MICHAEL CORLEONE is the main protagonist of
Mario Puzo 's novel The
Godfather and the three Godfather films directed by Francis Ford
Coppola . Michael was portrayed by
Al Pacino , for which he was
Academy Awards .
Corleone was recognized as the 11th most iconic villain in
film history by the
American Film Institute , although some critics
consider him to be a tragic hero .
* 1 Family
The Godfather Part II
The Godfather Part III
* 7 Family members
* 8 References
* 9 Bibliography
Born in 1920, Michael is the youngest son of the mafia don Vito
Corleone and his wife, Carmela . He has two older brothers, Santino
Corleone and Frederico "Fredo"
Corleone and a younger sister,
Corleone . The family consigliere ,
Tom Hagen , is
their informal adoptive brother.
The story begins in the summer of 1945. Michael has been discharged
from the Marine Corps having been wounded; his father, the Godfather ,
had arranged his release. He returns home to attend his sister
Connie's wedding, accompanied by Kay Adams , his college sweetheart.
Michael stays for a few weeks before re-entering college without
consulting his family.
Unlike his two older brothers, Michael does not want to join the
Corleone business. Vito does not want Michael to join the Corleone
criminal empire either, preferring that Michael takes a legitimate
occupation. When the United States entered
World War II
World War II in 1941,
Michael had enlisted in the Marine Corps. During the war, he was in
the Pacific . He received a battlefield commission to the rank of
captain and is awarded the Navy Cross for bravery. In 1944, his war
heroism is featured in Life magazine .
Just before Christmas 1945, Vito is severely wounded in an
assassination attempt by drug kingpin
Virgil Sollozzo , throwing
Michael into the middle of the
Mafia world he had for so long avoided.
Michael reaffirms his loyalty at his father's bedside, then calls
Sonny and prevents Sollozzo's second attempt on Vito's life. Captain
McCluskey, a corrupt NYPD officer on Sollozzo's payroll, breaks
Michael's jaw. Sonny then orders
Bruno Tattaglia , son and underboss
of Sollozzo's ally
Philip Tattaglia , to be murdered. Sollozzo
proposes that Michael to be sent to broker a truce but Sonny believing
its a trick refuses and demands that the other
Mafia families hand
over Sollozzo to the
Corleone family or else face war. Michael
suggests they agree to Sollozzo's meeting but insists its a public
place with people where he will murder Sollozzo and McCluskey.
Tom Hagen warns Sonny that killing McCluskey
would violate a long-standing
Mafia rule not to kill members of law
enforcement and the backlash from rival
Mafia families and law
enforcement would be severe. Michael successfully argues that
McCluskey is fair game because he is a corrupt cop mixed up in the
drug trade and serving as Sollozzo's bodyguard. Sonny agrees and
approves the hit.
Michael meets with Sollozzo and McCluskey at an Italian restaurant in
the Bronx, Michael retrieves a handgun that
Corleone caporegime Peter
Clemenza had planted in the bathroom and kills Sollozzo and McCluskey.
This ignites the New York underworld's first
Mafia war in a decade.
Michael flees to
Sicily , where he spends two years under the
protection of Vito's friend and longtime ally,
Don Tommasino . Michael
meets and falls in love with a young local woman named Apollonia
Vitelli . They marry and when Michael is notified that Sonny has been
murdered, they prepare to move to the safer Syracusa . Apollonia is
killed by a car bomb intended for Michael. Fabrizio, Michael's
bodyguard, planted the bomb after being bought off by the Corleones'
Michael returns to the United States in early 1951 and assumes
Sonny's role as Vito's heir apparent. He and his father continue
Sonny's plot to wipe out the other New York Dons, deliberately
allowing them to whittle away at the
Corleone interests in order to
lull them into inaction. Meanwhile, Michael convinces his father the
time is right to remove the family from the Mafia. More than a year
after his return, Michael reunites with Kay and they marry. He
promises her the
Corleone family will be completely legitimate in five
years. Within two years, they have two children, Anthony and Mary . In
the novel, Kay gives birth to two sons.
Vito semi-retires in 1954, and Michael becomes operating head of the
family. He attempts to buy out casino owner
Moe Greene 's stake in the
Las Vegas casino that the Corleones bankrolled, intending to move the
Nevada and legitimize all
Corleone enterprises, but Greene
refuses to sell. Before his death in 1955, Vito warns Michael that
Emilio Barzini , head of a rival family, will likely attempt to
assassinate Michael under the pretense of establishing peace between
the families. Vito tells Michael that whoever approaches him about the
meeting is the traitor within the family. When caporegime Salvatore
Tessio unknowingly exposes his complicity with Barzini by arranging
the meeting, Michael sets the plan in motion to murder the other New
Mafia heads: Barzini,
Philip Tattaglia , Carmine Cuneo, and
Victor Stracci , as well as Moe Greene. The plot unfolds on the same
day Michael stands as godfather to Connie's newborn son. Later the
same day, Tessio and Carlo Rizzi , Connie's abusive husband who
conspired in Sonny's murder, are executed. In one stroke, Michael
Corleone family as the nation's most powerful crime
family, and makes a reputation for himself as being even more cunning
and ruthless than his father.
Connie accuses Michael of murdering Carlo. Michael dismisses her
accusations as hysteria, and, when questioned by Kay, denies any
involvement. In the novel, Connie recants her accusations a few weeks
later, assuring Kay she was mistaken. Kay, initially believing
Michael, later observes him receiving his capos. Clemenza addresses
Michael as "Don Corleone" and kisses his hand in the same manner that
he did with Michael's father. Kay realizes Connie's accusations were
true, and that Michael has become his father's successor in every way.
In the novel, Kay leaves Michael, but Hagen persuades her to return.
THE GODFATHER PART II
The Godfather Part II is set in 1958 and 1959. The
has relocated to
Frank Pentangeli runs the family's
operations in New York, Clemenza having died a few years before.
Although Michael is the most powerful
Mafia leader in the nation, he
still actively works to remove the
Corleone family from crime. His
efforts have been largely unsuccessful, however, as his many enemies
and growing obsession with revenge keep him tethered to the criminal
underworld. Michael plans to finally legitimize the family by
Hyman Roth , his father's former business partner,
over controlling casino operations in
Hours after Anthony's
First Communion party, unseen gunmen shoot at
Corleone house, nearly killing Michael and Kay. Michael suspects
Roth ordered the hit, and believes a mole within the
aided him. To uncover Roth's involvement, Michael maintains their
business relationship, and orders Pentangeli to settle a dispute with
Roth's business partners, the Rosato Brothers. When Pentangeli meets
with them, they try to kill him, but he survives.
Michael, Roth, and Fredo travel to
Cuba to forge a partnership with
Fulgencio Batista allowing them to operate casinos in
interference in exchange for generous payments to the Cuban
government. Michael sends his bodyguard to eliminate Roth on New
Year\'s Eve , but Cuban soldiers kill the bodyguard during the
attempt. That same night, Fredo unintentionally reveals that he was
the mole within the family; Michael confronts Fredo and gives him the
Sicilian "kiss of death ". During the
New Year's Eve
New Year's Eve festivities,
victorious rebel forces enter Havana , forcing Batista into exile and
ruining Michael's plans. Fredo, fearing Michael, runs off; Roth
Meanwhile, Pentangeli, believing Michael had ordered a hit on him,
prepares to testify against him in the Senate 's investigation of
organized crime . However, Michael has Pentangeli's brother Vincenzo
brought from Sicily. Just prior to the hearing, Vincenzo and Frank
exchange glances. Understanding the threat, Pentangeli recants his
earlier sworn statements, throwing the hearings into chaos and
effectively destroying the government's case against Michael.
Fredo confesses to Michael that Roth's right-hand man,
Johnny Ola ,
had promised to reward him for information about Michael. Fredo also
reveals that he resented being "passed over" to head the family in
favor of Michael, and that he withheld key information about the
Senate investigation. Michael disowns Fredo, and tells his assassin Al
Neri that nothing is to happen to his brother while their mother is
alive — the implication being Neri will execute Fredo after her
Meanwhile, Kay decides to leave Michael and take their children with
her, believing Michael will always live in a world of crime and
violence. Michael asks her to reconsider, but Kay reveals she aborted
their unborn son because she refused to bring another child into the
Corleones' crime world. Enraged, Michael strikes Kay and banishes her,
preventing her from seeing their children.
Following their mother's death, and at sister Connie's behest,
Michael seemingly forgives Fredo; soon after, however, Neri murders
Fredo on Michael's orders. At the same time, Michael sends Hagen to
persuade Pentangeli to commit suicide to spare his family, and has
Rocco Lampone kill a heavily guarded Roth at Idlewild
Airport upon his return to the U.S.
The film ends as Michael recalls a surprise birthday party for his
December 7, 1941 . In a flashback scene, Michael informs the
family that he has dropped out of college to enlist in the Marines.
Only Fredo supports Michael's decision. When Vito arrives off-screen,
everyone goes to greet him except Michael, who sits alone. The film
closes with Michael sitting alone in the Corleones' Lake Tahoe
THE GODFATHER PART III
The Godfather Part III is set in 1979 and 1980. Michael has moved
back to New York and taken great strides to remove the family from
crime. He turns over his New York criminal interests to longtime
Joey Zasa . Ridden with guilt over his ruthless rise to
power, he uses his wealth in an attempt to rehabilitate his reputation
through numerous philanthropic acts, administered by a foundation
named after his father. A decade earlier, he gave custody of his two
children to Kay, who has since remarried. He sells his gambling
interests to the other
Mafia families and reorganizes his vast
business holdings as the "
Holy See has named him a Commander of the Order of Saint
Sebastian for his charitable works. At the ceremony, Michael and Kay
have an uneasy reunion after nine years. Kay wants their son, Anthony,
to have nothing to do with the
Corleone "legacy", and tells Michael
that both she and Anthony know the truth about Fredo's death. Michael
had initially wanted Anthony to finish law school, but consents to
Anthony becoming an opera singer.
Michael's new connection to the Church provides an opportunity to
take over the large property company,
Immobiliare . He is already its
largest shareholder, and offers to buy the Vatican's 25 percent share,
which will give him controlling interest . He also takes in Sonny's
Vincent Mancini , a soldier in Zasa's crew, as his
protegé. Michael recognizes that Vincent has inherited Sonny's fiery
temper and fears Vincent will suffer his father's fate. Michael also
disapproves of the romance developing between him and Michael's
daughter, Mary . Michael fears that Vincent's growing involvement in
Mafia will endanger Mary, just as it did Michael's first wife,
On the night Michael announces he is dissolving his gambling empire,
Zasa wipes out most of The Commission in a helicopter attack in
Atlantic City . Michael escapes with help from Vincent and Neri.
Michael quickly realizes that his old friend,
Don Altobello ,
conspired to murder him. Traumatized by the attack, Michael suffers a
diabetic stroke , briefly incapacitating him. Francis Ford Coppola
reveals in his audio commentary that Michael is seen drinking a lot of
water in the first two films—subtle hints that he is a diabetic.
While Michael recovers, his sister, Connie, gives Vincent her consent
to assassinate Zasa. Michael is enraged upon discovering this, and
demands that no similar orders be issued while he is alive.
Michael returns to
Sicily for Anthony's operatic debut at the Teatro
Massimo . Suspecting that Altobello may make another attempt on his
life, he has Vincent infiltrate Altobello's regime under the pretense
of defecting. Michael and Kay tour
Sicily together, during which
Michael asks for Kay's forgiveness. Kay admits she will always love
Immobiliare deal has stalled, supposedly because Pope
Paul VI must personally approve it. Michael learns that the
Immobiliare deal is an elaborate swindle concocted by Immobiliare
chairman Licio Lucchesi, who schemed with
Vatican Bank head Archbishop
Gilday and accountant Frederick Keinszig to embezzle a fortune from
the Vatican Bank, using Michael's "investment" to cover their tracks.
Hoping to salvage the deal, Michael seeks Don Tommasino's assistance.
He directs Michael to
Cardinal Lamberto (the future Pope John Paul I
). With Lamberto's prodding, Michael makes his first confession in 30
years, tearfully breaking down as he admits to ordering Fredo's
murder. Lamberto tells Michael he deserves to suffer for his terrible
sins, but that there is hope for redemption.
John Paul I dies soon after being elected pope, poisoned by Gilday.
Michael learns that Altobello (in league with the conspirators) has
hired an assassin named Mosca to kill him. Mosca murders Tommasino,
and Michael vows before his old friend's casket to sin no more.
Vincent reports that Lucchesi, working with Altobello, is behind the
assassination attempts on Michael.
Weary of the bloody, lonely life of a Don, Michael retires, making
Vincent his successor but not before giving him permission to
retaliate. In return, Vincent agrees to end his romance with Mary.
That night, Michael, reconciled with Kay and Anthony, watches his
son's performance in the opera
Cavalleria Rusticana . Meanwhile,
Vincent orchestrates the murders of Lucchesi, Gilday and Keinszig, and
Connie murders Altobello with a poisoned cannoli .
After the performance, Mosca shoots Michael, and the bullet passes
through his body and hits Mary, killing her. Her death breaks
Michael's spirit, and he screams in agony over her body. He returns to
Bagheria , Sicily, where he dies alone in 1997.
Michael is a secondary character in Puzo's novel
The Sicilian , which
takes place during his first exile in Sicily. He learns from Clemenza
about the legendary exploits of the novel's main character, Salvatore
Giuliano, and is eager to meet him, but Giuliano is murdered before
the meeting can take place.
Michael appears in
Mark Winegardner 's sequel novels The Godfather
Returns and The Godfather\'s Revenge . In Godfather Returns, set
roughly during the time of Godfather Part II, Michael battles with a
Nick Geraci , while attempting to legitimize the family.
In Godfather's Revenge, set a few years after the second film, he
moves to protect his criminal empire against Geraci and the
machinations of a powerful political dynasty, while dealing with his
guilt over having Fredo murdered. In the latter novel, he has a
relationship with actress Marguerite "Rita" Duvall in the early 1960s,
but he ends it upon realizing that he is still in love with Kay.
Vito Corleone – Michael's father and The Godfather, played by
Marlon Brando in The Godfather, and by
Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro in flashback
scenes in Part II
Carmela Corleone – Mother, played by
Morgana King in The
Godfather Part I and Part II, and by
Francesca De Sapio in flashback
scenes in Part II
Tom Hagen – Adopted brother and consigliere , played by Robert
* Santino "Sonny"
Corleone – Eldest brother, underboss to Vito,
James Caan in
The Godfather Part 1, and by
Roman Coppola in
flashback scenes from Part II
* Constanzia "Connie"
Corleone – Sister, played by
* Frederico "Fredo"
Corleone – Elder brother, underboss to
Michael; played by
Apollonia Vitelli-Corleone – First wife, played by Simonetta
Kay Adams-Corleone – Second wife, played by
Anthony Corleone – Son, played by Anthony Gounaris in The
Godfather, by James Gounaris in Part II, and by Franc D\'Ambrosio in
Mary Corleone – Daughter, played by an uncredited actress in
Part II, and by
Sofia Coppola in Part III
Vincent Mancini-Corleone – Nephew and succeeding Don, played by
* ^ AFI\'s 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains Archived October
23, 2007, at the
Wayback Machine .
* ^ "
The Godfather Movie Review by Anthony Leong". Mediacircus.net.
* ^ Puzo, Mario and Coppola, Francis Ford. (1971, 29 March). THE
GODFATHER, The Internet Movie Script Database
* ^ A B
The Godfather Part III DVD commentary featuring Francis
Accessed on June 27, 2014
Amazon.com Accessed on June 27, 2014
* Coccimiglio, Carmela (2006). "I\'m with You Now. I\'m with
Corleone as Gangster Figure in Mario Puzo\'s and
Francis Ford Coppola\'s
The Godfather Texts. Lakehead University
(Canada). ISBN 978-0-494-31189-9 .
* Messenger, Chris (1 February 2012).
The Godfather and American
Culture: How the Corleones Became "Our Gang". SUNY Press. p. 31. ISBN
* Coppola, Francis Ford (2004). Francis Ford Coppola: Interviews.
Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-57806-666-7 .
* Bondanella, Peter E. (2004). Hollywood Italians: Dagos, Palookas,
Romeos, Wise Guys, and Sopranos. A&C Black. p. 244. ISBN
* Tamburri, Anthony Julian ; Giordano, Paolo ; Gardaphe, Fred L.
(2000). From the Margin: Writings in Italian Americana. Purdue
University Press. p. 406. ISBN 978-1-55753-152-0 .
Vito Corleone Head of the
Corleone crime family
c 1955–1958 Succeeded by
Tom Hagen (Interim)
Tom Hagen (Interim) Head of the
Corleone crime family
c 1959–1980 Succeeded by
The Godfather Returns
* The Godfather\'s Revenge
The Family Corleone
The Family Corleone
The Godfather Part II
The Godfather Part III
The Godfather (1991)
The Godfather (2006)
The Godfather II (2009)
* Michael Corleone
* Paulie Gatto
* Carlo Rizzi
* Danny Shea
Billy Van Arsdale
The Godfather (soundtrack)
The Godfather Part II (soundtrack)
The Godfather Part III (soundtrack)
Speak Softly, Love "
* "Promise Me You\'ll Remember "
* List of minor characters in
The Godfather series
The Godfather Effect
The Godfather Papers and Other Confessions
* The Freshman
The Godfather Saga
The Last Don
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