Emilio Barzini

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Emilio Barzini
Don emilio barzini.jpg
Richard Conte portraying Emilio Barzini
First appearance The Godfather
Last appearance The Godfather: The Game
Created by Mario Puzo
Portrayed by Richard Conte
Nickname(s) The Wolf
Gender Male
Occupation Gangster
Title Don
Family Barzini Family
Children Emilio Barzini, Jr.
Relatives Emilio Barzini, Jr. (mentioned)

Emilio "The Wolf" Barzini (Sicily, c. 1887 – New York City, 1955) is a fictional character and the main antagonist in Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather and in its film adaptation, in which he is portrayed by Richard Conte.[1][2] The Barzini crime family was inspired by the Genovese crime family.

In the novel[edit]

Barzini presides as head of one of New York's Five Families, and is reckoned as the second most powerful Mafia boss in the country, behind only Vito Corleone. He has interests in markets such as narcotics, gambling and prostitution, and is also interested in Las Vegas and Nevada.

Barzini appears as a guest at the wedding of Connie, the first scene of the movie. Soon after, Barzini surreptitiously sends drug lord Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo to Don Vito with an offer of entering the narcotics trade, openly backed by the Tattaglia Family. During the meeting, Sonny speaks out of turn and expresses interest in the plan. Vito refuses the offer, however, and Barzini tries to assassinate him in hopes that Sonny, as his father's successor, will go into business with him. However, because Corleone refused to participate in the heroin trade, Barzini secretly conspires with the other families to make war against the Corleones, forcing them to make peace and open up their territory to drug trafficking. To this end, he approaches Corleone's son-in-law, Carlo Rizzi, with a ploy to draw Sonny Corleone into an assassination. After Sonny's death, Don Corleone agrees to lend his political protection to the enterprise and not to break the peace. It had initially appeared that Philip Tattaglia was leading the anti-Corleone alliance. However, at the peace summit, Vito realizes that Barzini was the actual mastermind.

Not satisfied with the Corleones' submission, Barzini begins chipping away at their territory in New York City. At Don Corleone's funeral, Barzini approaches Corleone caporegime Salvatore Tessio to organize another peace summit where Corleone's successor, Michael, would be ambushed. Barzini doesn't know, however, that he has walked into a trap. Michael has been planning for some time to eliminate Barzini and the other dons, and deliberately allowed Barzini to move in on the Corleone interests in order to lull him into inaction. Shortly thereafter, Barzini is assassinated along with the other conspirators. Corleone enforcer Al Neri, disguised as a police officer, meets Barzini on the steps of the New York Supreme Court courthouse at Foley Square on the pretext of writing a parking ticket. After seeing his bodyguard and driver killed Barzini flees up the steps but is shot and killed, his body tumbling down the steps.

Personality and traits[edit]

Physically, Barzini appears thin, with a square head and a pretty face, with gray hair, (which had once been light brown) and always elegantly dressed in dark suits.

Barzini was, both in the novel and the film, unforgiving, lucid, cold and reserved, loathing publicity and newspaper articles about him, unlike other gangsters that enjoyed being in the limelight.

Barzini prefers conspiracies and corruption to get rid of enemies, delegating the dirty work to associates such as Philip Tattaglia. In addition, Barzini has little loyalty and honor, betraying his mentor and boss Giuseppe Mariposa, in order to achieve power. This earned him the nickname of "the Wolf" and as a person who "prefers the indulgence of his enemies to that of his allies' friendship".

Vito Corleone had always shown respect for Barzini, but never sympathy nor friendship, knowing his character. This allowed him to understand that he was the mastermind behind the mob war of 1946-1948, and who wanted to weaken his family, telling Michael to stay on guard.


Emilio Barzini is based on the real life mobsters Vito Genovese, Frank Costello and Charles Luciano, all bosses of the Genovese crime family.

In other media[edit]

In Francis Ford Coppola's film adaptation of The Godfather, Barzini is portrayed by Richard Conte.

In The Godfather: The Game, Barzini has protagonist Aldo Trapani's father killed, motivating him to take revenge. In the game, Trapani kills Don Barzini on the court steps.


  1. ^ "The Godfather (1972)". nytimes.com. Retrieved 2014-06-24. 
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger. "The Godfather". rogerebert.com. Retrieved 2014-07-07.