'Godfather' Movie Fans Discover 'Unpleasant' Truth Behind Iconic Scene

The Godfather celebrates its 50th anniversary later this year, but some fans are still discovering fascinating details about the making of Francis Ford Coppola's crime drama.

Based on Mario Puzo's 1969 novel of the same name, The Godfather was released in the summer of 1972 and went on to enjoy critical and commercial success.

Winner of the Best Picture Oscar at the Academy Awards that year, the film is notable for star turns from the likes of James Caan, Al Pacino and, most notably, Marlon Brando, who won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance as the titular Don but went on to decline the award.

Quoted and spoofed countless times in the decades since, The Godfather is full of iconic scenes, including one especially gruesome set-piece that was later lampooned in The Simpsons.

In a scene that serves as a warning of the kind of power Don Corleone (Brando) wields, a film producer by the name of Jack Woltz (John Marley) wakes one morning to find the bloodied severed head of his prize thoroughbred in his bed.

Earlier in the film, Woltz had made the unwise decision to refuse Don Corleone's request that he cast Johnny Fontane (Al Martino) in his latest film.

One of the most shocking scenes in a movie littered with moments of bloody violence, it would appear some film fans are only now discovering just how gruesome it really was.

In a post shared to Reddit, one user revealed the grim reality of the scene, writing: "the horse head discovered in the bed of a ruthless movie producer wasn't a prop: it was a real horse's head from a dog food plant in New Jersey."

This disturbing bit of behind-the-scenes trivia is confirmed as true by Nate Rawlings at Time magazine who wrote that Paramount Studios "encouraged" Coppola "to use a fake horse head, but he didn't like the mock-up."

According to Rawlings, Coppola's scouts located a horse which was ready for slaughter at "a dog-food plant in New Jersey." The art director was brought in to pick a horse that looked like the one that features in the film and reportedly told the dog food manufacturer: "When that one is slaughtered, send us the head."

Coppola, himself, is on the record as recalling that "One day, a crate with dry ice came with this horse's head in it."

The Reddit post revisiting this particular bit of trivia gained plenty of traction on social media, earning 16,800 upvotes and a variety of shocked, surprised and disgusted responses.

Akblonde907 commented: "I always thought it looked way too real" while Fictionalracingdrivr was impressed at the effort put into it, writing: "Gotta give them props for their dedication."

Mackeralscalemask was more concerned with what it must have been like on set. "I wonder what it smelled like?" they said. "He [Marley] may have got a waft of something unpleasant once he lifted up the blanket." The magnacart13 agreed: "Imagine how bad it smelled after sitting under studio lights all day."

Billbill5 was critical of the approach, writing: "Empathy for animals weren't made until 1973." Im_really_bored_rn strongly disagreed with that argument though, replying: "the horse was already dead. It's not like the filmmakers killed it, it was killed for food and the filmmakers just got the head."

Samwise777 thought this was irrelevant though, commenting: "I have empathy for all dead things" but GreyGooseSlutCaboose fired back saying they were being "unneccesarily" sensitive before adding: "Empathy for the dead is as meaningful as music for the deaf."

Some were left wishing they hadn't discovered the truth. 314159265358979326 wrote: "I've got to say, of all the spoilers I've ever heard, the one that led to the most disappointment was knowing the nature of this scene." Lemontest concurred: "I would like to unlearn this fact."

While the horse's head scene proved an integral part of the film, many scenes did end up on the cutting room floor, including these five.

You can learn more about how Brando and Coppola combined to create an all-time classic here.

James Caan and Marlon Brando in Godfather.
From left to right, Salvatore Corsitto as Bonasera, James Caan as Santino 'Sonny' Corleone and Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone in "The Godfather." A gruesome detail from the making of Francis Ford Coppola's film has come to light. ilver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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