FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA


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Francis Ford Coppola was born in Detroit, Michigan, USA in 1939, but he mostly grew up in Queens, New York, where his dad, Carmine, was a composer and flautist. Francis had polio as a boy, and his father got him an 9mm camera and he made his first "movie" when he was ten. He later studied film at Hofstra and then UCLA. In 1960, he creatively took the Russian science fiction (sci-fi) movie, Nebo zovyot, and re-edited it with some with new footage, and it was released as Battle Beyond the Sun. Two years later, he made two "nudie" movies, The Bellboy and the Playgirls and Tonight for Sure. He signed with Roger Corman in 1963 as an assistant director on The Terror in 1963, and that same year he directed Dementia 13. He made the transition to mainstream movies as a screenwriter, with This Property Is Condemned and Is Paris Burning?. Those led to his next movie as a director (and screenwriter) of a bigger budget movie, the quirky You're a Big Boy Now, with a great soundtrack by John Sebastian and The Lovin' Spoonful. That led to his getting to direct Finian's Rainbow, a conventional big budget musical, in 1968 and it did not "fit" Coppola very well! The following year he wrote and directed The Rain People, with James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Shirley Knight, which was critically acclaimed, but did not do well at the box office. In 1969, Coppola and friend George Lucas started an independent production company American Zoetrope. In 1970, Coppola wrote the screenplay for Patton, and won an Oscar. In 1971, he produced George Lucas' first movie, THX 1138. In 1972, Coppola was hired to write and direct The Godfather (nominated for the Best Director Academy Award for this film), and it was a huge success. This enabled him to produce George Lucas' second movie, American Graffiti, the following year. 1974 was an amazing year for Coppola! He wrote and directed both the sequel to The Godfather, and also The Conversation, one of the most interesting movies ever made! He also somehow found time to write the screenplay for The Great Gatsby! Coppola then undertook making an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and he chose to make it on location in the Phillipines. It took years to make, and although the resulting film, Apocalypse Now, had many great elements, it was a harrowing experience for all involved in its making. Coppola did not learn from his near disaster with Apocalypse Now and took on far too much starting in 1979. He executive produced The Black Stallion, Kagemusha, and Mishima, and he oversaw the U.S. re-release of Abel Gance's Napoleon, with a symphony orchestra directed by his father (I saw a performance of this in Los Angeles and thought it superb!). In 1982, Coppola invested all his money into the odd Las Vegas musical, One From the Heart. I lived in Las Vegas at that time, and Coppola accurately captured that unique city, but, alas, the movie did not find an audience, and Coppola was bankrupted. He was forced to direct two more conventional movies, The Outsiders and Rumble Fish, and both were successful. But his next movie, The Cotton Club was not, and he has only directed a dozen movies in the 26 years since, with varying degrees of success. Coppola is one of the finest directors and screenwriters of the past 40 years, and he has shown a remarkable loyalty to his family and close friends, using the same actors, and working with the same people over and over. Although he attempted more than he could manage to do on several occasions, he has a remarkable overall body of work! As of 2020, he is still alive at the age of 80.
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