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. He 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 are married in 1945; both the book and film open with their wedding. Vito dislikes Connie marrying a small-time criminal, and is also displeased by the fact Rizzi is not a full-blooded Sicilian; his mother was from northern Italy. He only grants Connie's hand in marriage on condition that they have a traditional Sicilian wedding.
Rizzi is thrilled by the prestige that comes with marrying a member of the Corleone crime family. However, Vito instructs consigliere Tom Hagen to forbid Carlo any significant knowledge of the Family's workings, and only to "give him a living". He is given a small sports book to operate under the family's supervision, though he proves incompetent at the job.
Described in the novel as "a punk sore at the world", he is resentful of the Corleones' treatment of him. He regularly assaults and cheats on Connie as a means of exerting his own power over the Corleone family. When Connie eventually complains to her parents, Vito harshly 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 a father from interfering with a daughter's marriage. However, Connie's brothers Sonny, Fredo and Michael grow to hate Rizzi for how he treats their sister; Vito has to forcibly restrain Sonny from intervening.
Sonny visits Connie and finds her injured and bruised after a particularly fierce beating. She begs him to do nothing, and he promises her he will not. Sonny is furious, however, and ruthlessly attacks Carlo in the street, threatening to kill him if he ever hurts Connie again. Not long afterward, the Corleones are forced to shut down Rizzi's bookmaking racket as the war with the Five Families escalates. Enraged by this, and still humiliated after Sonny's barbaric public beating, 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 where he coldly pummels her. When Connie calls Sonny, he loses his temper and rushes off to find Carlo. En route, Sonny is killed by Barzini's men in a hail of gunfire on the causeway.
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 figured out early on that Rizzi set up Sonny, and they have brought him deeper within the family fold solely as a ploy to make him vulnerable.
Vito dies in 1955, and Michael inherits the family business. While Connie and Rizzi's child is baptized, the other heads of the Five Families and Las Vegas casino kingpin Moe Greene are being massacred on Michael's order. Hours later, Michael confronts Rizzi, saying he knows Rizzi was to blame for Sonny's death seven years earlier. 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, Sonny's godfather, fatally garrotes him. Connie is furious with Michael, despite Carlo's abuse and his role in her brother Sonny's death. She dislikes Michael for many years afterward. In the novel, Connie quickly recovers from Carlo's death and a few weeks later, apologizes to Michael for accusing him. Connie assures Kay it was a mistake. Free from her abusive and unhappy marriage, Connie remarries about a year later.
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.