Why Frank Sinatra Was Unable To Support The Godfather’s Author

Mario Puzo once stated that his mother had two portraits in the kitchen. One was of the Pope, and the other was of Frank Sinatra. Due to this, it crushed his heart that the legendary singer didn’t like him. It is a curious and fascinating story.

Mario Puzo / Frank Sinatra
Source: Getty Images

The renowned jazz vocalist took issue with a few facts in Puzo’s novel, and its film adaptation that he believed were mainly directed at him. Was Sinatra right to take issue with parts of the story? We wanted to find out more about this feud.

Frank Sinatra and Mario Puzo

In collaboration with filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo wrote the screenplay for his 1969 novel, winning an Academy Award. Observers from all walks of life were impressed by the transformation of the film from a paperbound tragedy to a flourishing cinematic monument.

Mario Puzo proudly holds his Oscar for best screenplay.
Photo by Bettmann/Getty Images

It is about the world of the Mafia in America, and the dialogue and the logic of “The Godfather” ring accurate enough to raise the suspicion that, at least by hearsay, Mario Puzo knows his subject well. Sinatra, as it turned out, disagreed with the writing.

Similarities between Frank Sinatra and Johnny Fontaine

Johnny Fontaine is a character you might recognize if you’ve seen or read “The Godfather.” In the tale, Fontaine was a well-known musician whose gorgeous appearance and fantastic voice paralyzed women and pushed them to insanity with his charms.

Johnny Fontaine is singing at a wedding in a scene from The Godfather.
Source: Paramount Pictures

He was a scotch and cigarette-smoking ladies’ man that every guy aspired to be and a man whom every woman wished to seduce. Sounds recognizable? Well, it certainly did to Frank Sinatra. Was it arrogance from Sinatra to think the character was based on his, or was it true?

Frank Sinatra’s Allegations against Mario Puzo

The “New York, New York” singer allegedly accused Mario Puzo of creating a character that was nothing more than a sick, warped imitation of himself. Despite the author’s insistence that this wasn’t the case, Sinatra wasn’t interested in listening to an explanation.

Al Martino / Frank Sinatra
Source: Getty Images

Al Martino, who played Johnny Fontaine in the movie, was even threatened by Sinatra with ex-communication from the Las Vegas nightclubs where he frequently performed if he consented to play the part. It’s unclear why Sinatra was so upset, even if the character was based on him.

Mario Puzo’s Stern Words from Sinatra

Frank Sinatra and Mario Puzo once had an unpleasant encounter at Chasen’s in Beverly Hills, where all of their simmering resentment finally erupted. Puzo’s buddy saw they were dining in the same place and wanted to introduce them to one another, even though she was unaware of their animosity.

A portrait of Mario Puzo.
Photo by Ken Schles/Getty Images

It didn’t go well, as you might anticipate, and witnesses reported hearing “shouts of abuse” coming from the opposite side of the room as Sinatra started verbally attacking the man. The iconic exchange between Puzo and Sinatra was dramatized in Paramount’s well-liked new show “The Offer.”