‘The Godfather’: Marlon Brando’s Cat Was a Non-Scripted Stray

The opening scene in The Godfather is iconic and epic. Creating epic movies involves a lot of moving parts including the actors, music, production team, and other important pieces. Some of the best scenes are not scripted. From lines to props, the actors and directors depend on what feels right to be able to create the perfect scene. The iconic cat scene is included in the Insider‘s list of trivia about filming The Godfather.

‘The Godfather’ was released in 1972

The Godfather was released in 1972. The iconic film involved the family dealings of the crime family based in 1945 New York.

Vito Corleone is the head of the family, and all decisions are running by him before any action is taken. From new girlfriends to help with movie careers and investments, Vito controls it all. When he refuses to invest in a narcotics deal, the plot thickens.

After an attempted assassination, Vito’s son takes over the family business. After Vito’s death the new family head, Michael, plots the killing of the five family heads and the war of the five families begins. Ten years the wars lasted, causing political, financial, and legal repercussions. After many deaths, including Vito, the ending leaves families in pieces and some unanswered questions.  

The non-scripted cat in ‘The Godfather’

Salvatore Corsitto and Marlon Brando in 'The Godfather'
Salvatore Corsitto and Marlon Brando in ‘The Godfather’ | CBS via Getty Images

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The opening scene of The Godfather contained one element that no one accounted for. The stray cat placed into Marlon Brando’s lap prior to shooting, reports Insider. Francis Ford Coppola found the cat while walking during the filming in Paramount. Without a word, he placed the cat into Brando’s lap and began shooting.

Coppola thought the innocent cat would show the softer side of the character Vito Corleone. The cat also became a symbol for the hidden claws Vito would later have. The effect of stroking the cat while the character debated life and death decisions made the moment an epic beginning.

Shooting the scene was not difficult, though later the actual problem with the cat was revealed. The cat purred so loud during the shooting, the lines Brando said were disjointed and marred. The scene was kept as it was and the lines were re-recorded and looped over the acting. The scene became so well known that other movies began mimicking the placement of cats with crime bosses.

Actor Marlon Brando stole the show in ‘The Godfather’

As the actor who portrayed the crime boss Vito Corleone, Brando was considered one of the greatest actors of all time. He began acting at a very young age and made his debut on the boards of Broadway in 1944.

Brando worked with Coppola a few times during his career including Apocalypse Now and The Godfather. He led a lucrative professional life and was known to have at least one soft spot in his private life. Brando was known to have a love for cats and even professed the house was the cat’s not his at one point.

Johnny Times reports Brando used cats several times in his acting career. After a long and productive life, Brando died in July 2004.

After the success of The Godfather, the story continued with The Godfather II, The Godfather III, and a recut version of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather: Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone. The franchise lived on with iconic lines and the conclusion of the epic crime story. Video games and a mini-series continued their fame and fortune and can be heard quoted by many still today. The stray cat, however, did not return for the sequels as the death of the character Vito eliminated the need for the softness.