Mario Puzo

After struggling for over a decade to publish a commercially successful novel, author Mario Puzo struck bestseller gold with his crime saga The Godfather (1969), a hugely successful book that popularized the Mafia in American culture and led Francis Ford Coppola to direct "The Godfather" (1972), widely considered to be one of the best films ever made. Working in close collaboration with Coppola, Puzo won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and repeated the feat two years later with the sequel "The Godfather, Part II" (1974), which some considered superior to its predecessor. Because of the success of the novel and the two films, Puzo finally found the financial success he had long craved. He went on to write the scripts for "Superman" (1978) and "Superman II" (1980), and received a cool $1 million to write Coppola's film "The Cotton Club" (1984). Following a near fatal heart attack in 1991, Puzo rebounded with The Last Don (1996), which was turned into a CBS miniseries starring Danny Aiello. While that proved to be the last major success he saw during his lifetime, Puzo nonetheless was remembered for almost single-handedly bringing the Mafia to the forefront of popular culture.