The strange man confronted Mike Royko one morning in March 1973. He materialized in the Chicago Daily News columnist’s office, glaring at Royko with an unsettling ferocity.
“I am Michael Corleone,” he declared.
The man’s name actually was Francis Blakely, and he’d recently walked away from a psychiatric hospital. He told Royko he planned to run for mayor. The columnist said that sounded like a good idea.
The intruder “had an intense way of talking, using cryptic phrases and veiled threats,” Royko later told the FBI. Blakely had repeatedly tapped at his coat pocket as he stood in the office doorway, leading Royko to suspect the man had a gun.
The seed for this unusual encounter was planted four years before, on March 10, 1969, when a little-known writer named Mario Puzo published the novel “The Godfather.” The story revolved around Michael Corleone, the youngest son of Vito Corleone, head of a New York-based crime family.
The fictional Corleones became an obsession for Blakely and millions of others, especially after director Francis Ford Coppola launched a film franchise in 1972. Forty-nine years after the book’s publication, “The Godfather” remains a cultural touchstone, a violent yet romanticized version of Mob life — and the American Dream — that has influenced how Americans view themselves and the world around them. Below, to celebrate the anniversary of the novel’s publication, we roll through some of the memorable things you didn’t know — or have forgotten — about “The Godfather” phenomenon.