Mario Puzo

Mario Gianluigi Puzo (/ˈpz/; October 15, 1920 – July 2, 1999) was an American author, screenwriter, and journalist. He is known for his crime novels about the Italian-American Mafia and Sicilian Mafia, most notably The Godfather (1969), which he later co-adapted into a trilogy directed by Francis Ford Coppola. He received the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for the first film in 1972 and Part II in 1974. Puzo also wrote the original screenplay for the 1978 Superman film. His final novel, The Family, was released posthumously in 2001.[2]

Mario Puzo
Puzo in 1996
Puzo in 1996
BornMario Gianluigi Puzo
(1920-10-15)October 15, 1920
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedJuly 2, 1999(1999-07-02) (aged 78)
West Bay Shore, New York, U.S.
Pen nameMario Cleri
OccupationNovelist, screenwriter, journalist
GenreCrime fiction
Notable worksThe Godfather (1969)
Erika Puzo
m. 1946; died 1978)
PartnerCarol Gino[1]


Early lifeEdit

Puzo was born in the Hell's Kitchen area of New York City into a poor family from Pietradefusi, Province of Avellino, Campania, Italy.[3] Many of his books draw heavily on his heritage. After graduating from the City College of New York, he joined the US Army Air Forces in World War II. Because of his poor eyesight, he was not allowed to undertake combat duties, but he was made a public relations officer stationed in Germany. Puzo then returned to New York where he attended the New School for Social Research then Columbia University.[1]


In 1950, his first short story, "The Last Christmas," was published in American Vanguard. After the war, he wrote his first book, The Dark Arena, which was published in 1955.

During the 1950s and the early 1960s, Puzo worked as a writer/editor for publisher Martin Goodman's Magazine Management Company. Puzo, along with other writers like Bruce Jay Friedman, worked for the company line of men's magazines, pulp titles like Male, True Action, and Swank. Under the pseudonym Mario Cleri, Puzo wrote World War II adventure features for True Action.[4]

Puzo's most famous work, The Godfather (1969), was encouraged by a suggestion of the publisher of his The Fortunate Pilgrim (1965), who thought that if there had been more Mafia in that book, it would have been more successful. A story outline was prepared and presented to the publisher, who rejected it. After several publishers were approached, Putnam editors met with him without having read the outline. He told them a few stories, and the project was approved. With the advance, he got on with the project.[citation needed] He had heard anecdotes about Mafia organizations during his time in pulp journalism.

He said in an interview with Larry King that the critical reception of his previous two books, without the monetary success to follow, made the issue all the more important in the next work to support his five children on a government clerk's salary. He was looking to write something that would appeal to the masses.[5] He found his audience with the novel, which became the top bestseller for months on the New York Times Best Seller List. The book was later developed into the film The Godfather, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. The film received three awards of the eleven Oscar category nominations, including Puzo's Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Coppola and Puzo then collaborated on sequels to the original film, The Godfather Part II and The Godfather Part III.

Puzo wrote the first draft of the script for the 1974 disaster film Earthquake, but he was unable to continue working on it because of his commitment to The Godfather Part II. Puzo also wrote the original screenplay for Richard Donner's Superman, which then also included the plot for Superman II, as they were originally written as one film. He also collaborated on the stories for the 1982 film A Time to Die and the 1984 Francis Ford Coppola film The Cotton Club.

In 1991, Puzo's speculative fiction The Fourth K was published; it hypothesizes a member of the Kennedy family who becomes President of the United States early in the 2000s.[6]

Puzo never saw the publication of his penultimate book, Omertà, but the manuscript was finished before his death, as was the manuscript for The Family. However, in a review originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Jules Siegel, who had worked closely with Puzo at Magazine Management Company, speculated that Omertà may have been completed by "some talentless hack." Siegel also acknowledged the temptation to "rationalize avoiding what is probably the correct analysis – that [Puzo] wrote it and it is terrible."[7]


Puzo died of heart failure on July 2, 1999 at his home on Manor Lane in West Bay Shore, New York. His family now lives in East Islip, New York.




Short storiesEdit

All short stories, except "The Last Christmas", were written under the pseudonym Mario Cleri.

  • "The Last Christmas" (1950)
  • "John 'Red' Marston's Island of Delight" (1964)
  • "Big Mike's Wild Young Sister-in-law" (1964)
  • "The Six Million Killer Sharks That Terrorize Our Shores" (1966)
  • "Trapped Girls in the Riviera's Flesh Casino" (1967)
  • "The Unkillable Six" (1967)
  • "Girls of Pleasure Penthouse" (1968)
  • "Order Lucy For Tonight" (1968)
  • "12 Barracks of Wild Blondes" (1968)
  • "Charlie Reese's Amazing Escape from a Russian Death Camp" (1969)

Screenplays and film adaptationsEdit

Video game adaptationsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Paglia, Camille (May 8, 1997). "It All Comes Back To Family". New York Times.
  2. ^ Sharp, Michael D. (2006). Popular Contemporary Writers. Marshall Cavendish. p. 1141. ISBN 9780761476092.
  3. ^ Homberger, Eric (July 5, 1999). "Mario Puzo: The author of the Godfather, the book the Mafia loved", The Guardian. Accessed August 10, 2009. "Born one of 12 children, Puzo grew up in Hell's Kitchen on the west side of Manhattan."
  4. ^ Flamm, Matthew (June 2, 2002). "A Demimonde in Twilight", New York Times. Accessed March 15, 2009.
  5. ^ Larry King Live on CNN (August 2, 1996). "Mario Puzo Interview" transcript. Accessed September 2, 2014 – via
  6. ^ "Mario Puzo", in "Obituaries", in Newsmakers: The People Behind Today's Headlines, 2000, Issue 1, Farmington Hills, MI: Gale.
  7. ^ Siegel, Jules (July 9, 2000). "The computer wrote it". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved February 10, 2015 – via Book@arts.

Further readingEdit

  • Moore, M. J. (March 8, 2019). Mario Puzo: An American Writer's Quest. ISBN 9781942762638.

External linksEdit