Marlon Brando portraying Vito Corleone in The Godfather.
|First appearance||The Godfather|
|Created by||Mario Puzo|
|Portrayed by||Marlon Brando (age 53–63),
Robert De Niro (age 25–33),
Oreste Baldini (Vito as boy, age 9),
Bill Meilien (The Godfather: The Game) (took over for Brando in the game due to his death)
|Aliases||The Godfather, Don Vito, Don Corleone, Vito Andolini (birth name)|
|Occupation||Olive oil importer, Mafia boss|
|Title||The Godfather, Don|
|Spouse(s)||Carmela Corleone (1914-1955, his death)|
Tom Hagen (adopted)
Johnny Fontane (godson)
Vito Andolini Corleone (born Vito Andolini in Corleone, Province of Palermo, Sicily, Italy) is a fictional character in Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather and in Francis Ford Coppola's first two films, where he was portrayed by Marlon Brando in The Godfather and, as a younger man, by Robert De Niro in The Godfather Part II.
Character overview 
Vito Corleone is the head of the Corleone crime family – the most powerful Mafia family in New York City. He is depicted as an ambitious Sicilian immigrant who moves to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and builds a Mafia empire, retaining (and strictly adhering to) his own personal code of honor. Upon his death at the end of the novel, his youngest son, Michael, becomes the Don of the Corleone family. Vito has two other sons, Santino ("Sonny") and Frederico ("Fredo" or "Freddie"), as well as a daughter, Constanzia ("Connie"), all of whom play major roles in the story. He also informally adopts Sonny's friend, Tom Hagen, who later becomes a lawyer and the Family's consigliere. He says, "A man that doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man," and often is shown affectionally rubbing his hand on his children's faces or kissing them on the cheek.
Early years 
Vito was born in the small town of Corleone, Sicily, on December 7, 1891. Antonio Andolini, his father, is murdered by the local Mafia boss, Don Ciccio, because he refused to pay tribute to him. His older brother, Paolo, swears revenge, but he too is murdered soon afterwards. Eventually, Ciccio's henchmen come to the Andolini's home to kill Vito. In desperation, Vito's mother takes her son to see the Mafia chieftain herself and begs him to spare Vito. Ciccio refuses, reasoning that Vito will also seek revenge as an adult. Upon Ciccio's refusal, Vito's mother puts a knife to his throat, allowing her son to escape while she is killed. Later that night, he is smuggled away, fleeing from Sicily to seek refuge in America on a cargo ship full of immigrants. In the film, he is renamed "Vito Corleone" because the immigration workers at Ellis Island mistake "Andolini" for his middle name and the name of his town for his last name. According to The Godfather Part II, he later adopts the middle name "Andolini" to acknowledge his heritage.
Vito is later adopted by the Abbandando family in Little Italy on the Lower East Side and he befriends their son, Genco, who becomes like a brother to him. Vito begins making an honest living at Abbandando's grocery store on Ninth Avenue, but the elder Abbadando is forced to fire him when Don Fanucci, a blackhander and the local neighborhood padrone, demands that the grocery hire his nephew.
During this time, he also befriends two other low-level hoods, Peter Clemenza and Salvatore Tessio. Through his association with them, he soon learns to survive and prosper through petty crime and performing favors in return for loyalty. In 1920, he commits his first murder: killing Fanucci, who had threatened to turn him, Clemenza and Tessio into the police unless he got a cut of their illegal profits. Vito chooses the day of a major Italian festival to spy on Fanucci from the rooftops as Fanucci goes home, and surprises him at the door to his apartment. He shoots Fanucci three times, as the din from the festival and the towel he had wrapped around the gun as a makeshift silencer drowns out the noise from the gunshots. Vito then takes over the neighborhood, treating it with far more respect than Fanucci had.
As a young man, Vito starts an olive oil importing business, Genco Pura (simply known as Genco Olive Oil in the films), with his friend Genco. Over the years he uses it as a legal front for his growing organized crime syndicate. Nevertheless, Genco Pura is highly successful and grows to become the largest olive oil importing company in the nation. Between Genco Pura and his illegal operations, Vito becomes a very wealthy man. In 1925, he returns to Sicily for the first time since fleeing as a child. He and his partner Don Tommasino begin systematically eliminating all of Don Ciccio's men who had a hand in murdering his family, then set up a meeting with the aging Don Ciccio himself, where Vito kills him by carving his stomach open, thus avenging his murdered family.
By the early 1930s, Vito Corleone has organized his illegal operations into the Corleone crime family. Abbandando becomes his consigliere, with Clemenza and Tessio as caporegimes. Although it is relatively small, it is soon reckoned as the most powerful crime family in the nation. Later, his oldest son Santino (nicknamed "Sonny") becomes a capo as well, and eventually his underboss. Around 1939, he moves his base of operations to Long Beach, New York on Long Island. While he oversees a business founded on gambling, bootlegging, and union corruption, he is known as a generous man who lives by a strict moral code of loyalty to friends and, above all, family. At the same time, he is known as a traditionalist who demands respect commensurate with his status. The one area of "business" that the Corleone Family does not profit from or even participate in is prostitution; this may be because of his own personal code, but in the novel Don Corleone is repeatedly described as being "notoriously straitlaced in matters of sex."
After World War II 
By the time of World War II, even his three closest friends — Abbadando, Clemenza and Tessio — never call him "Vito", but either "Godfather" or "Don Corleone. " In both the book and the first scene of the first film, he chastises undertaker Amerigo Bonasera for going to the police instead of coming to him first, after his daughter is viciously beaten in an attempted sexual assault.
Vito prides himself on being careful and reasonable, but he is nevertheless willing to use violence when he thinks it is necessary. When his godson, singer Johnny Fontane, wants to get out of a contract with a bandleader, Vito threatens to kill the bandleader unless he lets Johnny go. Later, when movie mogul Jack Woltz refuses to give Johnny a role in a blockbuster film, Vito has one of Woltz' prize horses killed and the horse's severed head placed in Woltz' bed – a warning that Woltz will be next if he doesn't relent.
In 1945 Vito narrowly survives an assassination attempt when he refuses the request of Virgil Sollozzo to invest in a heroin operation and use his political contacts for the operation's protection. Vito believes that the politicians on his payroll would recoil at the prospect of providing cover for drug trafficking. At the meeting with Sollozzo, Sonny intimates that he is interested in the offer; after the meeting, Vito warns his son that he should never let anyone outside the family in on his thinking. Vito is supposed to be driven home by his bodyguard, Paulie Gatto (a soldier in the Clemenza crew), along with his son Fredo. When the Don finds that Paulie is not there, Fredo tells him that Paulie has called in sick that day. The Don crosses the street to buy oranges from a street vendor when two of Sollozzo's hitmen come out from the shadows with guns drawn. Realizing the situation, Vito tries to sprint back to his Cadillac, but he is shot five times before he can get to safety.
Sollozzo finds out the Don survived, and makes a second attempt two weeks later. He has Mark McCluskey — a corrupt police captain on his payroll — throw the Don's bodyguards in jail and withdraw all police protection, leaving the hospitalized Don unguarded. However, Vito's youngest son, Michael, comes to visit his father minutes before the attack is due to occur. Realizing that his father is in danger, Michael has a nurse help him move the Don to another room and pretends to stand guard outside the hospital.
Vito's injuries incapacitate him for the next three months, during which time Sonny serves as acting head of the family. Sonny learns that Gatto took money from Sollozzo in return for betraying the Don, and orders him killed. He also gets word that the rival Tattaglia crime family has killed Luca Brasi, the Don's personal assassin, and orders Tessio's men to kill the family's underboss, Bruno Tattaglia, when they refuse to turn him over. Michael persuades Sonny to allow him to avenge their father by killing Sollozzo and McCluskey himself, arguing that no one would suspect him due to his longtime non-involvement in Mafia business. He also notes that although the mob normally forbids the murder of police officers, McCluskey is fair game because he is serving as Sollozzo's bodyguard (in the novel, it is also speculated that Sollozo would be cutting McCluskey in for a piece of Sollozzo's narcotics trade), so McCluskey would also be branded as a cop who took "dirty" graft. The plan goes through perfectly, and Michael is smuggled out of the United States and sent to Sicily to safety under Don Tomassino's protection. The killing of Sollozzo and McCluskey sparks off a major war between the Corleone Family and the Tattaglia Family, with the Five Families of New York backing the Tattaglias. After Sonny is killed by the Tattaglias, the Don assumes personal control again and brokers a major peace accord among the Families, confirming in the process that Don Emilio Barzini, head of the Barzini Family, was the brains behind Sollozzo and the Tattaglia Family all along.
The peace allows Don Corleone to have Michael returned home in safety, and Vito installs him in the family business — something he had never wanted for his favorite son. Vito goes into semi-retirement after Michael marries his longtime girlfriend Kay Adams. Michael becomes operating head of the family, with Vito as an informal consigliere. He even supports Michael's long-term plans to remove the family from crime, though an early draft of the script suggests that it was actually Vito's idea. Michael sends Hagen to Las Vegas to act as the family's lawyer there and lay the groundwork for a planned move of most operations there after Vito's death. Clemenza and Tessio request permission to break off and form their own families in New York after the move to Las Vegas; Michael's bodyguards Al Neri and Rocco Lampone are chosen to be the future caporegimes of the family.
Vito dies of a heart attack while playing with his grandson Anthony in his garden. His last words in the novel are, "Life is so beautiful. " Vito's funeral is a grand affair, with all the other dons, capos and consiglieres in New York attending.
Some days before his death, Vito tells Michael that Barzini would set him up to be killed under cover of a meeting "to fix up things". Barzini would use a trusted member of the Corleone family as an intermediary, and that whoever came to Michael about the meeting with Barzini was a traitor. At the funeral, Tessio tells Michael that he had set up a meeting on his territory in Brooklyn, where Michael would presumably be safe. Michael concludes that Tessio is the traitor. A few days later, Michael orders the deaths of the other New York Dons, as well as Tessio. He also avenges Sonny's death by having Carlo, who it is revealed "fingered" Sonny for the Tattaglias, killed. Michael and Vito had begun planning this mass slaughter soon after Michael's return to the United States; in a last demonstration of Vito's cunning, they had deliberately allowed the Barzini-Tattaglia alliance to whittle away at their interests in order to lull them into inaction. Late in the novel, it is revealed that Vito figured out early on that Carlo had helped set Sonny up to be killed. However, Vito couldn't act for two reasons: 1) because at the peace accord he had sworn that he would never seek vengeance for Sonny, and 2) because he couldn't bring himself to order the death of his son-in-law, and went into semi-retirement in part because he knew Michael would carry out that duty without reservation.
See also 
- Carmela Corleone — Wife, played by Morgana King
- Santino "Sonny" Corleone — Eldest son; played by James Caan
- Tom Hagen — informally adopted son, played by Robert Duvall
- Frederico "Fredo" Corleone — Middle son; played by John Cazale
- Michael Corleone — Youngest son; played by Al Pacino
- Constanzia 'Connie' Corleone — Daughter; played by Talia Shire
- Frank Corleone — Grandson
- Santino Corleone, Jr. — Grandson
- Francesca Corleone - Granddaughter, twin of Kathryn Corleone
- Kathryn Corleone - Granddaughter, twin of Francesca Corleone
- Vincent Mancini-Corleone — Grandson; played by Andy García
- Anthony Corleone — Grandson; played by Franc D'Ambrosio
- Mary Corleone — Granddaughter; played by Sofia Coppola
- Victor Rizzi- Grandson
- Michael Rizzi- Grandson
Portrayals and influences 
In The Godfather, Don Vito Corleone was portrayed by Marlon Brando. He was portrayed as a younger man in The Godfather Part II by Robert De Niro. Both performances won Academy Awards — Best Actor for Brando, Best Supporting Actor for De Niro. Vito Corleone is the only motion picture character played by two different actors, each of whom received an Oscar for his or her portrayal. Brando declined his Oscar, having Sacheen Littlefeather state his reasons.
The character has also had a major influence on entertainment, most notably: the movie The Freshman, where Marlon Brando's character is almost a parody of Corleone; the Only Fools and Horses episode "Miami Twice", where the primary antagonist is Don Vincenzo "Vinny the Chain" Ochetti, another parody of Corleone; and the comic book mini-series, Batman: Year One and Batman: The Long Halloween, where the character Carmine Falcone is loosely based on Vito Corleone.
Notes and references 
- "100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time". Filmsite.org. Retrieved 2012-02-27.
- "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters| 10. Vito Corleone | Empire". www. empireonline.com. 2006-12-05. Retrieved 2012-02-27.
- Vito Corleone on The Godfather Wiki
|Head of the Corleone crime family
ca. 1920 - 1945
Sonny Corleone (acting)
Sonny Corleone (acting)
|Head of the Corleone crime family
ca. 1946 - 1955