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|“||I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse.||„|
|~ Don Vito Corleone's most famous line and one of the most famous movie quotes of all time.|
|“||A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man.||„|
|~ Vito Corleone's second most famous line.|
|“||You talk about vengeance. Is vengeance going to bring your son back to you or my boy to me? I forgo vengeance for my son. But my youngest son had to leave this country because of this Sollozzo business. So now I have to make arrangements to bring him back safely, cleared of all these false charges. But I'm a superstitious man. And if some unlucky accident should befall him, if he should be shot in the head by a police officer, or if he should hang himself in his jail cell, or if he's struck by a bolt of lightning... then I'm going to blame some of the people in this room... and that, I do not forgive. 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.||„|
|~ Don Vito Corleone to the other assembled Dons.|
Vito Corleone, also known as Don Corleone and The Godfather, is a fictional character and the titular deuteragonist of Mario Puzo's crime novel, The Godfather and its Best Picture-winning 1972 film adaptation by Francis Ford Coppola, as well as its 1974 sequel. His younger self appears in the second film through flashbacks.
Vito was the founder and first head of the Corleone Family and he was a senior Mafia don and a wealthy olive oil business owner. He is the father of Michael, Sonny, Fredo and Connie Corleone. He began as an orphaned Sicilian immigrant who moved to America and built up his Mafia empire, based on crime, gambling, bootlegging and corruption. Despite his role as a crime boss, he is a moral and principled man who is loyal to his family and friends. Upon his death, he is succeeded by his son, Michael, as don of the family.
In the 1972 film adaptation The Godfather, he was portrayed by the late Marlon Brando, who also portrayed Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire, Antony in Julius Caesar, and Walter E. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.
In The Godfather Part II, he was portrayed by Robert De Niro, who also portrayed Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, David "Noodles" Aaronson in Once Upon a Time in America, Al Capone in The Untouchables, Max Cady in Cape Fear, Jimmy Conway in GoodFellas, Ace Rothstein in Casino, Neil McCauley in Heat, Dwight Hansen in This Boy's Life, Gil Renard in The Fan, Louis Gara in Jackie Brown, David Callaway in Hide and Seek and Senator John McLaughlin in Machete, and also voiced Don Lino in Shark Tale.
Early Life (Novel and the Godfather II)
The novel explains that Vito was born in the small town of Corleone, Sicily in 1891. According to The Godfather Part II, he was born on December 7. In 1901, Vito's father, Antonio Andolini, is murdered by local Mafia boss Don Ciccio because he refused to pay tribute to him. His older brother Paolo swears revenge, but is himself murdered by Ciccio's henchmen soon after. Eventually, Ciccio's henchmen come to the residence of the Andolinis to take Vito away and kill him. Desperate, Signora Andolini takes her son to see the Mafia chieftain herself.
Signora Andolini begs Ciccio to spare Vito. However, Ciccio refuses, reasoning that Vito would also seek revenge as an adult. Upon Ciccio's refusal, Signora Andolini puts a knife to his throat, allowing her son to escape, but is then shot dead by Ciccio's guards. (In the novel, she survives being shot and later reunites with her son in Sicily many years later.) Later that night, family friends help flee Sicily to seek refuge in America on a cargo ship full of immigrants. In the novel, he deliberately changes his name to Corleone, after his home town. The film, however, plays that he is renamed "Vito Corleone" because the immigration workers at Ellis Island mistake "Andolini" for his middle name and the name of his town for his last name. According to The Godfather Part II, he later adopts the middle name "Andolini" to acknowledge his heritage.
Vito is later adopted by the Abbandando family in Manhattan's Lower East Side, and he befriends their son, Genco, who becomes like a brother to him. As a young man, he marries a fellow Italian immigrant named Carmela, with whom he has four children: Santino ("Sonny"), Fredo, Michael, and Connie. He also informally adopts Tom Hagen, a homeless orphan whom Sonny befriended and brought home.
Vito begins making an honest living at Abbandando's grocery store on Ninth Avenue, but loses the job, as an intimidated Abbandando is forced to fire him and give his job to the nephew of Don Fanucci, a blackhander and the neighborhood padrone.
He soon learns to survive and prosper through petty crime and performing favors in return for loyalty. During this time, he also befriends two other low-level hoods, Peter Clemenza and Salvatore Tessio. In 1920, he commits his first murder, killing Fanucci, who had tried to extort money from him. Vito chooses the day of a major Italian festival to spy on Fanucci from the rooftops as Fanucci goes home, and surprises him at the door to his apartment. He shoots Fanucci three times, as the din from the festival and the towel he had wrapped around the gun as a makeshift silencer drowns out the noise from the gunshots.
As a young man, Vito starts an olive oil business, Genco Pura (known as simply Genco Olive Oil in the films) with his friend Genco Abbandando. The company eventually becomes the biggest olive oil importer in the nation. Over the years he uses it as a legal front for his organized crime syndicate, while amassing a fortune with his illegal operations. In 1925, he returns to Sicily for the first time since leaving as a child. He and his business partner, Don Tommasino, set up a meeting with the aging Don Ciccio, where Vito kills him by carving his stomach open, thus avenging his murdered family.
By the early 1930s, Vito has organized his illegal operations as the Corleone crime family. Genco becomes his consigliere, or advisor, with Clemenza and Tessio as caporegimes. Later, Sonny becomes a capo as well, and eventually his underboss. Around 1939, he moves his base of operations to Long Island. Following Genco's death in 1945, Hagen, newly graduated from law school, becomes Vito's consigliere.
While he oversees a business founded on gambling, bootlegging, and union corruption, he is known as a kind and generous man who lives by a strict moral code of loyalty to friends and, above all, family. He is a staunch believer in family values, rebuking his eldest son for having an affair, speaking contemptuously of his rival mob boss, Don Philip Tattaglia, as "a pimp" and (in a deleted scene) expressing disgust ("infamita") at Jack Woltz's sexual abuse of underage girls. At the same time, he is known as a traditionalist who demands respect commensurate with his status. By the time of the novel and film, even his three closest friends — Abbadando, Clemenza and Tessio — never call him "Vito", but either "Godfather" or "Don Corleone". He disapproves of many of the vicious crimes carried out by gangs, and so seeks to control crime in New York by either consuming or eliminating rival gangs.
Nevertheless, he has a well-earned reputation for ruthlessness, and is not above the use of violence when he deems it necessary. For example, when his godson, singer Johnny Fontane, wants to get out of his contract with a bandleader, Vito makes the bandleader "an offer he can't refuse": he puts a gun to the man's head and tells him that, in 10 seconds, either his signature or his brains will be on a contract releasing Fontane for a much smaller sum than originally offered.
In 1945, Vito hosts Connie's wedding to small-time criminal Carlo Rizzi, and honors the Sicilian tradition of granting favors on his daughter's wedding day. He agrees to have Clemenza's men beat up two college students who sexually assaulted family friend Amerigo Bonasera's daughter, and to send Hagen to persuade movie mogul Jack Woltz to cast Fontane in his latest movie. When Woltz refuses, he wakes up to find the severed head of his prize race horse, Khartoum, in this bed; it is implied that Vito ordered the horse killed.
Vito and Sonny meet with drug lord Virgil Sollozzo, who wants the Corleone Family to invest in a heroin operation and to use Vito's political contacts for the operation's protection. Vito refuses, reasoning that the politicians in his pocket would abandon him if he got got involved in narcotics. Sonny, however, speaks out of turn and intimates that he is interested in the offer; after the meeting, Vito warns his son that he should never let anyone but the family in on his thinking.
Shortly afterward, Vito is nearly assassinated by Solllozzo's men as he goes to a market with Fredo. The Don crosses the street to buy oranges from a street vendor, when two of Sollozzo's hitmen come out from the shadows with guns drawn. Realizing the situation, Vito tries to sprint back to his Cadillac but he is shot five times. Drawing his weapon, Fredo tries to help his father, but is overcome with fear, fumbles with his gun, and collapses in the street, sobbing.
Certain that Vito is dead, Sollozzo kidnaps Hagen and tells him to get Sonny to accept the drug deal. Hagen agrees, but warns Sollozzo that Vito's fanatically loyal hitman, Luca Brasi, will likely come after him. Sollozzo tells him to "let me worry about Luca", not telling him that he already killed Brasi hours earlier.
Just as Hagen is released, Sollozzo finds out Vito survived. Enraged, he makes a second attempt two days later at the French Hospital, where Vito is guarded by men from Tessio's regime. However, Sollozzo has corrupt police Captain Mark McCluskey throw Tessio's men in jail, leaving Vito unguarded. Unfortunately for Sollozzo and McCluskey, Michael comes to visit his father just minutes before the attack is due. Realizing that his father is in danger, Michael has a nurse help him move Vito to another room and pretends to stand guard outside the hospital with Enzo the baker, a man who had come to visit Vito in gratitude for his earlier assistance in allowing him to stay in America.
Injuries from the attack put Vito out of action for the next three years, during which Sonny serves as acting head of the family. Sonny determines that Corleone button man Paulie Gatto was in on the attempted assassination at the fruit stand, and orders Clemenza and his right-hand man Rocco Lampone to kill him. He also gets word the Tattaglias had killed Brasi, and orders Tessio's men to kill the family's underboss, Bruno Tattaglia, when the Tattaglias refuse to turn him over. Michael persuades Sonny to allow him to kill Sollozzo and McCluskey, noting that as a longtime non-combatant he would be little suspected and that the otherwise off-limits action of killing a police captain was justified by the fact that McCluskey is serving as Sollozzo's bodyguard. Also, Michael points out, the family's media contacts can spread word of McCluskey's corruption. Michael kills Sollozzo and McCluskey during a meeting at a restaurant, and then flees to Sicily.
A year later, Sonny himself is assassinated in a plot instigated by Connie's abusive husband Carlo Rizzi, in revenge for beating up after first learning of his abuse. This forces Vito to resume command. He orders that no inquiries be made or vengeance sought for Sonny's murder so that he can find out for himself who ordered the hit.
After Sonny's funeral and other formalities, Vito orders Hagen to contact Emilio Barzini, the second most powerful Mafia chieftain in the country, in order to arrange a meeting of the Commission, the heads of all the families in America except the Chicago Outfit (considered the "black sheep" of the underworld). The meeting takes place in the board room of a Manhattan bank whose president was a close friend of the Corleones.
In that meeting, Vito renounces all vengeance regarding his son's death, and reluctantly agrees to the drug operations. However, he says he only accepts this for "selfish reasons" in order to bring Michael back from exile in Sicily. He then says that, should anything happen to Michael or his other remaining children, he will exact indiscriminate vengeance upon all of the Dons. After the meeting, he deduces that that Tattaglia and Sollozzo were merely pawns in Barzini's plot to destroy the Corleone family.
After Michael's return from Sicily, Vito installs him in the family business. After Michael marries his long-time girlfriend Kay Adams, Vito goes into retirement, and Michael becomes operating head of the family, with Vito as an informal consigliere. Michael sends Hagen to Las Vegas to act as the family's lawyer there and lay the groundwork for a planned move of most operations there after Vito's death. Clemenza and Tessio request permission to break off and form their own families after the move to Las Vegas. Michael's bodyguards Al Neri and Rocco Lampone are chosen to be the future caporegimes of the family. They also make Rizzi Michael's right-hand man in Las Vegas, even though both Vito and Michael despise him; they are in fact planning to draw Rizzi close to them in order to have him killed.
At the end of the novel, Vito dies of a heart attack while playing with his grandson Anthony in his garden. His last words in the novel are, "Life is so beautiful." Vito's funeral is a grand affair, with all the other dons, capos and consiglieres in New York attending.
Vito tells Michael a few days before his death that Barzini would set Michael up to be killed under cover of a meeting "to fix up things." Barzini would use a trusted member of the Corleone family as an intermediary. At the funeral, Tessio tells Michael that he had set up a meeting on his territory in Brooklyn, where Michael would presumably be safe. However, Michael had anticipated this, and has Tessio killed, along with the heads of the other mob families in New York, Rizzi, and Las Vegas mobster Moe Greene, who was stonewalling Michael's efforts to buy casinos, In one bold stroke, Michael makes real Vito's long-time dream of making the Corleone Family the most powerful criminal organization in the country.
The Godfather: The Game
Vito Corleone appears in the 2005 videogame adaptation of the first film. He is voiced by Doug Abrahams, but his likeness is that of Marlon Brando. In it, he sends the player on some missions.
He first appears in the introduction cutscene set in 1936, in which his loyal soldier Johnny Trapani is murdered by men working for Emilio Barzini. Vito comforts Johnny's son Aldo Trapani, and assures him that one day he will be able to take his revenge.
In 1945, on the day of his daughter Connie's wedding, he is visited by Johnny's widow Serafina, who reveals that Aldo has fallen in with the wrong crowd and is worried for him. Due to Johnny's loyalty to the family, something of which Vito hasn't forgotten, he sends Luca Brasi to track down Aldo. Luca finds Aldo and saves him from being severally harmed by thugs, and begins to teach him the ropes, and with that Aldo becomes an enforcer for the Corleone family.
After Vito is shot down by gangsters at the market, Aldo escorts his ambulance to the hospital to stop any further assassination attempts en route. At the hospital, Aldo stands guard at the door, and then later teams up with Vito's son Michael Corleone to kill off gangsters trying to claim Vito Corleone's life, which they do with great success.
After being discharged, Vito has Aldo brought into the family as a made man. Following his eldest son Sonny's death, Vito has Aldo promoted to Capo.
The player can do a couple of favours for Don Corleone, one which involves paying off an official, and another breaking up a union strike at a warehouse.
Despite being a mobster who committed numerous crimes from blackmail to murder, Vito was a loyal and caring man who was protective and loving towards his family, whom he valued above all else. He was also loyal to his friends, valuing friendship almost as much as family.
He demanded respect for his status, wishing to be referred to as "Godfather" and "Don Corleone", even by his closest associates. Despite this, his reputation was for his compassion, unlike many other Mafia leaders who wished to be feared. He was highly intelligent and logical, understanding the opportunities and results of events in the future like a master chess player as well as being a wise adviser of Michael.
- Marlon Brando received an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as Vito Corleone, though he refused it. Robert De Niro also received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as a younger Vito. This makes Vito Corelone one of only two fictional characters to receive more than one Academy Award (the other being the the Joker).
- Premiere Magazine listed Vito Corleone as the greatest film character in history. He was also selected as the 53rd greatest film character by Empire.
- The character popularized the idea that Mafia bosses are referred to as "Don [surname]", while the actual Sicilian use (derived from Spanish nobility) wants that "Don" (meaning "Mister", "Sir", or "Lord") be associated with the first name or the nickname (for example as in "Don Vito").
- Vito Corleone is believed to be a composite of Frank Costello, Joe Profaci, Carlo Gambino and Joseph Bonanno.
- The assassination attempt on Vito Corleone is inspired by the murder of Frank Scalice, who was shot to death while buying fruit at a vegetable market.
- Marlon Brando used audio tapes from the Kefauver hearings to listen to Frank Costello's voice as inspiration to build his portrayal of the character. Costello also had vast political connections and was against the narcotics trade. Joe Profaci was a leading importer of olive oil in the United States and was dubbed "The Olive Oil King". Joe Bonanno was born in a small town in Sicily and went to the United States following the death of his father. He also wanted his son to succeed him as boss of one of the Five Families. Carlo Gambino became the de facto boss of bosses in the 1960s and was known for being low-key and soft spoken.