The Godfather
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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Godfather can be found here.

Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), the aging Don (head) of a New York Mafia Family consisting of three sons Santino 'Sonny' (James Caan), Fredo (John Cazale), and Michael (Al Pacino), daughter Connie (Talia Shire), and adopted son Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) -- wants his youngest son Michael to take over the family business. However, Michael doesn't want to follow in his father's footsteps until the Don is unceremoniously gunned down in the street by drug dealer Virgil 'the Turk' Sollozzo (Al Lettieri) when Vito refuses to back him in his fledgling heroin business. The assassination attempt leads to Michael beginning a violent mob war against Sollozzo, one that promises to tear the Corleone family apart.

Yes. The Godfather is based on a novel of the same name (written by Italian-American author Mario Puzo [1920-1999]. The novel was published in 1969. Puzo also wrote the screenplay for the movie. The book was later developed into a trilogy of films, including The Godfather: Part II (1974) and The Godfather: Part III (1990). The Godfather won the 1973 Academy Award for Best Motion Picture.

The story spans about 10 years, between 1945 and 1955.

Vito, as the Don of the Corleone family, was against allowing his people dealing narcotics. Vito considered such a product to be much more dangerous than alcohol, gambling and prostitution, the mainstays of business conducted amongst the Five Families. He believed that the politicians and judges that did business with his family, enabling them to become as powerful as they were, wouldn't be willing to continue to do so if his business was drugs. Virgil Sollozzo, a big-time drug dealer, wanted the Corleones on his side because of their numerous connections with these politicians and judges. Sollozzo hoped they could be influenced, coerced or bribed to be lax on the trade of illegal drugs, but Vito refused. However, Sollozzo noticed that Sonny was interested in doing business with him, so he arranged for a hit on Vito, which would place Sonny as the new Don and then, hopefully, a deal with the Corleones would soon follow.

In the canon of The Godfather, there are five organizations, or "Families," in the New York area--Corleone, Barzini, Tattaglia, Stracci, and Cuneo. While the Tattaglia and Barzini Families weigh pretty heavily into the plot, due to the tensions between their organizations and the Corleones, there is little mention of the Cuneo and Stracci families, who are mentioned only as part of the Commission "sit down" with all of the major mafia bosses from around the country. The idea of the "Five Families" is based on real-life Cosa Nostra structure. Believe it or not, there are rules and an expected code of conduct within the mafia, and there are certain actions that require the approval of a family Boss. The "Commission" acts as a kind of mafia board of directors or mini U.N. to ensure that all of the families stay in line and avoid actions that might be dangerous to organized crime as a whole.

Because Sollozzo and the Tattagilia Family knew that Fredo was only a harmless and incompetent man. Fredo was not a major member of the Corleone Family and would never take on a position of power, so Sollozzo decides to have his men kill Vito and kill Fredo only if he poses a real threat to them, as killing Fredo would only cause additional bad blood and make Sonny even less likely to agree to a truce and commit further violent actions against the Tattaglias.

During a gang war, the soldiers stay in "safe houses" set up by the Family, instead of in their own houses - in order both to keep dependents out of the line of fire and to ensure secure communications. These safe houses are apartments the majority of whose rooms are filled with mattresses for soldiers to sleep on. Thus, to "go to the mattresses" is to begin a war with the other Families. Another explanation comes from the novel: during a gang war, both sides would make use of vacated apartments at key strategic points in the city. The apartments would be used to house soldiers that could be deployed to conduct "battles" between the families at a moment's notice. Because the war could go on for months or years, the apartments would be outfitted with mattresses for the men to sleep on. There would probably also be a phone in the apartment so they could be contacted quickly to move to an area to conduct family business. Clemenza, Rocco Lampone, and Paulie travel to New York to inspect some of the apartments and to begin the process of buying the actual mattresses to stock them with. At one point you hear Clemenza talking about how the mattresses need to be clean and disinfected. Paulie tells him that his contact for obtaining them has assured him they've been "exterminated" or checked thoroughly for vermin like bedbugs. Clemenza makes a joke of it. However, the whole task was a ruse designed to throw Paulie off so they could take him to a remote location and kill him.

Here is a translation of what they say in Italian:

Sollozzo: I'm sorry.

Michael: Leave it alone. ( or ) Forget about it.

Sollozzo: What happened to your father was business. I have much respect for your father. But your father, his thinking is old-fashioned. You must understand that I am a man of honor.

Michael: I understand those things. I know them.

Sollozzo: You do? You must understand that I helped the Tattaglia family and once I make a deal, I seek nothing but peace. Leave aside all this nonsense.

Michael: How do you say? [Then Michael returns to speaking English.]

[After Michael returns from the bathroom]

Sollozzo: Everything all right? I respect myself, understand, and cannot allow another man to hold me back. What happened was unavoidable. I had the unspoken support of the other Family dons. If your father were in better health, without his eldest son running things, no disrespect intended, we wouldn't have this nonsense. We will stop fighting until your father is well and can resume bargaining. No vengeance will be taken. We will have peace, but your Family should interfere no longer.

It's explained in the book but not very well in the film: Sicilian and Italian tradition dictates that NO ONE, no matter how powerful or influential, will interfere in an Italian/Sicilian marriage. Vito's a very traditional man and had no intention of intruding in his daughter's marriage, even if it meant that Carlo (Gianni Russo) was abusive. There's a brief moment when everyone is eating lunch after Vito returns home from the hospital where Carlo tells Connie to shut up, Sonny tells Carlo never to say that to her, and Sonny's mother quietly tells Sonny "don't interfere." In the novel, Connie goes to her parents a few times to tell them how abusive Carlo is but her parents, especially the Don, are very coldly unsympathetic to her plight and tell her to go home and learn how to be an obedient wife who won't be physically abused. Of course, no matter how Connie acts, dutiful or not, Carlo continues to beat her and eventually uses his abuse as a ruse to entice Santino to leave his compound without protection which is when he was murdered on the causeway.

Although the film makes this pretty obvious, it still gets asked a lot. Vito asks Bonasera (Salvatore Corsitto) to patch up Sonny's dead body so that he looks presentable for his mother at his funeral. Sonny's body was probably shot up so badly by the Barzini hitters (and kicked in the face) as an insult to the Don so they couldn't have an open casket at the funeral. Given how many shots were pumped into Sonny with Thompson machine guns, it must have been an incredibly difficult process for Bonasera, which is why the Don says "I want you to use all your powers and all your skills..." Also, such a job probably would have cost the Don tens of thousands of dollars, even at that time, and Bonasera's "favor" must have also included waiving his fee or at least reducing it greatly.

After the meeting of the Five Families, Vito expresses to Tom his conviction that the Barzini family is running the narcotics operation and that they were behind Sonny's death, Tattaglia being too much of a "pimp" to outthink Santino. During the meeting, it is Barzini who repeatedly reprimands Vito for not sharing his police and political protection to the drug operation. Vito figures he would only be taking offense so strongly if he were the man behind the operation.

From the beginning, Carlo was never a trusted member of The Family, as evidenced by his low position as bookmaker and Vito's instructions to Tom to allow Carlo to earn a living but to never discuss Family business in front of him. Carlo knows that he is not valued by Don Corleone, but he cannot take his frustrations out on Vito, Sonny, or any of the other high-ranking members of the Family, so he does the next best thing - he is abusive toward Connie. Carlo's treatment of his wife leads to further distrust by Don Corleone. Additionally, it puts strain on his relationship with Sonny -- though the relationship isn't fully explained in the movie, in the novel we learn that Sonny and Carlo have been lifelong friends. After Sonny beats Carlo on the street in his own neighborhood and in front of his men, Carlo feels completely humiliated and seeks vengeance against Sonny. When Barzini asks for his help in setting up Sonny, Carlo is more than happy to comply.

Vito himself likely suspected Carlo's role in Sonny's murder, but since he could not prove it (and he didn't want to tip his hand so early), he pretends not to know. Vito dotes on Connie and doesn't want to see her widowed during his lifetime, something that, despite how horribly Carlo treats her, would upset Connie greatly. Michael is informed of the sequence of events that took place the day of Sonny's murder - a mystery woman calls Connie and Carlo's apartment to ask for him, Connie gets angry and starts to throw a tantrum giving Carlo an "excuse" to beat his wife knowing full well that she will call Sonny and tell him that Carlo has beaten her again. Carlo lets the Barzini people know that Sonny is on his way to the city giving them the opportunity to trap him at the toll booth on the Causeway. It's all a little too convenient, and yet Michael still cannot be 100% certain that Carlo was involved.

When Michael sits down with Carlo in the final scenes of the movie, he needs to know without a doubt that Carlo was responsible before giving the go-ahead. He decides to bluff to get Carlo to admit to his role in Sonny's assassination. It works, and once Michael has confirmation that he has good reason to make his sister a widow, he gives the order to kill Carlo. Carlo's position as son-in-law was the only thing that allowed him to live as long as he did. When Connie finds out her husband is dead, she hysterically says to Michael "you waited until Poppa died so no one could stop you, and you killed him!!" Had Carlo been anyone else in ranking, he would have been taken out right after Sonny's murder.

It is more apparent in The Godfather Saga as there is additional footage shown pertaining to this. However, Paulie (John Martino) calls out sick on that day, forcing the semi-incompetent Fredo to drive Vito and knowing that Fredo is incapable of defending Vito during the hit. Similar to the Carlo situation, it's just too convenient that Paulie was out sick on the day of the hit; therefore, they got rid of him. In the book, the Corleones have a contact at the phone company that gives them a log of calls by Paulie and Clemenza (Richard S. Castellano), who was also a suspect. By these, they figure out that Paulie was the traitor. In the film, while we now know for certain that Paulie did in fact betray the family, in the original cut of the film, Sonny gives the order to eliminate Paulie without any hesitation or concrete evidence. This could have been meant as a foreshadowing of Sonny's reign as Don; it shows that he'd rather just act on impulse and have a member of his crew killed without any concrete evidence that he did betray them.

Technically, no. Vito's goal in bringing the Commission together is to bring an end to the war in the hope of allowing Michael to return safely to America. Sonny has just been brutally murdered, and the war has gone on long enough. Despite their differences, the other men in The Commission know Don Corleone to be a man of his word, so when he swears that he will not seek vengeance for Sonny's death in the interest of ending the violence, the other heads of the Families believe that they will be safe from any acts of vengeance under Don Corleone's orders. However interested he may be in restoring the peace, Vito is hardly a pushover, so it is somewhat puzzling to Tom Hagen (and the audience) why Vito would be so quick to roll over and promise to not seek vengeance in the murder of his eldest son. However, if you listen carefully to the words Vito chooses, he says: "But that aside, let me say that I swear, on the souls of my grandchildren, that I will not be the one to break the peace we have made here today." In that speech, Vito is only making promises about his own actions, but he says nothing about his successor (Michael) being able to seek revenge later on. When Michael returns from Sicily, he immediately begins learning the ropes from Don Vito, in preparation for the day when Vito would retire or die, and Michael would take over as head of The Family. This is specifically addressed in a deleted scene. Michael and Vito are talking in the garden after Michael has taken over as the Don, and Michael says "You gave your word that you wouldn't break the peace. I didn't give mine. You don't have to have any part. I take all responsibility." Vito smiles and responds "We have a lot of time to talk about it now", showing that this is what he had always hoped Michael would do.

There are many events in this film that cause him to take such a turn, the first being that he felt he was forced to join the family in order to help keep his father from being killed, e.g.,the incident at the hospital. Also he committed two acts of cold-blooded murder (Virgil Solozzo and Captain McCluskey (Sterling Hayden)), because he felt he was the only one who could get close enough. Then he had to spend about a year hiding out in Italy. In the novel, Puzo makes mention of the boredom that Michael feels at having to wander Sicily. He learns much about the Mafia and its traditions as well as the frame of mind of men like his father. This is probably the point at which he turned into the Don he would become. He meets and falls in love with a young beautiful Sicilian woman. Shortly after they're married, they plan to move back to America. However, one of Michael's trusted bodyguards betrays him and places a bomb in a car that explodes and kills Michael's wife, causing Michael to close off his emotions from his business. In turn, this let him become a much more calculated and ruthless Don.

Was Fabrizio ever found?

Yes, but the scene didn't make it into the final version of the film. There's a deleted scene in the DVD extras that shows Fabrizio (Angelo Infanti) getting into a car outside a restaurant. The car explodes an instant later. In the novel, the scene is much different. Fabrizio is found working in a pizzeria in Buffalo, New York and is shot by a Corleone operative. The killer IDs Fabrizio by an elaborate tattoo he had on his chest.

How does the movie end?

While Michael is attending the baptism of his godchild, Carlo and Connie's new son, each of the Dons of the other leading Families in New York plus Moe Greene (Alex Rocco) in Las Vegas are murdered by Corleone assassins. Following the baptism, Michael ties up the rest of loose family business. First, he has Sal Tessio (Abe Vigoda) escorted away, presumably to be killed. He visits Carlo, having learned of his involvement in Sonny's murder, and gives him a plane ticket to Vegas. When Carlo gets into the car for his trip to the airport, he is garroted from behind. Michael goes home, where he is confronted by an hysterical Connie, who has figured out that it was Michael who ordered the assassination of Carlo. Kay (Diane Keaton) asks Michael if it's true, but he denies it. When Kay leaves the room to fix some tea, three of Michael's capos enter. One of them kisses Michael's hand and calls him 'Don Corleone.' Kay realizes then that Michael has become the new Don.

Indeed there was. It was an somewhat obscure cover by Mike Patton's band "Fantomas". The song "The Godfather" can be found on the "Director's Cut" album.

"This Loneliness" by Carmine Coppola, Francis Ford Coppola's father. Mr. Coppola is playing the song live in the scene. The song is not on the soundtrack album but was on the LP "The Godfather Wedding Album" which is out of print and not available on CD. It also is not the same as the one on the Godfather Wedding Album LP. The version in the film is piano only, whereas the version on the album lasts a little longer and has other instruments.

Actually, he's quite the opposite. In the books, Sonny is described as being a kind and loving man to both his wife and children. Although he is most certainly a bad Don (something that his own father, even after Sonny's death, couldn't deny) he is a wonderful father and husband. His infamous temper is never taken out on his children or wife; Sonny is described as never being able to bring himself to hurt something helpless, especially women and children. As for his infidelity with Lucy Mancini, there's an explanation for that in the book as well. In a highly unusual turn of events, Sonny's wife, Sandra, is well aware that Sonny sleeps with other women and actually prefers it that way. It is described in the book that Sonny Corleone has an abnormally large penis, so large that it actually gives his wife stomachaches. Lucy Mancini, who it turns out has a congenitally loose vagina, is able to deal with the size of Sonny's penis and thus they start an affair. Their affair, however, is purely sexual: Lucy doesn't love Sonny and barely knows him outside of their affair, and Sonny is purely in love with only his wife. This is slightly alluded to in the film. During the wedding at the beginning, Sonny's wife is talking with other women at the table and she holds her hands up in a "this big" pose and gradually holds her hands out wider and wider, much to the amazement of the other women. She turns to Sonny, but sees that he's gone and a slight look of despair crosses her face. The scene then cuts to Sonny having sex with Lucy.

There are probably many differing reasons for Michael's actions. Here are a few ideas:

1. Michael was planning the massacre of the other heads of the New York crime families & Tom might have tried to talk him out of it. The war between the Five Families had been over for a few years and peace had generally been reigning for about that long & Tom might have tried to convince Michael not to commit any more violence. When the big meeting takes place between Michael, Clemenza, Tessio, Tom and Carlo where Michael 1st announces his desire to move the Corleone family to a legitimate business status, he talks about "negotiations being made that are going to answer all of your questions and solve all of your problems." in answer to Tessio's & Clemenza's frustration over Barzini moving in on their respective territories in New York. Those plans likely included the massacre. During the meeting the Don tells Tom "... there are reasons why you must have nothing to do with what's going to happen." referring to the massacre that Michael was plotting to make the Corleone family the most powerful crime organization in New York again.

2. Michael and Vito might have placed some of the blame for Sonny's assassination on Tom. Though it turns out that Carlo Rizzi plotted with Barzini to set Sonny up, Michael and Vito probably believed that Tom didn't do enough to stop Sonny from leaving the safety of the family compound that day to find Carlo. Part of Tom's job as consigliere is not only to advise the Don on strategy and business dealings but also to protect the don, especially during times of inter-family war. Think of Tom as the US President's chief of staff in that regard, a person who acts as an ambassador to the President's top advisers. During the meeting mentioned above the Don tells Tom "I advised Michael" (on Tom's ouster) and further says "I never thought you were a bad consigliere. I thought Santino was a bad Don, rest in peace.".

3. Michael also says "you're not a wartime consigliere, Tom." The Don had convinced Michael that Tom wasn't up to the task of being consigliere anymore, especially when the tide was going to turn toward further acts of violence. Instead, Michael goes along with the idea of having his own father be his consigliere because Vito had reigned over the family during previous conflicts with their enemies/rivals. Though Vito dies before the massacre takes place, he was alive long enough to help Michael plan it. Tom wouldn't have wanted to take this course of action & would likely offer poor advice or have tried to stop it. Tom had the ability to advise the Don on what business dealings to secure, but violence wasn't his thing.

The obvious reason was that the guy was getting too close to the party (he was standing near the gate to the Corleone compound) or trying to sneak in the gate to take pictures. The event was, of course, a private one and the Corleones had hired their own photographers. Also, the photographer might have been working for the FBI, whom Sonny had spit at when the agent flashed his badge moments earlier. An event like this one would have many of the Corleone's own operatives in attendance (for security purposes) and perhaps even some of Vito Corleone's rivals there as well. Such is the case with Barzini. It's also entirely possible the man was a reporter and doing a story on the wedding. Sonny was angered at the fact that someone would try and violate his family's privacy, especially at his sister's wedding. The scene also serves to introduce us to Sonny's famous hair trigger temper. Sonny's the type to get angry or become enraged very quickly & the photographer was just an unfortunate victim of it. Barzini has the other photographer's camera seized because the man took a picture of him and his associates. Most crime lords aren't going to want any photographer taking their picture because that picture could be given or sold to the police or other law enforcement authorities. If the FBI team investigating Barzini's crime empire and dealings are given positive photo ID of Barzini, it makes their job of bringing him down that much easier. Barzini knows this all too well and destroyed the negative himself.

Clemenza mentions the 1938 Munich Agreement when he talks to Michael about the impending war that will occur right after Michael assassinates Sollozzo and McCluskey. Clemenza draws a parallel between both events, saying that an enemy needs to be stopped before they can gain a foothold on Corleone territory and threaten the empire Vito has created as Don over the past 20+ yrs -- such was the case with Adolf Hitler and Central Europe. In 1938 Hitler threatened to invade part of Czechoslovakia with military force if he it wasn't ceded to him non-violently. Hitler believed that specific regions of Czechoslovakia, called the Sudetenland, still belonged to Germany even after they were lost with the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I. Hitler's actions were performed in flagrant violation of the Treaty of Versailles, which was an agreement that was wholly unfair to Germany and one of the key underlying causes of WWII. More information can be read at these links: Munich Agreement, German occupation of Czechoslovakia, and Treaty of Versailles

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