June 11, 1910 - April 26, 1991
born in Brooklyn, NY, composed during the Contemporary period
Carmine Coppola was an outstanding orchestral flute player and a composer who obtained some success in film scoring. He was also the founder of one of the major movie dynasties of the last third of the twentieth century. His son, Francis Ford Coppola, is one of Hollywood's most individual and brilliant major directors. His daughter, Talia Shire, is a gifted character actress. Francis Ford Coppola's daughter Sofia has acted and written screenplays, and another of Carmine's grandchildren is Nicolas Cage, among the most talented actors of his generation. Yet another grandchild, Cage's brother Christopher Coppola, is a screenwriter, director, and producer.
Carmine was the son of August Coppola, who emigrated from southern Italy to the United States in 1904. August had seven sons, of whom Carmine was the second.
Carmine showed musical aptitude early, and the family brought him a wooden flute to play. He joined a New York marching band comprising 400 boys as members. But his musical studies were more serious, and after graduating from Brooklyn's Stuyvesant High School he received a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music.
After graduation from Juilliard, Carmine went to work as a staff musician at a Connecticut radio station. He married an fellow Brooklynite, an actress named Italia Pennino, daughter of a composer who wrote Neapolitan songs. His next job was with the orchestra of the Radio City Music Hall, one of the largest theaters in the United States. He worked there for several years as first flute, then joined the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
It was while living in Detroit that Francis Ford Coppola was born in April 1939. By 1941, Carmine moved the family back to New York, where he had been personally engaged by Arturo Toscanini to join the maestro's hand-picked NBC Symphony Orchestra. He remained in that prestigious ensemble for ten years.
But Carmine's ambition was to compose and to conduct. He conducted some operas at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and was also a staff conductor for the David Merrick theatrical organization, which gave him an opportunity to conduct musical comedy touring companies.
In 1967, Francis Ford Coppola, who had already written successful screenplays and directed small films, was assigned to direct the movie version of the play Finian's Rainbow. Carmine was touring with Half a Sixpence at the time, but accepted his son's invitation to come to Hollywood to assist with the music of the film. Finian's Rainbow was a flop that nearly wrecked Francis' career. But then he co-wrote one of the most brilliant and difficult screenplays in Hollywood history with Edmund North for the film biography Patton. This put him back in position to take on a major directing project, the grandiose and highly personal film adaptation of Mario Puzo's best-seller The Godfather. Once again Carmine collaborated with his son, assisting the great Italian film composer Nino Rota.
The great success of the film opened doors for both father and son, and they went on to make The Godfather Part II, one of the rare cases when a film and its sequel have both won Best Picture Academy Awards. Now Carmine and Nino Rota shared credit as composer. When they won the Oscar for Best Musical Score, Carmine said in his acceptance speech, "I want to thank my son Francis, because without him I wouldn't be here. But then if I wasn't here, he wouldn't be, either."
Carmine went on to score The Godfather Part III, The Black Stallion, Apocalypse Now, The Outsiders, and the work he considered his best, a three-and-a-half hour complete score for the great Abel Gance silent film Napoleon. ~ Joseph Stevenson, Rovi