Carlo Rizzi (The Godfather)

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Carlo Rizzi
First appearanceThe Godfather
Last appearanceThe Godfather Part II (flashback cameo)
Created byMario Puzo
Portrayed byGianni Russo
Information
GenderMale
FamilyCorleone family
SpouseConnie Corleone (1945-1955)
ChildrenVictor
Michael Francis

Carlo Rizzi is a fictional character in Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather. In the 1972 film adaptation, he was portrayed by Gianni Russo.[1]

In the novel and film[edit]

Described in the novel as "a punk, sore at the world", Rizzi was born in Nevada and moved to New York City following some trouble he ran into with the law. He befriends Sonny Corleone and in 1941, he meets Sonny's sister Connie at a surprise birthday party for their father Vito Corleone. The two marry in 1945. Vito disapproves of Connie's marriage to a small-time criminal who is not a full-blooded Sicilian (Rizzi's mother was from northern Italy). He consents to the marriage on condition that they have a traditional Sicilian wedding.[2]

Rizzi basks in the prestige of marrying into the Corleone crime family. However, Vito instructs consigliere Tom Hagen to forbid Rizzi from having any significant knowledge of the family's inner workings, and only to, "give him a living". He operates a small sports book under the family's supervision, though he proves incompetent.

Rizzi resents how his in-laws treat him, and regularly abuses and cheats on Connie to assert his own power over the Corleone family. When Connie complains to her parents, Vito refuses to intervene, presumably to punish her for her poor choice in a husband. In truth, Vito is furious with Rizzi's behavior, but he feels powerless to act because Italian tradition forbids interference in another person's marriage. Vito worries that if Carlo fears the family he will be unable to intimately perform as a husband.

Sonny has no such compunction, however, and he has to be firmly restrained by Vito from attacking Rizzi. When Sonny happens to visit Connie, he finds her with a black eye after a particularly fierce beating. Enraged, Sonny finds and beats Rizzi to a pulp in the street, threatening to kill him if he ever hurts Connie again. It is Rizzi's passive submission to Sonny's thrashing that probably saves his life. Rizzi seeks revenge by secretly making a deal with the Corleones' chief rival, Emilio Barzini, to murder Sonny.

Rizzi sets the plan in motion by having his mistress call his house, provoking a pregnant Connie into an argument in which he hits her with his belt. In a deleted scene, Connie walks in on Carlo while he is showering and accuses him of cheating on her; Carlo asks her to make him dinner. When Connie calls Sonny, he loses his temper and rushes off to find Rizzi. En route, Sonny is killed by Barzini's men in a hail of gunfire at the causeway toll booth.

After Sonny's death, Vito seems more tolerant toward Rizzi, and allows him to run a family-controlled labor union. When Michael becomes operating head of the family after Vito semi-retires, he plans to move the family's business interests to Nevada. Michael treats Rizzi as a trusted lieutenant, promising he will be his "right-hand man" once the move is complete. Michael even agrees to be godfather to Rizzi's and Connie's second child. However, Vito and Michael had figured out early on that Rizzi set Sonny up, and they brought him deeper within the family fold solely as a ploy to make him vulnerable. Vito, unable to make his daughter a widow, leaves it to Michael to carry out Carlo's execution after his death.

Vito dies in 1955, and Michael succeeds him as head of the family. As Connie and Rizzi's child is baptized, Michael's men assassinate the other heads of the Five Families and Las Vegas casino kingpin Moe Greene on Michael's orders. Hours later, Michael confronts Rizzi, saying he knows Rizzi set Sonny up to be murdered. He assures Rizzi that his life will be spared, but he is being exiled from the family; Rizzi, believing he is safe, confesses that he conspired with Barzini. As he is about to be driven to the airport, Peter Clemenza, Michael's caporegime and Sonny's godfather, garrotes him.

Connie is furious with Michael for having Rizzi killed, despite Rizzi's abuse and his role in Sonny's death, and resents her brother for many years afterward. In the novel, Connie quickly recovers from Rizzi's death and a few weeks later, apologizes to Michael for accusing him. Free from her abusive and unhappy marriage, Connie remarries about a year later.[3]

Legacy[edit]

Carlo Rizzi was portrayed by Gianni Russo. The role allowed Russo to have a career acting as "tough guys" in films and television.[4] Russo's portrayal of Rizzi led him to be the spokesperson for the 2016 brand of Don Corleone Organic Italian Vodka.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1972). "The Godfather". Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago, Illinois: Sun-Times Media Group. Retrieved July 7, 2014 – via rogerebert.com.
  2. ^ Messenger, Chris (February 2012). The Godfather and American Culture: How the Corleones Became "Our Gang". Albany, New York: SUNY Press. pp. 205–. ISBN 978-0-7914-8870-6.
  3. ^ Foy, Joseph J.; Dale, Timothy M. (14 May 2013). Homer Simpson Ponders Politics: Popular Culture as Political Theory. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-8131-4150-3.
  4. ^ Sorokoff, Stephen (May 9, 2017). "Photo Coverage: Gianni Russo And Band Hit Big At Le Cirque". BroadwayWorld.com. New York City: Wisdom Digital Media. Retrieved March 8, 2018.
  5. ^ Althoff, Eric (June 12, 2016). "'Godfather' vodka gets pitchman in star Gianni Russo, who played Carlo Rizzi". The Washington Times. Washington DC: Operations Holdings. Retrieved March 8, 2018.