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The Godfather Mystery Goof
December 16, 2001 11:49 AM   Subscribe

The Godfather Mystery Goof is now solved. Thanks to Roger Ebert, Francis Ford Coopola, and Mike Spearns from Newfoundland.
posted by adrober (16 comments total)

 
Cameron Crowe: "...when we showed 'Almost Famous' to Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin last year, at the point Billy Crudup says 'I never said I was a "golden god," ' Plant happily cried out, 'Well I did!' And he was right."

Robert Plant rocks :)
posted by riffola at 12:02 PM on December 16, 2001


A much more interesting question in the Ebert column asks why Canada gets "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" and "The Madness of George III" while America is shown "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and "The Madness of King George." I knew Americans are considered oafish, arrogant, puritanical, small-minded and provincial around the globe, but this is the first time I've been confronted by the fact that the world thinks we're stupid, too. Not to say some part of me doesn't agree.
posted by luser at 12:51 PM on December 16, 2001


Sorry to push the thread off course. Didn't seem like a proper standalone FPP.
posted by luser at 12:52 PM on December 16, 2001


American readers might be scared off by the word ''philosopher.''

I was scared off because it was a book. A Book for heavens sake! With words!
The horror. The horror.
posted by fuq at 1:15 PM on December 16, 2001


(Adrober: lest you think nobody cares about the actual subject of your FPP, I liked it. Thanks!)
posted by arco at 1:23 PM on December 16, 2001


The changing of movie titles is fairly routine around the globe. The relatively minor changes made to the titles of "Harry Potter" and "George III" in the US are nothing compared to what I saw in Germany. For example, the Kathleen Turner film "V.I. Warshawski" became "Detectiv in Strumpfhosen" (Detective in Pantyhose) and "Groundhog's Day" morphed into "Und Taglich Gruss das Murmeltier" (And Daily Greet the Earth Animal).

Also, films titles may sound unpleasant when phoneticized in the local language. In Japan "Buckaroo Banzai" was too close to "Bakayaroo Banzai" which colloquially could be translated into something like "Asshole Hooray".
posted by MrBaliHai at 4:04 PM on December 16, 2001


MrBaliHai, the difference between your examples and that in Ebert's column: We're talking about translation between here and *Canada.*
posted by luser at 4:31 PM on December 16, 2001


I knew Americans are considered oafish, arrogant, puritanical, small-minded and provincial around the globe

Have often have advertisers and marketers ever given any credit to americans? I don't see this about global perception as much as how the american marketing machine works. Someone in a meeting brings up the idea that people might think that the 'III' in The Madness of King George means its a sequel and off it goes.
posted by skallas at 5:18 PM on December 16, 2001


We're talking about translation between here and *Canada.*

Yes, and my point was that these were very minor changes compared to what routinely goes on elsewhere in the world.
posted by MrBaliHai at 5:40 PM on December 16, 2001


Yes, and my point was that these were very minor changes compared to what routinely goes on elsewhere in the world.

In those other countries titles must be translated, and must make sense across different cultures. Even though Canadians speak the same language (mostly) and share the same culture (mostly), the titles must apparently STILL be changed for no other reason that because apparently we are dumber than them. This was my point.

Perhaps you are Canadian, if so, apologies for my unclear pidgen English!
posted by luser at 6:18 PM on December 16, 2001


"Und Taglich Gruss das Murmeltier"

Actually, that's "and daily greet the marmot".
posted by EngineBeak at 10:28 PM on December 16, 2001


I knew Americans are considered oafish, arrogant, puritanical, small-minded and provincial around the globe, but this is the first time I've been confronted by the fact that the world thinks we're stupid, too.

To be accurate, luser: you've just said the world thinks we're stupid (you called it a "fact"). The letter in Ebert's column labels this [not] underestimating the intelligence of the American public and the assumption [American audiences] are too stupid to handle the concept of the philosopher's stone of alchemical fame, or to realize seeing George III doesn't mean you've missed parts I and II. Are these decisions made because the suits think I'm really dumb, or is it because they are?

The writer, in other words, frames the question correctly, though still prejudicially.

Ebert wraps it up with Let's say they think you're as dumb as they are when they make the decisions, which sort of splits the difference.

But no evidence is presented that the the title changes were made because either a) Americans are dumb, or b) studio execs think Americans are dumb. Rather, the title changes were likely made because they sold more tickets when tested in focus groups, which is a dumbness-neutral judgement. One that used to make the rounds was the Bond film Licence to Kill, which was released in Britain as Licence Revoked. You still get people on the Bond newsgroup asking whether that means a) that Americans don't know what "revoked" means, or b) that Brits think a) is true, or c) more broadly that Americans are dumb, when none of the above is true. It's just that focus groups likely persuaded the studio that a more action-oriented title would sell more tickets.

If Canadians and Brits want to continue believing that because they get different titles for American films, that makes them smarter, well, whether or not that's the reason ... they can just go on believing that they're smarter.
posted by dhartung at 11:10 PM on December 16, 2001


I think that it's perfectly reasonable to take the "III" off the end of a movie title that isn't the third in a series. The truth is that there are a lot of sequels, too many to keep track of for most people. And just because a 21st century American doesn't immediately know that King George III was insane, does not make that American stupid. Brits and Canadians are probably more likely to know, because British history is given greater emphasis in those places than it is here.

As far as Harry Potter goes, the change was made when the books were published, long before the movie went into production. I don't know why, though.

I'd also like to point out that American film titles are largely a product of our culture...we have our own way of interpreting their meaning. Titles of non-American films tend to be less abstract than, to take two examples I know about for sure, Random Hearts and Heathers. Heathers became "Lethal Woman" in Holland (where almost everyone speaks English fluently), not because Dutch people are stupid, but because to them, calling a movie Heathers is just weird, and it doesn't send the same message there that it does here. In some Latin American countries, all Arnold Schwarzenegger films since Terminator have the word "devil" in the title. This is not because people in those countries are not capable of seeing the same actor as different characters. It's because of a cultural tradition regarding the way they perceive movies and movie titles.

I knew Americans are considered oafish, arrogant, puritanical, small-minded and provincial around the globe


Oafish, arrogant, and small-minded, maybe. But not puritanical (to take the most obvious example, American girls are generally thought be very easy to get into bed...not saying it's true, but I've traveled quite a bit and that is a wide-spread stereotype), and certainly not provincial...a country that uses its military and economic might to inflict its will on other cultures is not provincial, but Imperial.
posted by bingo at 1:13 AM on December 17, 2001


From an interview with JK Rowling herself:

Why did they change the name of the book from HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE to HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE in the US?

Well, once again that was my American editor's choice. He felt "philosopher's stone" gave a false impression of what the book was about. He wanted something more suggestive of magic in the title, so we tried a few alternatives and my favorite was "sorcerer's stone."
posted by dness2 at 5:02 AM on December 17, 2001


did anyone else notice that the Japanese Fargo-treasure hunter seems to have been found dead?
posted by o2b at 7:11 AM on December 17, 2001


Too weird. I just rewatched The Godfather about a month ago and noticed this very image fluke for the first time. A search of the internet turned up nothing on why this had happened (and hardly any mentions of it at all). Glad to get this cleared up, as I was mighty puzzled by it for a few days.
posted by finn at 6:59 PM on December 17, 2001


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