Carlo Rizzi (The Godfather)
|First appearance||The Godfather|
|Last appearance||The Godfather Part II (flashback cameo)|
|Created by||Mario Puzo|
|Portrayed by||Gianni Russo|
|Family||Rizzi and Corleone crime families|
|Spouse(s)||Connie Corleone (1945-1955)|
In the novel and film
A native of Nevada, Rizzi migrates to New York City following trouble with the law and befriends Sonny Corleone, through whom he meets Sonny's sister Connie in 1941 at a surprise birthday party for Sonny's father Vito (depicted in a flashback in The Godfather Part II). They get married in 1945; both the book and film open with their wedding. Vito doesn't like the idea of Connie marrying a small-time criminal, and is also displeased by the fact Rizzi isn't a full-blooded Sicilian; his mother was from northern Italy. He only grants Connie's hand in marriage on condition that they hold an old-school Sicilian wedding.
Rizzi is thrilled at the prestige of being a member of the Corleone crime family, but Vito instructs consigliere Tom Hagen not to allow Carlo significant knowledge of the Family's workings, only to "give him a living". He is allowed to operate a small sports book under the family's protection.
Described in the novel as "a punk sore at the world", he regularly beats up and cheats on Connie as a means of exerting his own power over the Corleone family. When Connie eventually does complain to her parents, Vito coldly refuses to help, presumably to punish her for making such a poor choice. In truth, Vito is enraged at how Rizzi treats his daughter, but he feels that he can't do anything because Italian tradition forbids a father to interfere with a daughter's marriage. However, Connie's brothers Sonny, Fredo and Michael eventually grow to despise Rizzi for the way he treats her; in particular, Sonny has to be forcibly prevented from beating him up.
Sonny visits Connie one day, and discovers his sister covered in bruises after a particularly brutal beating. She begs him not to do anything about it, and he gives her his word. When Rizzi hits her again, however, Sonny loses his temper and beats him mercilessly in the street, threatening to kill him if he ever hits Connie again. Not long afterward, the Corleones are forced to shut down Rizzi's bookmaking racket as the war with the Five Families escalates. Angered by this, and still seething after his brutal public beating by Sonny, Rizzi seeks revenge by secretly making a deal with the Corleones' chief rival, Emilio Barzini, to kill Sonny.
Rizzi sets the plan in motion by setting up a call from one of his girlfriends, provoking a pregnant Connie into an argument in which he beats her severely with his belt. Connie calls Sonny, who flies into a rage and sets out to confront Carlo. En route, Sonny is killed by Barzini's men in a hail of gunfire on the causeway.
After Sonny's death, Vito seems to take a more lenient attitude toward Rizzi, and allows him to run a labor union controlled by the family. When Michael becomes operating head of the family after his father goes into semi-retirement, he begins making plans to move the family to Nevada. Michael begins treating Rizzi as a trusted lieutenant, even promising to make him his "right-hand man" once the move is complete. Michael even agrees to stand as godfather to Rizzi's and Connie's second child. In truth, however, Vito and Michael figured out early on that Rizzi had set Sonny up, and only brought him into the fold as a ploy to make him vulnerable.
Vito dies in 1955, and Michael inherits the family. During the baptism of Rizzi's second child, Michael orders a massacre of the heads of the Five Families and Las Vegas casino kingpin Moe Greene. Hours later, Michael confronts Rizzi and tells him that he knows all about his involvement in Sonny's death seven years earlier. He assures Rizzi that his life will be spared, but that he will be exiled from the family, which satisfies Rizzi enough to confess his involvement with Barzini. When Rizzi gets into his car to leave, however, he is garroted to death by Peter Clemenza, Sonny's godfather. Connie is enraged at what Michael has done, despite Carlo's abusive behavior towards her and his role in her brother's death, and resents him for many years afterward. In the novel, Connie quickly recovered from Carlo's death and even apologizes to Michael for having accused him of his death and assures Kay that she was mistaken. Presumably she was glad to be rid of an abusive husband.
In the 2006 book Supermob by investigative reporter Gus Russo (no relation), Russo states that Gianni Russo secured the role by acting as an intermediary between Paramount Studios and New York City Colombo crime family mob boss and patriarch Joseph Colombo, whose Italian-American Civil Rights League had shut down early production of the film in Little Italy, Manhattan over protests. The mob boss Colombo met with the film executives, who then hired Russo to play Rizzi.