For cinephiles, one of the most beloved films to come out in the last 50 years is The Godfather. It tells a grand story in a very intimate way. Many people would go so far as to say it is the best movie ever made. After having seen it, I can understand why. Now, just as we celebrate the Golden Anniversary of The Godfather, we have a 10-episode series from the perspective of The Godfather’s Producer, Albert S. Ruddy, and all of the difficulties he had in getting this movie made.
Al Ruddy works for the computer company Rand, but he has grander ambitions. He wants to make movies. After collaborating with a friend, Ruddy pitches the series Hogan’s Heroes to CBS and thus starts his career in Hollywood. He manages to get on the good side of Paramount President Robert Evans and is allowed to produce movies. Sadly, the reception for these movies is relatively poor. At the same time, Evans is feeling some heat from the owner of the studio, Charles Bluhdorn. The studio doesn’t rate very highly and is still riding on the fading success of Rosemary’s Baby.
Over in New York, struggling author Mario Puzo is in serious debt and owes money to some bookies. His last book was a flop, so Puzo writes a book about The Mafia. He calls it The Godfather. Puzo’s book is a huge success, but it doesn’t go well with Italian-Americans, especially those in the mob.
Back in Hollywood, Paramount options the rights to adapt The Godfather into a film (Warner Bros. Studio wants it very badly) but Evans chooses to have the movie developed and offers the producing job to Ruddy. When the adaptation of the book isn’t going well (Puzo convinces Ruddy to let him do the screenplay), Ruddy convinces Francis Ford Coppola to jump in with the screenwriting and the directing. Unfortunately, the mob in New York learns about this movie and makes Ruddy an offer he can’t refuse… Stop making The Godfather.
I became quite the fan after having watched The Godfather years ago. So naturally, when I learned about this docuseries, I made a point to put it on my TV watching schedule. I didn’t know what to expect (my husband thought it would be tedious) except that it would dramatize the making of this incredible film. That was enough for me, given my starry-eyed love for the entertainment industry. What we saw was so much more. The bulk of this series is set in Hollywood and is filmed, naturally enough, throughout the Paramount Studio lot. This was a delight to watch, having twice taken the studio tour and immediately recognizing many locations on their lot. This series also has rich production values, given that it takes place in the last ’60s and very early ’70s. Watching this series was like taking a trip in a time machine to an era that most people don’t even remember. Just the setting and backdrop made these first three episodes interesting to watch, but there is also the cast.
Starting with Al Ruddy, we have Miles Teller. He has certainly matured since making a name for himself in Whiplash. Here he channels not only Al Ruddy but also the mannerisms and swagger of a hotshot movie producer from that time. He displays arrogance in approaching other people and concern when afraid that he might be fired. Then we have British actor Matthew Goode as studio bigshot Robert Evans. Goode has made quite a name for himself in the horror series A Discovery Of Witches as vampire Matthew Clairmont. He cracked that pop-culture shell playing Ozymandias in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen and more recently played Hugh Alexander, one of the mathematicians working with Alan Turing in The Imitation Game. Goode can be a chameleon, and he certainly managed to take on the look and sound of a studio bigshot. Other people round out this tremendous cast include Juno Temple as Ruddy’s secretary/assistant Bettye McCart, Patrick Gallo as Puzo, and in a fantastic turn, Dan Fogler (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) as Coppola.
Since this series premiere, there has been some chatter as to its authenticity, especially regarding the reception by the Italian-American community of The Godfather. However, each episode is followed by a short “behind the scenes” segment where Ruddy confirms that this is how he remembers this time. Nevertheless, a series about making one of the greatest American films of all time has managed to go from being simply informative to becoming highly entertaining.
After watching the first three episodes, I am committed and excited to watch the remaining episodes of The Offer.
The Offer is available on the Paramount+ streaming service.