Mob Mondays - Five True Mob Stories Behind The Godfather
On the final Mob Monday, The Godfather airs at 1:30/12:30c, followed by The Godfather: Part II at 5:30/4:30c and the finale of The Making of the Mob: New York at 10/9c.The Godfather franchise has always walked a fine line between fact and fiction, with ties to the mob even before the film made it to the big screen. Which real-life mobsters inspired the on-screen Mafiosos? Which of the movie's deadly hits were ripped right from the mob's own highlight reel? How did the mob try to shakedown The Godfather's production? Read on to find out:
1. Don Corleone was inspired by real-life mob boss Frank Costello.
Don Vito Corleone has similarities to several real-life mobsters, including Joe Profaci, who used his olive oil distributorship as a front for his illegal activities, and Carlo Gambino, who used a quiet, non-flashy style en route to power. But Corleone most closely resembles Frank Costello, known as "The Prime Minister" of the Mafia. Costello preferred to draw little attention to himself and the mob, choosing reason over violence whenever possible and using diplomacy and his extensive connections in politics and business to maintain power. In fact, Marlon Brando even based Corleone's soft, raspy voice on Costello's after he listened to tapes of Costello testifying to the Kefauver Committee on Organized Crime.
2. Casino mogul Moe Greene's life and death mimics real-life mobster Bugsy Siegel's.
In The Godfather, Moe Greene is credited with putting Las Vegas on the map. In reality, it was Jewish mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, who built the Flamingo, now the oldest resort on the Las Vegas Strip. Like Greene, who was memorably shot in the eye for betraying the Corleone family, Siegel was shot in the head after he allegedly stole money from the mob to build his casino. And, just as the Corleones took over Greene's gambling business, the day after Siegel was killed, the mob walked into the Flamingo and took over the operation.
3. Michael Corleone's restaurant hit is similar to one of the most important hits in mob history.
In The Godfather, after meeting two of his father's enemies in a restaurant to "settle" their dispute, Michael takes them out by shooting them with a gun he had planted in the bathroom. In 1931, Mafioso Charles "Lucky" Luciano met his boss, Joe Masseria, at an Italian restaurant. When he excused himself to go to the bathroom, hit men barged into the eatery, shot Masseria more than 20 times, and left.
4. Mobsters flee to Italy when the going gets rough.
In The Godfather, after the hit at the restaurant, Michael Corleone flees to Sicily, where he falls in love with and marries Apollonia Vitelli. Real mob boss Vito Genovese also ran off to Italy in order to escape the consequences of one of his murders, and only returned to the U.S. after charges were dropped. After being deported, Lucky Luciano moved to Italy as well, and while he never returned to the U.S., he continued to pull Mafia strings from abroad. While in Italy, Luciano fell in love with a woman 20 years his junior. Whether they ever officially got married or not has never been confirmed, but it is known that he stayed with her for 11 years, until her death in 1959.
5. The Mafia harassed The Godfather's execs Corleone-style to shut down production.
Perhaps the most blatant intersection of fact and fiction came when mob boss Joe Colombo and the New York Mafia rallied against the making of The Godfather. Some say it was because the mobsters were tired of seeing Italian-Americans cast in a bad light on film; others say it was because the mob didn't want to deal with a Hollywood spotlight. Regardless, the mob started harassing the production team: producer Al Ruddy's car was followed and broken into, and expensive equipment was stolen. The final straw came when Paramount executive Robert Evans received a phone call at his home, threatening his wife and newborn son. Al Ruddy called a meeting with Colombo himself to discuss terms, and Colombo said he would back off if the word "Mafia" was struck from the script -- easy to do, since the word only appeared in it once.
Don't miss the Mob Mondays presentation of The Godfather, Monday, August 3 at 1:30/12:30c on AMC, followed by The Godfather: Part II at 5:30/4:30c. 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.