Cowie, Peter, Coppola: A Biography, London, 1989, revised edition, New York, 1994.

Goodwin, Michael, and Namoi Wise, On the Edge: The Life andTimes of Francis Coppola, New York, 1989.

Biskind, Peter, The Godfather Companion, New York, 1990.

Lewis, Jon, Whom God Wishes to Destroy. . . : Francis Coppola andthe New Hollywood, Durham, North Carolina, 1995.

Bergan, Ronald, Francis Ford Coppola: Close up the Making of HisMovies, New York, 1999.

Schumacher, Michael, Francis Ford Coppola: A Filmmaker's Life, New York, 1999.


On COPPOLA: articles—

Taylor, John Russell, "Francis Ford Coppola," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1968/69.

McGillivray, D., "Francis Ford Coppola," in Focus on Film (London), Autumn 1972.

Pearce, Christopher, "San Francisco's Own American Zoetrope," in American Cinematographer (Los Angeles), October 1972.

Braudy, Susan, "Francis Ford Coppola: A Profile," in AtlanticMonthly (Boston), August 1976.

Bock, Audie, "Zoetrope and Apocalypse Now," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), September 1979.

McGilligan, Patrick, "Coppola on the Beat," in Films and Filming (London), December 1981.

Bygrave, M., and J. Goodman, "Meet Me in Las Vegas," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), October 1981.

Myles, Lynda, "The Zoetrope Saga," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1982.

Benayoun, Robert, and others, "Le chat et la pendule," in Positif (Paris), April 1984.

Krohn, B., "Coppola des studios Zoetrope aux studios Astorias," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), December 1984.

Greene, N., "Coppola, Cimino: The Operatics of History," in FilmQuarterly (Los Angeles), Winter 1984/85.

"Coppola Section," in Positif (Paris), February 1985.

"The Backdrop Is Only an Inch Away," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), June 1985.

Turnquist, K., "Grape Expectations," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), November 1985.

Braudy, Leo, "The Sacraments of Genre: Coppola, De Palma, Scorsese," in Film Quarterly (Los Angeles), Spring 1986.

Post Script (Jacksonville, Florida), Spring-Summer 1987.

Kolker, Robert, "Francis Coppola," in A Cinema of Loneliness:Penn, Kubrick, Coppola, Scorsese, New York, 1988.

Phillips, Gene, "Francis Coppola," in Films in Review (New York), March 1989.

Lourdeaux, Lee, "Francis Ford Coppola," in Italian and IrishFilmmakers in America: Ford, Capra, Coppola, Scorsese, Philadelphia, 1990.

Bookbinder, Robert, "The Godfather, The Godfather, Part II," in The Films of the Seventies, New York, 1990.

Grant, Edmond, "Godfather III," in Films in Review (New York), March-April 1991.

Bawer, Bruce, "Peggy Sue Got Married," in The Screenplay's theThing, Hamden, Connecticut, 1992.

Cahir, Linda, "Narratological Parallels in Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Coppola's Apocalypse Now," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), Summer 1992.

Greiff, Louis, "Conrad's Ethics and Margins of Apocalypse Now," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), Summer 1992.

Ehrenstein, David, "One from the Art: Dracula," in Film Comment (New York), January-February 1993.

Norman, Barry, "The Godfather, The Godfather, Part II," in The 100Best Films of the Century, New York, 1993.

Kael, Pauline, "The Godfather, The Godfather, Part II," in ForKeeps, New York, 1994.

Whalen, Tom, "Romancing Film: Images of Dracula," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), Spring 1995.

Fitzgerald, Frances, "Apocalypse Now," in Past Imperfect: HistoryAccording to the Movies, edited by Mark Carnes, New York, 1995.

Phillips, Gene, "Darkness at Noon: Apocalypse Now," in Conradand Cinema: The Art of Adaptation, New York, 1995.

Isaacs, Neil D., "Bathgate in the Time of Coppola: a Reverie," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury), vol. 24, no. 1, January 1996.

Scorsese, Martin, "Notre génération," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), no. 500, March 1996.

Librach, Ronald S., "A Nice Little Irony: Life Lessons," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury), vol. 24, no. 2, April 1996.

24 Images (Montreal), no. 81, Spring 1996.

Rosenqvist, Janne, "Idiodysseia," in Filmihullu (Helsinki), no. 4, 1996.

Greene, R., "The Big Picture," in Boxoffice (Chicago), October 1997.

Lambert, S., "Trial Run," in Boxoffice (Chicago), October 1997.

Welsch, Tricia, "Killing Them with Tap Shoes. Violent Performances in The Cotton Club," in Journal of Popular Film andTelevision (Washington, D.C.), vol. 25, no. 4, Winter 1998.

Olsen, Mark, "Grishamovies," in Film Comment (New York), March-April 1998.


On COPPOLA: film—


Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (TV special), 1991.


* * *

Francis Ford Coppola became the first major American film director to emerge from a university degree program in filmmaking. He received his Master of Cinema degree from UCLA in 1968, after submitting his first film of consequence, You're a Big Boy Now (1967), a free-wheeling comedy about a young man on the brink of manhood, to the university as his master's thesis.

The Rain People (1969), based on an original scenario of his own, followed in due course. The plot of this tragic drama concerns a depressed housewife who impulsively decides to walk out on her family one rainy morning to make a cross-country trek in her station wagon, in the hope of getting some perspective on her life. For the first time Coppola's overriding theme, which centers on the importance of the role of a family spirit in people's lives, is clearly delineated in one of his films.

Coppola's preoccupation with the importance of family in modern society is brought into relief in his Godfather films, which depict an American family over a period of more than seventy years. Indeed, the thing that most attracted him to the project in the first place was the fact that the best-selling book on which the films are based is really the story of a family. It is about "this father and his sons," he says, "and questions of power and succession." In essence, The Godfather (1972) offers a chilling depiction of the way in which young Michael Corleone's loyalty to his flesh-and-blood family gradually turns into an allegiance to the larger Mafia family to which they in turn belong—a devotion that in the end renders him a cruel and ruthless mass murderer. With this film Coppola definitely hit his stride as a filmmaker, and the picture was an enormous critical and popular success.

The Godfather II (1974) treats events that happened before and after the action covered in the first film. The second Godfather movie not only chronicles Michael's subsequent career as head of the "family business," but also presents, in flashback, the early life of his father in Sicily, as well as his rise to power in the Mafia in New York City's Little Italy. The Godfather II, like The Godfather, was a success both with the critics and the public, and Coppola won Oscars for directing the film, co-authoring the screenplay, and co-producing the best picture of the year. In 1990 he made his third Godfather film. This trilogy of movies, taken together, represents one of the supreme achievements of the cinematic art.

In contrast to epic films like the Godfather series, The Outsiders was conceived on a smaller scale; it revolves around a gang of underprivileged teenage boys growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the 1960s. The Outsiders was a box-office hit, as was Peggy Sue Got Married, a remarkable fantasy. The title character is a woman approaching middle age who passes out at a high-school reunion and wakes up back in high school in 1960. But she brings with her on her trip down memory lane a forty-two-year-old mind, and hence views things from a more mature perspective than she possessed the first time around.

Coppola has made two films about the Vietnam War. Apocalypse Now, the first major motion picture about the war, is a king-sized epic shot on location in the Philippines; and it contains some of the most extraordinary combat footage ever filmed. But there are no such stunning battle sequences in its companion film, Gardens of Stone, since it takes place state-side, and is concerned with the homefront during the same period.

His next subject was a biographical film about Preston Tucker, a maverick automobile designer, titled Tucker: The Man and His Dream. Coppola contends that Tucker developed plans for a car that was way ahead of its time in terms of engineering; yet the auto industry at large stubbornly resisted his ideas. Unfortunately, Coppola comments, creative people do not always get a chance to exercise their creativity.

Coppola demonstrated once more that he had mastered his craft in making Bram Stoker's Dracula. In it he created a more faithful rendering of the Stoker novel than had been the case with previous film versions of the celebrated horror tale, and the film turned out to be a huge critical and popular success. Francis Coppola is one creative person who has continued to exercise his considerable talent throughout his career. Admittedly, he has had his occasional failure, such as the off-center teen movie Rumble Fish (1983). But the majority of the films he has directed over the years have demonstrated that he is one of the most gifted directors to come across the Hollywood horizon since Stanley Kubrick.

Coppola himself observes that he looks upon the movies he has directed in the past as providing him with the sort of experience that will help him to make better films in the future. So the only thing for a filmmaker to do, he concludes, is to just keep going.

—Gene D. Phillips

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"Coppola, Francis Ford." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola

Schooled in low-budget filmmaking, Francis Ford Coppola (born 1939) has gone on to direct some of the most financially successful and critically acclaimed movies in U.S. cinematic history.

Francis Ford Coppola, director of The Godfather and its two sequels, would be considered one of the masters of modern cinema based on those credits alone. But the writer/director/producer has been behind the scenes on numerous commercial and critical successes outside the gangster genre. Coppola's uncommon craftsmanship has enabled him to make a dizzying variety of films, from low-budget labors of love to mainstream Hollywood crowd-pleasers. All his projects have the earmarks of a Coppola production: a respect for storytelling and a passionate commitment to the filmmaker's art. It was these qualities that led David Thomson, in his Biographical Dictionary of Film, to say of Coppola: "No one retains so many jubilant traits of the kid moviemaker."

Raised in Show-Business Family

Coppola was born in Detroit, Michigan on April 7, 1939. His father, Carmine, was a concert flautist who played with Arturo Toscanini's NBC Symphony Orchestra. His mother, Italia, was an actress who at one time had appeared in films. Coppola's younger sister Talia would later follow in her mother's footsteps into the world of film acting, changing her name to Talia Shire and starring in the film Rocky alongside Silvester Stallone. A few years after his birth, Coppola and his family moved to the suburbs around New York City, where he would spend most of his childhood.

All the Coppola children were driven to succeed in show business and the arts. Leading by example was Coppola's father, who had achieved success as a musician for hire but longed to compose scores of his own. Francis seemed the least likely to redeem his father's promise, however. He was an awkward, myopic child who did poorly at school. At age nine, he was stricken with polio. The illness forced him into bed for a year, a period during which he played with puppets, watched television, and became lost in an inner fantasy world. After his recovery, he began to make movies with an eight millimeter camera and a tape recorder.

Interest in Film Sparked in High School and College

While a student at Great Neck High School on Long Island, Coppola began to study filmmaking more formally. He soon became enamored with the work of Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein. Coppola also trained in music and theater to round out his education. In 1956 he enrolled at Hofstra College in Hempstead, New York on a drama scholarship. Here he acted in and directed student productions, and founded his own cinema workshop. So determined was Coppola to direct his own pictures that he once sold his car to pay for a 16-millimeter camera.

After graduating from Hofstra, Coppola moved to the West Coast to attend film school at the University of California—Los Angeles (UCLA). But he was impatient to escape the classroom and start making his own films. He signed on to direct an adult movie, which caught the attention of low-budget impresario Roger Corman. Corman hired Coppola to work on his movies as a jack-of-all-trades. Coppola's strong work ethic prompted Corman to allow him to direct his own picture. The result was Dementia 13 (1963), a gory horror movie Coppola had written in three days and shot for $40,000. That year, Coppola married Eleanor Neil, his set decorator on the picture.

Establishes His Reputation

Coppola submitted his next film, You're a Big Boy Now (1966), as his master's thesis at UCLA. The sweet coming-of-age drama anticipated the style and themes of The Graduate and received many positive reviews. Warner Brothers selected the promising young filmmaker to direct their big-budget musical Finian's Rainbow. But the subject matter took Coppola away from his strengths and the film was savaged by critics. The Rain People (1969) represented Coppola's attempt to return to "personal" (not to mention low-budget) moviemaking. A somber travelogue about a housewife on the run, the movie was made up as the crew went along, evidence of Coppola's flair for the experimental.

Coppola might have remained in an avant-garde rut were it not for his next project. As co-writer of the mega-hit biopic Patton, Coppola earned an Academy Award and added considerable luster to a tarnished reputation. Paramount Pictures next asked him to take the reins on its screen adaptation of Mario Puzo's best selling novel The Godfather. It would prove to be Coppola's greatest triumph.

Glory Gained from Godfather

Filming The Godfather posed many challenges. Coppola fought hard to retain control of casting decisions. He also resisted studio attempts to cut his budget and make the setting more contemporary. Italian-American groups protested the depiction of organized crime in the original screenplay. Even Coppola's own crew at times lost faith in his ability to control the mammoth project. Nevertheless, he steered the movie to completion.

The Godfather tells the sweeping story of the Corleone crime family, focusing on the ascension of young Michael Corleone to control of the family's empire. It is a violent epic on the scale of classic American films like Gone with the Wind. Propelling the drama forward are powerful performances by Marlon Brando and newcomer Al Pacino. At its release in 1972, critics were floored by the film's depiction of America's criminal underworld. The film became a sensational hit with moviegoers as well, and the The Godfather swept the Academy Awards that year. Coppola was a winner in the Best Director and Best Screenplay categories; suddenly he was the toast of Hollywood.

Now a wealthy man thanks to the success of The Godfather, Coppola could at last pick and choose his own projects. In 1974 he made The Conversation, an edgy drama about secret surveillance. He returned to the world of organized crime with 1974's The Godfather Part II, which continued the Corleone family saga through the 1950s and, via flashback, to the early 1900s. The intricate storyline resonated once again with critics and moviegoers alike. Coppola accepted a second Academy Award statuette as Best Director of 1974. The haunting score, by Nino Rota and family patriarch Carmine Coppola, also took home an "Oscar."

Apocalypse and Aftermath

Coppola's next project was Apocalypse Now, an ambitious film about the Vietnam War. But the expensive production was bedeviled by bad weather, budget overruns, and the bizarre behavior of its star, Marlon Brando. The release date was pushed back repeatedly as Coppola struggled to come up with an ending for the film. When it finally reached the screen in 1979, the film was hailed by many critics as a visionary masterpiece. It was nominated for several Academy Awards and did well at the box office. But many in Hollywood never forgave Coppola for letting the project get so out of control. For many years, Coppola could not get funding from a major studio to make his movies.

Unable to make mainstream movies, Coppola instead crafted independent films which he released through his own Zoetrope Studio. These pictures, including Rumble Fish (1983) and The Cotton Club (1984), received mixed reviews and had many wondering if Coppola was a spent force in the industry. He did manage to create a hit with the offbeat Peggy Sue Got Married (1985), about a woman who travels back in time to her own high school days, but the project seemed like a work-for hire. Closer to Coppola's heart was Tucker: The Man and His Dream, a 1988 biopic about a maverick automaker who could have been a stand-in for the director himself.

Return to Prominence via Godfather III

In 1990 Coppola completed The Godfather Part III. While not as lavishly praised as the previous two installments, it nevertheless was a box office success and won back the confidence of the major studios. While receiving mixed critical response, his Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) helped solidify Coppola's comeback. This lush, gory version of the horror classic was undermined by some poor performances but widely praised for its visual style. Audiences flocked to see stars Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves, made the film a major hit, and returned Coppola to the ranks of "bankable" directors.

As the 1990s rolled on, Coppola continued to turn out Hollywood productions. The comedy Jack (1994) utilized the talents of Robin Williams, while The Rainmaker (1996) adapted the work of best-selling novelist John Grisham. Finally out of debt and at ease working for the major studios, Coppola in his late 50s seemed content with his cinematic legacy. He expanded his interests into publishing in 1997 with Zoetrope Short Stories, a magazine dedicated to literary, not Hollywood, material. "Coppola is hoping to revive the literary tradition of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, … and maybe make a good movie in the process," noted Leslie Alan Horvitz in Insight on the News. In 1998 Coppola helped launch the first Classically Independent Film Festival in San Francisco, California; films shown included One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Diner. Out-side the film industry, Coppola is the owner of a California winery that produces wine under the Niebaum-Coppola label.

Further Reading

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 16, Gale, 1981.

Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 13, Gale, 1995.

Cowie, Peter, Coppola: A Biography, Scribner, 1990.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 44: American Screen-writers, Second Series, Gale, 1986.

Lewis, Jon, Whom God Wishes to Destroy: Francis Coppola and the New Hollywood, Duke University Press, 1995.

Thomson, David, The Biographical Dictionary of Film, Knopf, 1994.

American Film, April 1983.

Chicago Tribune, January 18, 1982; February 11, 1982; October 5, 1986; March 3, 1989; December 15, 1990.

Entertainment Weekly, February 7, 1997.

Film Quarterly, spring 1986.

Insight on the News, May 12, 1997.

Los Angeles Times, December 19, 1988; January 26, 1990; December 30, 1990.

New York Times, August 12, 1979; August 15, 1979; March 18, 1980; March 21, 1980; November 23, 1980; February 11, 1982; April 16, 1982; May 3, 1987; March 1, 1989; March 12, 1989; December 23, 1990; December 25, 1990.

Premiere, September 1996.

Time, April 17, 1995.

Times (London), January 21, 1988; November 14, 1988; February 11, 1989.

Vanity Fair, June 1990; December 1995; July 1996; April 1998.

Variety, November 17, 1997; January 26, 1998.

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"Francis Ford Coppola." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Francis Ford Coppola." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved August 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/francis-ford-coppola

Coppola, Francis Ford

Francis Ford Coppola

Born: April 7, 1939
Detroit, Michigan

American director and writer

Schooled in low-budget filmmaking, Francis Ford Coppola has gone on to direct some of the most financially successful and critically praised movies in U.S. cinematic history, including The Godfather and Apocalypse Now.

Raised in show-business family

Francis Ford Coppola was born in Detroit, Michigan, on April 7, 1939. His father, Carmine, was a musician who played with Arturo Toscanini's NBC Symphony Orchestra. His mother, Italia, was an actress who at one time had appeared in films. Coppola's younger sister, Talia, would later follow her mother's footsteps into the world of film acting, changing her name to Talia Shire and starring in the film Rocky, with Sylvester Stallone (1946). A few years after his birth, Coppola and his family moved to the suburbs of New York City, where he would spend most of his childhood.

All of the Coppola children were driven to succeed in show business and the arts. Coppola's father, who had achieved success as a musician for hire but longed to compose scores (write music) of his own, led by example. Francis seemed the least likely to fulfill his father's dreams, however. He was an awkward child who did poorly at school. At age nine he was stricken with polio, a crippling disease that usually occurs in children. The illness forced him into bed for a year, a period during which he played with puppets, watched television, and became lost in an inner fantasy world. After his recovery he began to make movies with an eight-millimeter camera and a tape recorder. Francis was fascinated by movies as a child. Some of his favorites were Dracula, The Thief of Baghdad, and Walt Disney cartoons.

Student of film

While a student at Great Neck High School on Long Island, Coppola began to study filmmaking more formally. He soon became enchanted with the work of director Sergei Eisenstein (18981948). Coppola also trained in music and theater to round out his education. In 1956 he enrolled at Hofstra College in Hempstead, New York, on a drama scholarship. Here he acted in and directed student productions, and he founded his own cinema (movie) workshop. So determined was Coppola to direct his own pictures that he once sold his car to pay for a 16-millimeter camera.

After graduating from Hofstra, Coppola moved to the West Coast to attend film school at the University of California in Los Angeles, California. But he was impatient to escape the classroom and start making his own films. He signed on to direct an adult movie, which caught the attention of low-budget director Roger Corman. Corman hired Coppola to work on his movies as a jack-of-all-trades (a person who can do many different jobs). Coppola's strong work ethic prompted Corman to allow him to direct his own picture. The result was Dementia 13 (1963), a gory horror movie Coppola had written in three days and shot for forty thousand dollars. That year Coppola married Eleanor Neil, his set decorator on the picture.

Establishes his reputation

Warner Brothers selected the promising young filmmaker to direct their big-budget musical Finian's Rainbow. But the subject matter took Coppola away from his strengths and the film was panned (not favorably reviewed) by critics. The Rain People (1969) represented Coppola's attempt to return to "personal," not to mention low-budget, moviemaking. A travelogue about a housewife on the run, the movie was made up as the crew went along, evidence of Coppola's flair for the experimental.

Coppola might have remained in an avant-garde (inventive and experimental) rut were it not for his next project. As cowriter of the mega-hit Patton, Coppola earned an Academy Award and quickly restored his reputation. Paramount Pictures next asked him to direct its screen adaptation of Mario Puzo's best-selling novel, The Godfather. It would prove to be Coppola's greatest triumph.

Glory gained from The Godfather

Filming The Godfather posed many challenges. Coppola fought hard to control the casting decisions. He also resisted studio attempts to cut his budget and to update the setting. Italian American groups protested the depiction of organized crime in the original screenplay. Even Coppola's own crew at times lost faith in his ability to control the enormous project. Nevertheless, he steered the movie to completion.

The Godfather tells the sweeping story of the Corleone crime family, focusing on the rise of young Michael Corleone to control of the family's empire. Propelling the drama forward are powerful performances by Marlon Brando (1924) and newcomer Al Pacino (1940). After its release in 1972, critics were floored by the film's depiction of America's criminal underworld. The film became a sensational hit with moviegoers as well, and The Godfather swept the Academy Awards that year. Coppola was a winner in the Best Director and Best Screenplay categories.

Now a wealthy man thanks to the success of The Godfather, Coppola could at last pick and choose his own projects. In 1974 he made The Conversation, an edgy drama about secret surveillance (observation). Coppola returned to the world of organized crime with 1974's The Godfather Part II, which won him a second Academy Award statuette as Best Director of 1974.

Apocalypse and aftermath

Coppola's next project was Apocalypse Now, a film about the Vietnam War (195575; a war fought between United States-aided South Vietnam against the Communist forces of North Vietnam). But the expensive production was slowed by bad weather, budget overruns, and the bizarre behavior of its star, Marlon Brando. When it finally reached the screen in 1979, many critics hailed the film as a masterpiece. It was nominated for several Academy Awards and did well at the box office.

Coppola then moved into the world of independent films, which he released through his own Zoetrope Studio. These pictures, including Rumble Fish (1983) and The Cotton Club (1984), received mixed reviews and had many wondering if Coppola was washed up. He did manage to create a hit with the offbeat Peggy Sue Got Married (1985), a film about a woman who travels back in time to her high school days. The project seemed like a work-for-hire, however. Closer to Coppola's heart was Tucker: The Man and His Dream, a 1988 picture about an automaker who could have been a stand-in for the director himself.

Later works

In 1990 Coppola completed The Godfather Part III. While not as praised as the previous two installments, it nevertheless was a box office success and won back the confidence of the major studios. His Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) received mixed critical response, but helped solidify his comeback.

Out of debt and at ease working for the major studios, Coppola seems content with his cinematic legacy. He expanded his interests into publishing in 1997 with Zoetrope Short Stories, a magazine dedicated to literary, not Hollywood, material.

In 1998 Coppola helped launch the first Classically Independent Film Festival in San Francisco, California. Outside the film industry Coppola is the owner of a California winery that produces wine under the Niebaum-Coppola label. In 2001 Coppola rereleased Apocalypse Now, with an additional forty-nine minutes of footage not included in the original movie. Just like the original, the rerelease was a hit with both critics and the public alike.

For More Information

Cowie, Peter. Coppola: A Biography. New York: Scribner, 1990.

Lewis, Jon. Whom God Wishes to Destroy: Francis Coppola and the New Hollywood. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995.

Schumacher, Michael. Francis Ford Coppola: A Filmmaker's Life. New York: Crown, 1999.

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Coppola, Francis Ford

Francis Ford Coppola (kō´pə´lə), 1939–, American film director, b. Detroit. Coppola began his career directing low-budget films and working on screenplays for other directors. He won his first Academy Award for Patton (1970) and firmly established his reputation with The Godfather (1972; Academy Award). In this film, he converted an unambitious novel about the Corleone family and organized crime into a subtle portrait of the immigrant experience in America. He created an even more expansive version of this story in The Godfather Part II (1974; Academy Award). Apocalypse Now (1979) was Coppola's ambitious effort to show Vietnam as America's Heart of Darkness, with Joseph Conrad's story providing the narrative skeleton; an expanded cut of the film entitled Apocalypse Now Redux was released 22 years later. His post-Apocalypse films, including The Outsiders (1983), The Cotton Club (1984), and Tucker (1987), varied widely in quality, but he returned to top form with The Godfather, Part III (1990), which brought the story of the Corleones into the 1980s. In 1992, Coppola turned to the horror genre with his version of the vampire classic, Bram Stoker's Dracula. Thereafter he focused more on the making of wines from his California vineyards. In 2007 he released Youth without Youth, a complex film about a man who mysteriously recovers his lost youth, adapted from a novella by Mircea Eliade.

See biography by M. Schumacher (1999).

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Coppola, Francis Ford

Coppola, Francis Ford (1939– ) US film director, producer, and screenwriter. In 1969 Coppola established Zoetrope, an independent production company. He won an Academy Award for best picture for The Godfather (1972). Its sequel, Godfather II (1974), won him Oscars for best picture and best director. Coppola followed this success with Apocalypse Now (1975). Other films include Rumble Fish (1983), Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), and Dracula (1992).

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