Thinking about the interview w/ Tom Santopietro about his book The Godfather Effect, the lack of true Italian-American representation before these Coppola movies.
I think Frank Sinatra is one of the first big movie stars allowed to keep his Italian name, and to kind of show that kind brash swagger we associate with Italian-Americans. Both Dean Martin and Tony Bennett were Italian-American singers who changed their to something WASPier.
If you take a look at this list of Italian-American actors, the bigger stars born before 1930 mostly had to change their names: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Italian-American_actors
Seems like it was OK to have an Italian name if you were more of a character actor or villain, like Cesar Romero for example. There was a certain demand for the Latin lover type or antagonistic historical figures, so his name was sort of an exotic calling card for this niche.
Ernest Borgnine, Vince Edwards, Aldo Ray, Guy Williams, and Don Amiche are all Italian-Americans who changed their names to seem less ethnic. Victor Mature is a rare example who didn't, but I suppose Mature is simply a name that doesn't look Italian even though the actor does.
Marlon Brando, for the record, is not Italian.
Sinatra is an absolute outlier of a star who was empowered to be ethnic. Maybe it was OK for him to be Italian b/c he had blue eyes.
This all leads me to James Caan (not Italian either) being credited w/ "bada-bing." I'll repost this again for Part II, but in the original Godfather thread I posted a link to the Oxford English Dictionary giving the credit in 1965 to Italian-American comedian Pat Cooper (given name Pasquale Caputo). "1965 P. Cooper Italian Wedding in Our Hero (transcription of sound recording of comedy routine) (O.E.D. Archive) 'They never let go the envelopes. Ya gotta pull—bada-bing-a-bada-bang-a-bada-bing!'" https://www.oed.com/viewdictionaryentry/Entry/257595
After listening to Santopietro's interview, I'm guessing Caan picked that expression up hanging out w/ the Mafia preparing for his role as Sonny Corleone and just dropped it in. The fact the phrase didn't make it into mainstream media until 1972, and that it took a Jewish actor to do it, just says a lot about the lack representation in Hollywood everyone is talking about. If not for the tape recorder that caught Pat Cooper's act, there'd be no proof Caan didn't just make it up.
I'm in favor of keeping both Godfather films on the list, but I'd like to add Scorsese's Mean Streets (1973) b/c it introduced a much realer, down & dirty look at the Mafia. For all of the authentic Italian touches Coppola brings to the pictures, the world of saga is cast in the nostalgia of that rich, warm & cozy "mahogany" feel Paul refers to in the previous episode. Scorsese has just as much if not more authentic Italian touches as FFC, but it just seems a lot more like real life and normal experience...plus that role is probably what nailed DeNiro getting cast in Part II.
Of course, you have to give it up to The Godfather for coming the year before and being such a massive hit, while Mean Streets was a total flop ($41k global box office against a $500k budget). On that level, it's hard to compare the movies in their affect on Italian-American culture and its place in the mainstream. The podcast mentions the Godfather Saga TV cut, and just think of how often the movies have consistently played on television over the years. The movies are a part of our lives and I think the interview showed how proud it makes Italian-Americans and how much it defines their sense of nobility. Meanwhile, most people haven't seen or maybe even heard of Mean Streets, aside from Scorsese and DeNiro fans, and that's kind of a shame considering how big Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and GoodFellas are in the collective consciousness.
For good or bad, I think the AFI 100 is really about deep culture penetration. That's why the Simpsons is such a good litmus test. The list is a greatest hits collection. It's not the best movies you've never seen. If you haven't heard of a movie on the list, it's probably b/c you're young. Every movie on the list was huge at some point, even if the movie had to fall into the public domain and become a hit on TV or something. It's a hall of fame, not a hall of justice.