Who’s America’s favorite family? No, not the Kennedys. Definitely not the Goslins. The answer is the Corleones — a crime family that puts all others to shame. Patriarch Vito (Marlon Brando), his children — Michael (Al Pacino), Sonny (James Caan), Fredo (John Cazale), Tom (Robert Duvall), and Connie (Talia Shire) — and their various spouses and children are one big happy family, when they aren’t trying to kill each other. But to infiltrate their exclusive club, you need to be not only a family member but also a Family member too. If you want to act like a Corleone, following these five rules are a good start.
1. Don’t Talk the Talk — Walk the Walk.
A Corleone doesn’t act tough; a Corleone backs it up. He (or she) knows the maxim that actions (usually of the murderous variety) speak louder than words. When Tom is threatened by a movie producer who won’t accept a generous offer, he doesn’t make threats. He simply tells the producer he regrets his lack of cooperation, and, next thing you know, the guy’s horse is beheaded and dropped in his bed. Michael doesn’t have to threaten his enemies; he just tells them how it is because everyone knows he is a man of action, not a man of words.
2. Be Patient.
A Corleone doesn’t rush things. Michael and Vito plan their moves over the course of years, not days or hours. Plotting an elaborate revenge scheme in which over a dozen enemies are eliminated simultaneously doesn’t happen overnight. What about Sonny, you say? Sure, every family has a few apples that don’t fall right next to the tree, but even Sonny — who at all times behaves as if he just drank six Red Bulls — can recognize the brilliance of Michael’s slow and stealthy plan to eliminate Vito’s shooter, Sollozzo (Al Lettieri).
3. Family Means Everything, But Not As Much As the Family.
A Corleone loves his family but really does everything for his other Family. Vito says that a “man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man,” and it’s a lesson taken to heart by the rest of the Family. Michael won’t let Kay (Diane Keaton) take his children away from him, even though she’s a perfectly nice lady and he’s a raging maniac. But Family comes first: Fredo gets in over his head and sets Michael up, so he’s unceremoniously shot in the head and dumped in Lake Tahoe. Michael’s brother-in-law sells Sonny out, so he’s strangled in the back of a car. Blood is important, but it doesn’t compare to the all-important Family business.
4. Choose Your Words Wisely, and Coin Catchphrases Liberally.
A Corleone doesn’t use his words willy-nilly — except perhaps for black sheep Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia), who quickly learns better. When a Corleone does speak, listen up because there’s a good chance you’re going to hear something memorable. “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” Classic. “Never tell anyone outside the Family what you’re thinking.” Perfect. “Every time I think I’m out, they pull me back in!” “I know it was you, Fredo, and you break my heart.”
5. For God’s Sake, Get Yourself a Decent Suit.
A Corleone doesn’t dress like some schlub. A tracksuit might be fine if you’re auditioning for a bit part on The Sopranos, but if you’re a Corleone you need to get yourself some nice threads. Three-piece suits in blacks and browns are a popular choice, as is clothing that would befit a dignified gentleman sitting in a Sicilian garden: trousers, button-down shirts, and suspenders. Just don’t show up wearing a bolo tie or anything ridiculous like that. Fredo’s betrayal of Michael cut him out of the Family loop, but it’s not out of the question that it was his increasingly un-Corleone fashion choices that started his descent.