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Mob Mondays – Five True Mob Stories Behind The Godfather: Part II

On the final Mob Monday, The Godfather: Part II airs at 5:30/4:30c, followed by the finale of The Making of the Mob: New York at 10/9c. The Academy Award-winning film follows in The Godfather‘s footsteps of basing some of the film’s most notable characters and events on real mob history. Which mobsters were based on actual mafiosos? Which scenes were pulled right from the headlines? Read on to discover five true mob stories behind The Godfather: Part II:

1. Hyman Roth is based on real casino mogul Meyer Lansky.
Hyman Roth, played in The Godfather: Part II by actor Lee Strasberg, was based on real-life mobster Meyer Lansky. Lansky is widely credited for coming up with some of the key innovations upon which the casino and gambling industry is built today. Allegedly, Lansky called Strasberg after the film’s premiere and congratulated him on his performance, but added, “You could have made me more sympathetic. After all, I am a grandfather.”

2. Michael moves the family business to Vegas — as did numerous real-life crime families.
In The Godfather: Part II, Michael Corleone moves the family business to Nevada in an attempt to legitimize his foothold in the gambling industry. In real life, after Vegas hotels like The Flamingo (which Bugsy Siegel managed and Meyer Lansky had a financial stake in) began turning a profit, numerous Mafia families maneuvered to get a piece of the burgeoning gambling action out west.

3. Hyman Roth’s mob idol is a real-life gangster.
In the film, Hyman Roth (then Hyman Suchowsky) tells Vito Corleone that he admires Arnold Rothstein for fixing the 1919 World Series, and changes his last name to Roth. Rothstein was a real-life kingpin of the Jewish Mob in New York who is considered to be an orchestrator of the Chicago Black Sox Scandal of 1919, in which eight White Sox baseball players conspired to throw the series.

4. The Law of Return doesn’t protect mobsters — on screen or off-screen.
In The Godfather: Part II, Hyman Roth files a request to retire overseas under the Law of Return, which allows anyone of Jewish descent to settle in the State of Israel. His request is rejected by the Israeli High Court because of his crime history. In 1970, real-life mobster Meyer Lanksy fled to Israel to avoid federal tax evasion charges. Taking advantage of a provision in the law that allows the Israeli government to exclude those with criminal pasts, Lansky was deported back to the U.S. in 1972. (However, while Hyman Roth is killed at an airport — in an assassination based on the real-life murder of Lee Harvey Oswald — Meyer Lansky passed away at age 80 after spending his twilight years living quietly in Florida.)

5. The scene with the golden telephone ceremony is based on real events.
In the film, Michael Corleone is present when Cuban Dictator Fulgencio Batista is presented with a golden telephone by the UTT Corporation. The scene is based on an actual ceremony in which the real-life Batista was given a golden telephone by U.S. Ambassador Arthur Gardner. The phone is still on display at the Museum of the Revolution in Havana.

Don’t miss the Mob Mondays presentation of The Godfather: Part II, Monday, August 3 at 5:30/4:30c on AMC. Then stay tuned for the finale of AMC’s docu-drama The Making of the Mob: New York at 10/9c to learn more true stories of the American Mafia. Get all the news and exclusives first. Sign up for the AMC Weekly.

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