The Godfather was born Vito Andolini, in Corleone, Sicily. His father was murdered by the local Mafia chieftain, Don Ciccio, who then killed Vito’s brother, Paolo. Vito’s mother puts a knife to Ciccio’s throat shouting that Vito should run. She’s then killed.
Sympathetic villagers help Vito to America. At Ellis Island, his surname’s wrongly registered as Corleone. Vito has smallpox and so must be quarantined for three months.
Lake Tahoe, Nevada. 1958.
It’s Vito’s grandson’s First Communion party. A week late in arriving, Connie asks to see Michael. Connie’s mother, Carmela, tells Connie to first see her children.
Onstage, Senator Pat Geary of the State of Nevada announces it’s a young man’s First Communion and that Geary has a magnificent endowment made out to the University in the name of Anthony Vito Corleone.
Geary later says the Corleones control two major hotels in Vegas and one in Reno, with plans to move against the Tropigala. Geary offers Michael the licence for $250,000 plus five percent of the gross monthly of all four hotels. Licences usually cost under $20,000.
Geary despises the dishonest way Michael poses himself and his family. Michael says they’re both part of the same hypocrisy, but it never applies to Michael’s family. Michael refuses Geary’s demands. Geary laughs and leaves the room, ebulliently greeting both wives outside waiting.
Johnny Ola enters Michael’s office. The registered owners of the casino Michael’s interested in are Jacob Lawrence and Allan Barclay — both Beverly Hills attorneys. The real owners are the old Lakeville Road group from Cleveland and their friend in Miami. Myer Klingman owns a piece of it, too. But, if Michael moves him out, Hyman Roth will go along.
Connie tells Michael she and Merle are getting married and going to Europe. Michael suggests she live easily on the estate with her kids. If she marries Merle, Michael will be disappointed.
Fredo’s wife, Deanna, is intoxicated, and causing a scene. She says Fredo’s jealous of real men. She continues insulting Italians until she’s meaningfully contained.
Michael says Clemenza promised the Rosato brothers three territories after he died. They feel cheated. Frank Pentangeli says the Rosatos spit in his face because they’re backed by Hyman Roth.
Michael has important business with Roth. Michael’s father did business with Roth. Pentangeli agrees, but Vito never trusted Roth, or his Sicilian messenger boy, Johnny Ola.
That night, there’s machinegun fire at Michael’s bedroom. He crawls on the floor and checks on Kay. Sirens sound and attack dogs are released. Michael gives Tom complete power over the family.
Vito Corleone. New York City. 1917
In a theatre, Vito’s with friend, Genco Abbandando. Someone stands up in front and Genco protests. When Genco sees it’s Don Fanucci, the Black Hand, he respectfully grovels. The whole neighbourhood pays Fanucci.
There’s an urgent, loud whisper at the window. Vito must hold something for a week. A parcel is thrown to Vito and the man disappears. Unbeknownst to his wife, Vito discovers guns inside.
Fanucci tells grocer, Abbandando, he must immediately give Fanucci’s nephew a job. Vito understands the pressured Abbandando has no choice. Vito says he’ll never forget the kindnesses Abbandando always showed him.
Peter Clemenza thanks Vito for keeping the parcel a secret, then offers Vito a nice rug as a gift. He breaks into a palatial house and starts rolling the rug. A policeman knocks at the door and peers through. Clemenza is ready with his gun. The policeman leaves and they carry the rug to Vito’s apartment where Carmela is really pleased.
Roth calls the attack on Michael stupid. At least Michael’s OK. Good health is the most important thing. More than success, money or power. Pentangeli asked Michael’s permission to get rid of the Rosato brothers.
When Michael refused, Pentangeli tried killing him. Pentangeli was stupid, Michael was lucky. Roth says what they’ll both do in the next few months will make history, calling Pentangeli small potatoes.
At Pentangeli’s house, Michael wants Pentangeli to help Michael take his revenge. Pentangeli would do anything. It was Roth tried to kill Michael. Pentangeli blasphemes. In that very room, Vito taught Michael “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer”. Michael wants Roth relaxed and confident in their friendship. Then, the real traitor in Michael’s family will be revealed.
Pentangeli meets Carmine Rosato, but Anthony Rosato strangles him, saying Michael Corleone says hello. A policeman appears and there’s a brief gunfight. One cop’s injured and Pentangeli’s bodyguard Willi Cicci’s hit by a passing car, but it’s not fatal.
Geary regains consciousness by a bloodied, dead hooker bound to a bedframe, then collapses sobbing. Tom says Geary should tell his office he spent the night as a guest at Michael Corleone’s Lake Tahoe house. The dead girl has no family, nobody knew she worked there, she never existed. All that remains is Geary’s friendship with Michael Corleone.
Michael sits around a large table with Roth and other heads of industry. They’re welcomed to Havana. The president, Fulgencio Batista, assures them they’ll drive the rebels out of Santa Clara before the New Year. They’ll tolerate no guerrillas in the casinos or the swimming pools.
Later, Michael’s car’s stopped. One of the men arrested against the wall breaks free. He yells “Viva Fidel” and dives into a police car with a live grenade.
Roth says the Cuban government knows how to help business. The hotels are bigger and swankier than any in Vegas. They can thank their friends in the Cuban government, which has put up half the cash with the Teamsters, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, and has relaxed restrictions on imports. They now have real partnership with a government.
Roth says everyone knows Michael Corleone and his late father. In time, Roth will turn over all his interests in the Havana operation to Michael’s control.
Michael mentions the suicide explosion he saw. Roth says rebellion’s been in Cuba’s blood for fifty years. Roth was running molasses from Havana in the Twenties, using Michael’s father’s trucks.
Roth says in Cuba, they’re free to make their profits without Kefauver, the Justice Department and the FBI. Roth seizes Michael and says they’re bigger than US Steel.
Fredo arrives with two million dollars in a briefcase. Michael tells him the cash is a gift for the Cuban President. After the New Year celebrations, Michael will be assassinated. Roth tried to kill Michael. As a result, Michael will kill Roth.
Roth asks where the money is. Michael asks who ordered the Rosato brothers to have Pentangeli killed. Roth says during Prohibition, he and an old friend made a fortune running molasses into Canada. Michael’s father, too.
This friend created the city of Las Vegas. His name was Moe Greene and an unknown person put a bullet through his eye. Roth wasn’t angry when he heard. Roth said “This is the business we’ve chosen”.
That night, there’s dancing girls and fountains onstage. Fredo pretends never to have met Johnny Ola, but later, Fredo tells Geary Johnny Ola recommended a lewd stage show. Michael is silently repulsed and seething as he realises Fredo’s the traitor.
There’s New Year confetti everywhere and cheering. In crowds, Michael embraces Fredo and viciously kisses him. Michael says Fredo broke his heart. Michael repeats this and Fredo runs off.
The president resigns. Rebels in the streets are chanting slogans. Michael calls out to Fredo from his car offering sanctuary. He says Fredo’s still his brother. Fruit machines and parking meters are broken open on the floor.
Michael returns to America. Tom says Kay knows Michael’s back. Roth left Havana by boat. He’s in a Miami hospital. Michael wants Tom to tell Fredo Michael knows Roth misled him. Tom tells Michael Kay had a miscarriage.
Don Fanucci climbs aboard Vito’s car. He hears Vito is stealing goods. Fanucci heard Vito and friends cleared $600 each. They should each give him $200 for respect. Fanucci threatens Vito’s family. Vito evenly says he’d first have to talk to his friends.
Vito doesn’t want to pay Fanucci. Clemenza says Fanucci’s gang are animals and he has police connections. Vito suggests they both give him $50 and he’ll reason with Fanucci. Vito’s friends should remember this favour, then Vito raises a toast.
There’s a festa. Vito tells Clemenza and Salvatore Tessio he’ll make Fanucci an offer he can’t refuse. Vito offers Fanucci the $100, saying he’s short of money. Fanucci laughs and praises Vito’s guts. Fanucci slaps Vito on the face and leaves.
Outside, Vito tracks Fanucci from neighbouring rooftops and finds his hidden gun at the top of Fanucci’s building. Vito hides in the shadows with a towel wrapped around his gun.
Vito shoots Fanucci in the chest. Fanucci reveals his bulletproof jacket, so Vito shoots him in the head. Vito takes his wallet and leaves.
On the roof, Vito breaks the gun apart and drops the pieces down different chimney tops. He then joins his young family on their stoop to watch the festa.
At a Senate Committee hearing in Washington DC, Willi Cicci admits that from the year 1942 to the present time, he was a member of the Corleone family. He confirms that he killed for Michael Corleone.
A street grocer gives Vito produce for free. Vito acknowledges the favour. Signora Colombo visits Vito. Her neighbours complained about her dog. Then, landlord, Roberto, evicted her. Colombo wants Vito to tell Roberto she wants to stay.
Vito tells Roberto Signora Colombo’s a poor widow and all she has is the neighbourhood. Roberto has already re-rented the property. He says the new tenants pay five bucks a month more rent.
Vito gives Roberto six months’ increase in advance, clarifying that the dog stays. Roberto threatens Vito and insults Sicilians. Vito steadily suggests Roberto ask about him in the neighbourhood.
Later, Roberto visits Vito at his Olive Oil Imports shop. He nervously fumbles with the front door. Roberto’s been asking about Vito, now overwhelmingly respectful of him. Roberto says Signora Colombo can stay and declares that the rent stays like before.
He’ll lower it by $5. Vito looks to Genco. Roberto suggests by $10. Vito thanks Roberto and offers him coffee. Roberto offers urgent pleasantries while trying to leave.
At the Senate Committee, Senator Geary announces that some of his very best friends are Italian Americans. They’re among the most loyal, law-abiding, patriotic, hard-working American citizens there are.
Under oath, Michael denies he’s head of the most powerful Mafia family in the country, and that he murdered a New York police captain and Virgil Sollozzo in 1947.
Michael also denies that in 1950 he devised the murder of the heads of the “Five Families” in New York to assume and consolidate his nefarious power.
Tom says Roth engineered Pentangeli’s capture. Pentangeli thought Michael had double-crossed him. They already had Pentangeli on possession, bookmaking, murder one and more. Tom comments that Roth played it beautifully.
Michael asks Fredo if there’s anything he can tell him. Johnny Ola said there was something in it for Fredo. Michael says he’s always taken care of Fredo.
Fredo shouts that he wants respect. Michael soon learns from a defeated Fredo that Senator Questadt belongs to Roth. Michael formally, in every capacity, disowns Fredo.
At the hearing, Pentangeli notices his brother flown in from Sicily. Pentangeli states his name and birthplace. Pentangeli now denies knowing any Godfather. He was in the olive oil business with Michael’s father and he lied about Michael Corleone.
Michael Corleone’s asked to identify the gentleman sitting with him. Tom says he’s Vincenzo Pentangeli, Frank Pentangeli’s brother. He doesn’t understand English and came at his own expense to aid his brother. He’s not under subpoena and has an impeccable reputation in his own country. The meeting is adjourned.
Kay brought their children to say goodbye to Michael. Kay should know he’d use all his power to keep his children. Michael knows Kay blames him for losing the baby.
Kay says it was an abortion. A son. Kay knew there would be no way Michael would forgive her. Not with the Sicilian thing that’s been going on for two thousand years. Michael attacks her from across the room.
There’s a grand welcome for Vito, Carmela and the children at the countryside Corleone train station. They’re shown the olive oil factory. At Don Ciccio’s house, Tommasino respectfully introduces Vito Corleone, an olive oil importer.
Vito says his father was Antonio Andolini and stabs Ciccio in the stomach, slicing up to his chest. Tommasino’s shot, but they all drive away otherwise unscathed.
At Carmela’s open-casket funeral, Fredo pays his respects, then collapses crying. Fredo asks about Michael. Tom says he’s waiting for Fredo to leave. Connie requests that she move back home.
Connie asks if Michael can forgive Fredo, like she’s forgiven Michael. Connie says Fredo’s otherwise helpless. Connie wants to take care of Michael. Michael finds and embraces his brother.
Al Neri says the High Court in Israel wouldn’t allow Roth citizenship there. He landed in Buenos Aires the day before ready to pay a million dollars to grant him citizenship. Tom says Roth’s trying Panama. Michael says Panama won’t take him. Michael wants Roth’s plane met in Miami.
Tom visits Pentangeli on the army base. Tom says Pentangeli was around the old timers, who built the organisation of the families, basing them on the old Roman legions, with “regimes,” “capos” and “soldiers”.
Tom says when a plot against the emperor failed, the plotters were always given a chance to let their families keep their fortunes. If they went home and killed themselves, their families were provided for. Tom shakes Pentangeli’s hand, saying he shouldn’t worry about anything.
Al, Fredo and Michael’s son, Anthony, are in a fishing boat. But, Connie says Michael wants to take Anthony to Reno. Fredo promises Anthony he’ll use their secret method and say a Hail Mary to catch a fish.
At Miami Airport, Roth, rumoured to be worth over $300m, is taken into custody. Roth says he came home to vote in the presidential election. Somebody shoots Roth in the stomach, the killer immediately then killed by police.
The FBI agents break into the bathroom to find Pentangeli dead in the bath. On the lake, Al kills Fredo. Michael watches this, then hangs his head.
The Corleone family is preparing for Vito Corleone’s surprise 50th birthday party. Sonny announces friend, Carlo Rizzi, Sonny’s brother, Fredo, Sonny’s stepbrother, Tom and Tom’s girlfriend, Theresa, Sonny’s cute, little sister, Connie and “Mr Einstein,” brother Michael. Salvatore Tessio arrives with the cake covered in rum icing.
Sonny can’t believe the Japanese just bombed America. Sal says 30,000 men enlisted that morning. Sonny calls them saps for risking their lives for strangers. Michael says he enlisted in the Marines.
Fredo congratulates Michael. Many times, Tom and Vito talked about Michael’s future. Michael says he has his own plans for his future. Connie says their father’s there. Shouts of “surprise” can be heard in the hall.
Starring Al Pacino. Robert De Niro. Robert Duvall. Rated 18. Dir Francis Ford Coppola. Released in the UK 1974. Runtime 3hrs 22mins