Thursday, January 19, 2012

Only now does it occur to me... THE GODFATHER!

Only now does it occur to me... that Sterling Hayden's Captain McClusky is the most lovable character in THE GODFATHER.

At first glance, it might not seem like it's the case, but hear me out. When I first saw the film sometime in the early 90s, I had no idea who Sterling Hayden was. Subsequent viewings upgraded him to "the guy from DR. STRANGELOVE" and later to "the guy in all those films noir" and finally, ultimately, to "Sterling mutherfucken Hayden." Yes, I became a full-fledged fanatic. You can read what I've written about him (and some of his fantastic life story) HERE.

Anyway, who is Captain McClusky? At best, a supporting role; at worst, a throwaway henchman. But to me, he's simply the bee's knees.

He first appears as a big lug police captain who's on the take from the nefarious narcotics man, Sollozzo (played by Al Lettieri, of MR. MAJESTYK and THE GETAWAY), punching devoted son Michael (Al Pacino) outside his father's hospital, and, okay, I'll admit that that's not very nice.

But look how happy he is!

Hey, though– he even apologizes later!

He's like a lovable gym teacher, or a kid's soccer coach. "Sorry I had to ride you so hard before the last game, Mikey, but you have to admit, doing those extra laps gave you back the eye of the tiger." Look at his back-slappin', "good job, son" face:

He probably just got back from Grandparents' Day at the local elementary.
Conversely, look at Pacino: planning to kill him. Plotting to bump off sweet old McClusky. What a mean guy. Yet there's a little satisfaction hidden beneath there, too. He's probably already contemplating the horrors of THE GODFATHER PART III.

Then they go to dinner. McClusky's just interested in some veal. Best in the city. Just a sweet old man eatin' some veal. Sollozzo reveals that he'd like to speak privately with Michael in Italian, and look at McClusky:

He's a "go-with-the-flow" kind of a guy. Speak your Italian, make your gangland deals, just leave me to my meal. He's simple, meat-and-potatoes. Well, mostly potatoes, if ya know what I mean, but hey, aren't we all.

Then Michael leaves to retrieve the murder weapon from the bathroom. McClusky's not worried. He frisked him already. He's frisked a thousand punks.

He's so matter-of-fact about it, too. He's not bragging. He's a humble, blue-collar hero who happens to be in the volatile business of punk-frisking. Is that any reason why he should have to die? You tell me.

Then, when Michael's been gone for an inordinate amount of time, he glances toward the bathroom.

It's not an evil glance, nor a scheming one. I think, and correct me if I'm wrong here, that it's a fatherly look. He's genuinely concerned that Michael's having some sort of an issue in the bathroom. Grandpa McClusky is here, ready and willing: need me to fix the toilet, Mikey?, having some trouble with the paper towel dispenser, Mikey?, I have a fine stool softener you can borrow if you'd like, Mikey. What a gent.

Then Michael comes out, and, after a tense moment where you're unsure if he's going to go through with it, actually going to shoot the beloved Gramps McClusky– he does.

I won't even show it here. I'm tearing up, just thinking about it. Doesn't even let him finish his bite of veal. Pretty rough stuff. Here's to you, Captain McClusky; only now does it occur to me that you're THE GODFATHER's emotional core. Or at least the core of veal-luvin', vaguely brutish grandfatherliness. Pass the Werther's.

5 comments:

manosturbo said...

I - I don't get it, but I think I do.

Daniel Wallin said...

Anyone ever wonder about how quick they get their food? It just arrives as they get there!!

Sean Gill said...

Daniel,

Ha! I never really thought about that before.

Daniel Wallin said...

Even after a bullet in the throat he had to finish chewing his delicious veal. Yummy!

Sean Gill said...

Daniel,

Indeed he is a trouper!