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James Caan: Last of the Tough-Guy Movie Stars


James Caan as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather, 1972

At the end of the 1950s, James Caan, son of a German-Jewish butcher, had been kicked out of ROTC and was too poor to finish college on his own. He started a job for his godfather unpacking meat along the docks of the Hudson River. Less than a decade later, he was starring alongside John Wayne and Robert Mitchum in El Dorado, just a few years from Coppola’s giving him a lead in The Godfather. In his unmistakable Queens patois, Caan tells Alec the wonderful, unlikely story of his rise to stardom. That story includes his many marriages, even more fistfights, and heretofore untold details from the sometimes-violent set of The Godfather. Plus what sort of roles Caan wanted but didn’t get because of typecasting.

Listen to more at the episode archive.