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There is a lot of speculation surrounding the potential symbolism of oranges in The Godfather. The primary interpretation being that whenever an orange is shown, there is impending doom on either the person handling the orange or an orange being shown in the scene:

  • Sal grabbing an orange at Connie's wedding. Sal later betrayed the family and Michael had him killed.

Sal

  • Tom Hagen's dinner with Jack Woltz shows a bowl of oranges on the table. Woltz later wakes up with his prize race horse's head at the foot of his bed.

Tom dinner

  • Vito Corleone is buying oranges right before he is gunned down in the street and later drops a bag of oranges after he is shot.

Vito Corleone

  • During the meeting of the five families, there is an orange shown in a fruit bowl. Michael later has the heads of the other families killed.

Five families

  • Vito Corleone is cutting up an orange and puts an orange rind in his mouth to play with his grand son minutes before he falls over and dies in his garden.

Vito Corleone death

There are more orange references in the film, but these are the primary scenes that fans ponder over.

Were the oranges intentionally added as some sort of symbolic representation of doom by filmmakers? I realize that there are also several scenes depicting oranges or the color orange in the sequels. If this was merely a coincidence in the first film, is there any evidence that filmmakers chose to continue adding oranges into the sequels due to fan speculation about them?


Note: There is much speculation on the Internet and several theories about the symbolism of these oranges. I am looking for a direct source from filmmakers or any person involved in the film.

  • Also note that the places filmed have a lot of oranges - California, Florida, Sicily. – Engineer Apr 18 '18 at 0:41
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No and Yes

According to various sources [one here], Francis Ford Coppola confirms on the DVD commentaries

“It started out as an accident”, said Coppola in DVD commentaries, “but once we realized we had used oranges so frequently in the first movie, we used them purposefully in the others.”

The saga ends with Michael dying, an orange in his hand.

enter image description here

The original reason...

Time.com

In his book on the making of the film, The Godfather Legacy, Harlen Lebo writes, “For [production designer] Dean Tavoularis, oranges were simply another carefully chosen compliment to otherwise somberly dressed sets. ‘We knew this film wasn’t going to be about bright colors, and oranges make a nice contrast,’ said Tavoularis.

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They actually begun to use them because The Godfather had many dark scenes and oranges would make the takes look less dull and more shiny. I assume they kept using them because of what Paulie_D mentions. From Time Entertainment...

Though some have interpreted the presence of oranges in various scenes as a harbinger of death to come (see the oranges that roll across the street as Don Corleone gets shot, the ones in producer Jack Woltz’s dining room, the ones at the meeting of the dons and those in Don Corleone’s garden), the reason for their presence is likely a more practical one.

In his book on the making of the film, The Godfather Legacy, Harlen Lebo writes, "For [production designer] Dean Tavoularis, oranges were simply another carefully chosen compliment to otherwise somberly dressed sets. 'We knew this film wasn't going to be about bright colors, and oranges make a nice contrast,' said Tavoularis. 'I don’t remember anybody saying, Hey, I like oranges as a symbolic message.'"

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    Any source to support this dull colour theory? – Panther Jan 30 '17 at 17:26
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    @Panther Source (It's the first Google result but also in the other answer.) – jkd Jan 31 '17 at 6:54
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As far as the Godfather series, the oranges seemed to represent a new life; a new and fresh start.

Specifically, there was one scene I remember where the character (Vito), had been fatally wounded, and yet the oranges he was then peeling and eating suggested that though he may have pretended to be or do something new, he was unsuccessful, never completing the act of peeling and then eating the entire orange....one life gone, one life beginning (as the character was making funny faces at his grandson, while eating the peeled orange as he died).

Vito was never able to change, but the new life, that of his grandson, was just unfolding. Perhaps a foreshadow to that scene, toward the beginning of The Godfather, the Godfather was openly eating oranges in the city streets when he was shot. Again, death and life, with oranges once again representing a newness, even if it is not so clear after the death of a main character.

I do recall seeing oranges, or perhaps just one orange, I cannot recall, during the horse head scene-- I am not sure if that was purposeful or simply an artistic prop.

I believe the two scenes as mentioned above were well thought out and oranges were symbolic, it may very well be that the oranges at the horse head scene were simply props--it was a different feel.

Great question and I would like to re-watch the Godfather so I may be more precise.

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