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The Improvised Richard Castellano Line That Changed The Godfather Forever

When it comes to iconic scenes or movie lines, no film comes close to holding a candle to Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 cinematic masterpiece "The Godfather." From the legendary opening interactions between Marlon Brando's Vito Corleone and his constituents at his daughter's wedding, to the infamous horse head scene later on in the movie, Coppola's mafia crime epic is a tale filled with unforgettable moments. But there's one part of the film in particular that has continued to stand above the rest, mainly because of its improvisation. 

The scene comes after Richard Castellano's Peter Clemenza is ordered to take out Paulie Gatto as retaliation for an attack on Brando's Vito. We see Clemenza interact with his family before eventually linking up with Paulie and Rocco Lampone (Tom Rosqui). The trio drives together for a ways, with Paulie behind the wheel and Clemenza in the passenger seat. Castellano's character at one point asks to stop so he can "take a leak." It's at this precise moment, just seconds after they stop, when one of the most infamous and coldblooded lines in cinematic history gets uttered by Clemenza.

Leave the gun, take the cannoli

It's a very brief moment of dialogue that's found nowhere in the "Godfather" script or 1969 novel. Clemenza, who has just helped carry out the hit on Paulie Gatto, casually strolls up to the murder scene and asks fellow mobster Rocco Lampone to "leave the gun, take the cannoli." It's a line that has not only become synonymous with New York City mafiosos, but also movie aficionados. 

Sterling Farrance, a film writer and educator who studied at UC Berkeley, described the scene's importance in a 2018 university paper. "We can demonstrate why this scene is so important to the narrative, and we can illuminate how well executed it is; however, we may not have explained why everyone loves that quote," Farrance writes. "I think it has something to do with the economy of its language — how, in the space of six words total, we get two sentences that convey so much about the core of this remarkable film." 

As noted by Farrance, Clemenza had been asked earlier in "The Godfather" by his wife to make sure he doesn't forget to bring home some cannoli, and "in the world of The Godfather, your word is your bond." So not only is Clemenza providing a "safer state" for the Corleone family that is "more secure and without the current threat of betrayal," as Farrance describes it, he's also keeping his real family satisfied. 

"But let's be real," Farrance says. "We'd all be lying to ourselves — at least a little — if we don't admit: it's also totally badass."