Head Scratchers / The Godfather

  • Clemenza has a line: "...it's a lot of bad blood. Sollozzo, Philip Tattaglia, Bruno Tattaglia; Carbone,..." Who the heck is Carbone?
    • Seems to be a one time ghost. He's only mentioned once in the final script and not at all in the novel. Knowing that Richard Castellano loved to add his own stuff, a Throw It In can't be discarded.
  • After being turned down by Don Corleone for support in their narcotics enterprise, why did the Tattaglias and Sollozzo go after the Corleones? If Tom's assessment of them is to be believed, they could have been perfectly successful even without the protection the Corleones could offer, though maybe not as easily. There was no conflict of interest, as the Don pointed out. The Tattaglias could have gone on with their narcotics deal, the Corleones sticking with their own rackets, and in a few years down the line, they'd have been in a better position of strength. Going to war unnecessarily wasn't good for business.
    • To them, neutrality is not good enough, because it doesn't stop prosecution. It's implied that proactive help from the Corleones' network of corruption is needed in order to make it worthy. At least the other families think they are not profiting enough from it without the network. Tataglia and Barzini are visibly annoyed, Vito's "selfish and unfriendly" gesture means they are taking too much risk and not gaining enough money. In addition, Tataglia is a pimp, greedy and easily manipulated (he's not invited to the wedding, he's a longtime foe), and Sollozzo is an upcoming player who is eager to climb-up and has contempt for the old Don, who "was slipping", so overthrowing the old order comes only natural to him, a generational thing, a literal Young Turk vs a Moustache Pete.
    • In addition, they know that Sonny thought the deal was really good (he said so at the meeting), and they correctly suspect that Hagen and Vito's other advisors think that narcotics is the coming thing. In the book Sollozzo explains that without Vito, Sonny and the Corleone family will need the extra money from drug trafficking to offset the loss of Vito's personal influence. He thinks that the Corleone family will basically have to take the deal if Vito dies, and although he does realize that Sonny will always hate him personally he figures he can avoid situations where Sonny will be able to kill him.
    • One more note that could have triggered the violence: Tataglia and Sollozzo may have been perfectly fine being neutral, but Don Vito sends in Luca Brasi, the Family's most feared Enforcer, as a spy (under the guise of defecting). It's possible they saw through this rather obvious attempt to spy and dig and reconsidered their neutral stance.

  • Why did Michael have to shoot McCluskey as well as Sollozzo? After shooting Sollozzo he could have disarmed McCluskey at gunpoint and made his escape. Instead of being the prime suspect in the murder of a police captain he would have been implicated only in the shooting of an ex-con drug dealer, and this wouldn't have required over a year's risky exile in Sicily.
    • If Michael does this, he has basically committed premeditated murder in front of a virtually unimpeachable eyewitness who (according to Sonny) has let his precinct know on a sign-out sheet that he will be in that exact restaurant at that exact time. Once Michael leaves McCluskey could just finger him and he'd face the electric chair. This is why Sollozzo employs McCluskey as a bodyguard to begin with. The double murder has the same effect in getting the police involved, but as the film shows, does allow the press to dig up McCluskey's past.

  • So Michael has his goons wipe out the Dons of the other families. Why didn't they retaliate?
    • Remember how the Turk thought that the Corleones would eventually capitulate with Vito dead to prevent a war? Same principle, but Michael was better at the setup and execution.
    • Much like what Sollozzo wanted to accomplish by killing Vito, killing the heads of the other families lessens their power because the old Dons had connections that their successors aren't going to be as cozy with. In GF II, at the Senate hearings, they explain this as Michael "consolidating power". In fact, killing the other family heads was Vito's plan, as he knew the Corleone family would be weakened by his death and the only way to keep the Corleone family powerful was by a strong action like that.
    • It's also that Michael killed them all at roughly the same time, which would impress upon the successors just how dangerous an opponent Michael would be. The book elaborates a bit more, explaining that a lot of rival businesses were raided, but mainly it's about shocking the other Families into collapse.
    • They may also face internal weaknesses, power struggles, etc. Michael takes over the Corleone family pretty much because he's the only viable candidate at that point (Fredo clearly isn't up to it and no one would take him seriously enough to join his side in a power struggle), whereas there's no guarantee with the other Families that the line of succession is as clear or that someone isn't going to make a power grab. Essentially, they might be too distracted getting their own houses in order to be in a position to retaliate.
      • This grand move was also done to solidify Michael's legitimacy to power. The Winegardner sequels play this up: Unlike Sonny (who was widely viewed to be the Don's successor before his own untimely death) Michael had never even been a mafia soldier, much less run a crew or been a captain, and his becoming the Don's chosen successor raised more than a few eyebrows. Puzo mentions that Clemenza or Tessio would have been prime candidates to take over the family. It's noted in the novel that at the first meeting after the Don's death, Clemenza calls him "Mike" instead of "Michael," to say nothing of "Don" or "Godfather." After the grand move, Clemenza kisses his hand and specifically addresses him as "Don Corleone," Michael now being seen as a legitimate successor to his father.

  • How in the name Christ did Tom Hagen, a non-Sicilian, in 1945, ever rank as high in the family as consigliere? HOW?
    • That's what Don Corleone wanted. Who's going to tell him otherwise? In the "real" Mafia, all that stuff about blood oaths and the old country is a bunch of crap foisted off onto the junior members to make them feel like they're part of an exclusive honor society. The upper echelons see power and money as their own rewards. Look at Lucky Luciano; he handed off the "official" Mafia titles when he was locked up, then told his Italian successors that he expected them to follow his Jewish "associate"'s orders to the letter.
      • But weren't Mustache Petes like Salvatore Maranzano and Joe Masseria practically the racist ones, whereas Luciano wasn't?
    • Tom Hagen was a lawyer who grew up with Sonny and eventually entered the family business. Consigliere is the position he'd be best at. And yeah, Don Vito wanted it that way.
  • Ever since Puzo died back in 1999, who is (or are) the literary executor(s) for Puzo's canon? Because are the Mark Winegardner books and Family Corleone canon?
    • Family Corleone could probably be considered canon, as it's based off a script written by Puzo, detailing the life of the Corleone family some ten or so years prior to the films. The first Winegardner book is allegedly recognized, but the second book resulted in Paramount suing the Puzo estate — not only because they stepped over the bounds of their agreement on authorised literature, but also because The Godfather's Revenge sold badly, and "tarnished" the reputation of the franchise. There's a Reuters article about it.
  • How is it Fredo is considered stupid? Before betraying Michael, did he actually ever do a stupid thing on-screen?
    • Telling Michael he never knew Johnny Ola and then later at the "Superman" show saying aloud that Ola told him about this place, within earshot of Michael was pretty stupid!
      • No, like, did he actually fuck up business or what? Like, if you're talking about brains doesn't Sonny lack one too?
      • How about when he was supposed to be protecting his father and not only let him get shot, but couldn't shoot back, and instead of going for help, sat on the pavement and cried? And apparently pissing off his Vegas cohorts enough that he got hit, despite the fact that he's a made man and the don's brother?
      • Sonny's hot-headed and as even Vito admits probably wouldn't make a great Don, but he's tough and confident. He might not be an intellectual powerhouse or a great tactician, but he commands respect (even if mainly through fear of his temper), he's decisive, and he's not completely useless. He might not be the best to do the job, but he can do it if necessary (perhaps not as well as Vito, but he could do it). Fredo, on the other hand, comes off throughout the movies as awkward, weak-willed and inept. He mumbles and fumbles, he gives into his vices, he lets other people dominate and sway him (including, crucially, people from outside the family, like Moe Greene), he doesn't carry himself with confidence, he screws up a lot, and he's clearly just not cut out for the life of a high-level mobster. He doesn't command respect, and the way he doesn't command respect makes it easy for him to come off (or, at least, for other people to refer to him) as stupid.
  • How exactly did Fredo betray Michael? It's never explained. We know that he talked to Johnny Ola but that's it. The best guess is that he told Roth's people where exactly Michael and Kay's bedroom was on the Corleone compound.When Fredo gets a phone call from Ola and Fredo says "You lied to me." then later tells Michael "I didn't know it was going to be a hit." he could mean he thought they were just going to steal something from his room instead of shooting at it.
    • An early script explains that Fredo was told by the co-conspirators of the failed hit on the Corleone compound that they wanted to kidnap Michael to put some pressure on the Corleone Family in negotiations. It doesn't explain exactly what information Fredo gave them. Perhaps he gave them information about the compound that could have been used to catch Michael off-guard for what he thought would be a kidnapping?
    • Ultimately, to Michael it doesn't matter what Fredo thought was going to happen. Remember back in the first movie, Michael tells Fredo "Don't ever take sides against the family again." In conspiring with Ola, even if Fredo didn't think they were planning to actually assassinate Michael, he took sides against the family. There's the betrayal.
  • Vito's mom claimed he wasn't very smart to Don Ciccio, but Vito proved to be a very intelligent guy throughout his life. Was this her way of trying to get Ciccio to spare him by pretending he was a little daft? He does seem oddly quiet as a kid as if there was something off about him, but by the time he reaches adulthood, again, he tends to be the smartest guy in the room. Does the novel clear any of this up?
    • The novel states that Vito was a very quiet child, simply because he didn't have much to say: he was an observer, not a talker. This is mentioned later when an adult Vito and Clemenza become friends as "Clemenza was a storyteller, and Vito was a listener to storytellers." In addition, the novel mentions almost in passing that young Vito was already known around the town of Corleone as an expert marksman, and that was what Don Ciccio was really afraid of: someone good with a gun who would have a grudge against him.
  • Why did Michael have Cuneo and Stracci killed? It made sense with Barzini and Tattaglia since they were conspiring against him, but why the other two dons?
    • After Solozzo and McClusky are killed, all the families go to war against the Corleones, so those two have to go too, since they were part of a unified enemy. Also Michael is not seeking mere victory, but total supremacy.
      • In the book however, Michael spared them. What caused him to do differently in the movie?
  • Who's the fifth family? In the book and the movie, we've got Stracci, Cuneo, Barzini, Tattaliga. Who's the fifth?
    • The Corleones.

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