In late December 1974 I caught my first screening of The Godfather, Part II. It was fairly cold that day in Connecticut, and I clearly recall that the theatre, located somewhere north of downtown Stamford, was closed when my sister and I first arrived around 1 pm, and that the manager arrived a few minutes later and hurriedly opened the place up, and that the theatre was damn chilly inside. We kept our overcoats on.

My second viewing was back in Los Angeles the following month. I attended a mid-evening weekday show with a friendly acquaintance (i.e., not quite a friend) named Mitch. The showing might have been at the National Theatre in Westwood, and if not there then at a small theatre on Wilshire Blvd. near 14th Street in Santa Monica.

I was enthralled with Francis Coppola‘s film, of course, but Mitch was muttering about how cold and frosty Al Pacino‘s performance was. (He preferred the younger, more open-hearted Michael Corleone in The Godfather.)

And then Mitch did the unthinkable. He fell asleep! During The Godfather, Part II! He went out roughly a half-hour before the ending, and was snoring to boot. I got up and sat four or five rows closer to the screen so I wouldn’t hear his bear noises. I was furious with the guy. He had nodded off as an expression of critical disapproval by way of boredom, or so I believed, and I found that intolerable.

And so the film ended, and Nina Rota‘s music filled the theatre during the closing credits. And then the lights came up and I got up and walked by the still-dozing Mitch. The natural joshing “guy” thing would have been to nudge him awake and say “congratulations, asshole — you missed the last half hour” or something along those lines. But I was too consumed with disdain so I walked to the rear of the theatre and just stood there, thinking “fuck that guy, what a douche.”

I wasn’t going to leave on my own (we had driven to the theatre together), but I damn sure wasn’t going to wake him up. Mitch had to understand what a crime it was to fall asleep on a film that was obviously first-rate, and that would go on to win the Best Picture Oscar of 1974.

The theatre had been roughly one-third filled, and of course eventually the lights were turned all the way up and whole place was emptied out and only slumbering Mitch was left. Eventually the ushers started moving through the aisles and cleaning the place up. I stood my ground and watched as an older usher slowly roused Mitch with a couple of shoulder taps. He got up, sleepy-eyed and foggy-headed and a bit stumble-footed, and made his way up the aisle. He was seething.

“The fuck you leave me there for?”, Mitch said. “Why didn’t you wake me up?” I should have said “Sorry, man, but you needed to be lightly punished for falling asleep during a great film.” Instead I lied and said, “I don’t know, you looked so comfortable…I didn’t have the heart to wake you.”

Mitch had been a comme ci comme ca pally but was nothing close to a good friend. I never saw another film with him — I can tell you that much.