HOLLYWOOD -- In the 1972 film ``Play It Again, Sam,'' Woody Allen's nebbish hero was so obsessed with Humphrey Bogart in ``Casablanca'' that he enlisted the ghost of the legendary '40s tough guy to coach him on how to impress girls.
``Casablanca'' and Bogey may have been the role models for Allen's generation, but as director Nora Ephron cleverly illustrates in her latest film, ``You've Got Mail,'' which stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, it's Francis Ford Coppola's Oscar-winning 1972 classic ``The Godfather'' that's become the ultimate guy's movie.
Ephron also used a popular movie in 1993's ``Sleepless in Seattle'' to point out the differences between men and women's tastes. In ``Sleepless,'' women blubber over the 1957 Cary Grant-Deborah Kerr weepy, ``An Affair to Remember.'' Just as the men are clueless about the appeal of that chick flick, Ryan's perky bookstore owner in ``You've Got Mail'' is in the dark about ``The Godfather.''
In ``You've Got Mail,'' Hanks plays Joe Fox, owner of a corporate book chain who is opening a huge new store in New York's Upper West Side. Ryan's Kathleen Kelly owns a small children's bookstore threatened by the opening of Fox Books. However, neither knows that they are e-mail pen pals.
When Kelly discovers Fox's identity after having met him in her store, she tells him she wouldn't have talked to him: ``I didn't know who you were with,'' she says. That, of course, reminds Fox of a line from ``The Godfather.'' He tells her that is what movie producer John Woltz told Corleone ``family attorney'' Tom Hagen when Hagen arrived in Hollywood to persuade him to cast the Godfather's godson, Johnny Fontane.
Fox also gives godfatherly e-mail advice to Kelly to ``go to the mattresses'' to save her business from bankruptcy and go to war against her competitor. When Kelly asks Fox what is it with men and ``The Godfather,'' he informs her that it's the movie equivalent of I Ching -- the epitome of wisdom. If anyone has a problem, the answer can be found in ``The Godfather.''
Ephron, who co-wrote the film with her sister Delia, is quite familiar with the world of mob movies. Her husband, writer Nicholas Pileggi, co-wrote the screenplays of Martin Scorsese's gangster flicks ``GoodFellas'' and ``Casino.'' (Pileggi wrote the books on which the films are based.)
``You've Got Mail'' isn't the only movie that has paid its respects to ``The Godfather,'' as well as its two sequels, ``The Godfather Part II'' and ``The Godfather Part III.'' The trilogy has been spoofed in such comedies as ``Mafia!'' Brando himself satirized his Oscar-winning performance in the 1990 comedy ``The Freshman.'' And in the coming HBO mob series, ``The Sopranos,'' the gangsters are continually referring to scenes and dialogue from ``The Godfather.''
More than 25 years after its release, ``The Godfather'' -- based on the novel by Mario Puzo -- remains a benchmark of honor and machismo in popular culture. The Corleone family -- save perhaps for poor Fredo -- lives by a code of honor and loyalty. Just like Bogart's tough, cynical Rick Blaine in ``Casablanca,'' the men of ``The Godfather'' seem to have all the answers.
Family and morality play an important part in the film's lasting hold on our culture, according to Harlan Lebo in his book ``The Godfather Legacy.''
``Francis Ford Coppola has often said that the story of 'The Godfather' is a 'romance' about a king and his three sons,'' writes Lebo.
Here are some of the most famous lines from ``The Godfather,'' ``The Godfather Part II'' and ``The Godfather Part III.'' ``The Godfather''
``It's a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.''
-- Family enforcer Peter Clemenza explains to Sonny Corleone that Corleone soldier Brasi has been murdered.
``I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse.''
-- Don Corleone to crooner and godson Johnny Fontane about getting Fontane a movie role with producer John Woltz.
``It's business, not personal.''
-- Michael Corleone to girlfriend Kay, explaining the family business.
``Fredo, you're my older brother, and I love you. But don't ever take sides with anyone against the family. Ever.''
-- Michael to older brother Fredo
``A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man.''
-- Don Corleone to Fontane
``Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.''
-- Clemenza to Corleone driver Rocco Lampone after the two have disposed of the Don's traitorous bodyguard.
``Mr. Corleone is a man who insists on hearing bad news immediately.''
QE -- Tom Hagen to Woltz after the producer refuses the Don's offer. ``The Godfather Part II''
``I knew it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart.''
-- Michael to Fredo when he discovers his brother has betrayed him.
``Fredo, you're nothing to me now; not a brother; not a friend. I don't want to know you, or what you do.''
-- Michael to Fredo
``But you can never lose your family. Never.''
+ -- Mama Corleone to Michael ``The Godfather Part III''
``Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.''
Pub Date: 1/01/99