Richard S. Castellano

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Richard S. Castellano
The Super cast 1972 (cropped).JPG
Richard S. Castellano in The Super in 1972
Richard Salvatore Castellano

(1933-09-04)September 4, 1933
Queens, New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedDecember 10, 1988(1988-12-10) (aged 55)
Notable workThe Godfather

Richard Salvatore Castellano (September 4, 1933 – December 10, 1988) was an American actor who is best remembered for his role in Lovers and Other Strangers and his subsequent role as Peter Clemenza in The Godfather.[1][2][self-published source][3]

Early life[edit]

Castellano was born in the Queens borough of New York City on September 4, 1933. His parents, Mariantonia Angello and Filippo Castellano, were Italian immigrants from Castrofilippo, Sicily.[4] His middle name, Salvatore, was in honor of his oldest brother who had died two years before he was born.[5]

After his death, Castellano's widow Ardell Sheridan claimed that he was the nephew of Gambino crime family boss Paul Castellano,[6] however this claim was dismissed by Richard's sister as false: "We're no relation".[7]


Castellano gained worldwide fame for his role in Lovers and Other Strangers (1970), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award. He achieved further stardom in 1972 for playing the part of Peter Clemenza, in The Godfather. The Godfather became the highest-grossing film up to that time. Castellano, along with several other cast members, became widely known from the popular film. He spoke one of the film's most famous lines, "Leave the gun; take the cannoli," which he partially ad-libbed.[3][8]

Castellano also appeared on television, playing the lead role of Joe Girelli in the television situation comedy The Super (10 episodes in 1972). His real-life daughter Margaret Castellano portrayed his character's daughter Joanne. He also portrayed the lead Joe Vitale in Joe and Sons (1975–1976).[citation needed]

Castellano did not reprise his role as Clemenza in The Godfather Part II (1974). He was reportedly excluded because Castellano and his agent insisted on having control over the character's dialogue. Director Francis Ford Coppola said that this was untenable, and wrote Castellano's Clemenza out of the movie, creating the new character Frank Pentangeli (played by Michael V. Gazzo) in his place.[3] This account was disputed by Castellano's widow in a 1991 letter to People magazine.[9] Castellano said he did not have a part in the sequel because he did not believe that the character of Clemenza should become a traitor. He had other disagreements with Coppola, including confusion over how much weight he was expected to gain for the role.[3] Bruno Kirby portrayed Clemenza as a young man in The Godfather Part II. He had played the son of Castellano's character in The Super.


Castellano died from a heart attack at his home in North Bergen, New Jersey, in 1988 at age 55.[3][10]


Year Title Role Notes
1963 Love with the Proper Stranger Extra Uncredited
1965 Three Rooms in Manhattan Angry American Uncredited
1966 A Fine Madness Arnold
1968 A Lovely Way to Die The Bartender Uncredited
1970 Lovers and Other Strangers Frank Vecchio
1972 The Godfather Peter "Fat" Clemenza
1973 Honor Thy Father Frank Labruzzo
1973 Incident on a Dark Street Frank Romeo
1980 Night of the Juggler Lieutenant Tonelli
1981 The Gangster Chronicles Giuseppe "Joe The Boss" Masseria
1982 Dear Mr. Wonderful FBI Agent (final film role)


  1. ^ Canby, Vincent (March 16, 1972). "REVIEW 'THE GODFATHER' Moving and Brutal 'Godfather' Bows". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Sheridan-Castellano, Ardell (2003). Divine Intervention and a Dash of Magic... Unraveling The Mystery of "The Method" + Behind the Scenes of the original Godfather film. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 1-55369-866-5.
  3. ^ a b c d e Lumenick, Lou (March 15, 2012). "Leave the gun-Take my career". The New York Post. Retrieved May 28, 2017.
  4. ^ "FamilySearch: Sign In".
  5. ^ "The Town Talk from Alexandria, Louisiana on September 10, 1972 · Page 64".
  6. ^ Sheridan-Castellano, pp. 183-184
  7. ^ Seal, Mark (October 19, 2021). Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli: The Epic Story of the Making of The Godfather. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781982158613 – via Google Books.
  8. ^ Seal, Mark (March 2009). "The Godfather Wars". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on September 29, 2015. Retrieved 2009-03-03.
  9. ^ Sheridan-Castellano, pp. 227–229
  10. ^ "Richard Castellano Is Dead at 55; An Actor of Stage, Screen and TV". The New York Times. December 12, 1988.

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