Carlo Rizzi (The Godfather)

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Carlo Rizzi
First appearance The Godfather
Last appearance The Godfather Part II (flashback cameo)
Created by Mario Puzo
Portrayed by Gianni Russo
Information
Gender Male
Family Corleone family
Spouse(s) Connie Corleone (1945-1955)
Children Victor
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 is born in Nevada and moves to New York City following trouble with the law. He befriends Sonny Corleone and in 1941 meets Connie at a surprise birthday party for Vito. They marry in 1945. Vito disapproves of Connie marrying a small-time criminal who is not a full-blooded Sicilian (Rizzi's mother was from northern Italy). He gives consent to the marriage on condition that they have a traditional Sicilian wedding.[2]

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 Rizzi 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.

Rizzi resents the way his in-laws treat him, and 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.

Sonny has no such compunction, however, and has to be restrained from beating Rizzi up more than once. One day, Sonny visits Connie and finds her injured and bruised after a particularly fierce beating. Enraged, Sonny beats Carlo to a pulp in the street, and threatens to kill him if he ever hurts Connie again. 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. 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 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 had figured out early on that Rizzi set Sonny up, and they have brought him deeper within the family fold solely as a ploy to make him vulnerable.

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, fatally garrotes him.

Connie is furious with Michael for having Carlo killed, despite Carlo's abuse and his role in Sonny's death, and resents her brother 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. 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 0-8131-4150-8. 
  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.