originally published December 25, 2012
Christmas, as we all know from saccharine TV commercials for pasta side dishes, is a time for family. Major calendar holidays are, as regular readers of this project may recall, also a perfect opportunity for a quiz. And rather than cash in on the Christmas tropes – I’m sure I’m not the only one who will snap if they have to envision dashing through the snow on one more fucking one-horse open sleigh – I’m going to do a quiz about family.
One of America’s finest families. The Corleones.
If you’ve never seen the Godfather movies nor read the novel by Mario Puzo, then now might be a good time to read up on a crappy Edgar Allen Poe play instead. But if you think you know those films, read on.
(NOTE: answering “that guy… whassisname” is acceptable. I want my wife to have a chance at some of these.)
- He was the Corleone family enforcer. In the novel, he impregnated a young Irish hooker, then on the day his daughter was born he murdered the woman and forced the midwife to throw the baby into a furnace. Needless to say, this scene didn’t make it into Coppola’s film trilogy. This man’s ultimate fate is depicted via a slab of seafood. Answer.
- Portrayed in the film world by an Italian crooner who had a number one hit on the American pop charts (albeit in 1952), this character was seen as a parallel to Frank Sinatra. Sinatra’s career was in a slump before he grabbed an Oscar for his supporting role in that movie… you know, the one about the effects of the crashing tide on a pair of dry-humping lovers on the beach. Puzo never denied nor confirmed this parallel, but it’s pretty hard to miss. Answer.
- It’s alleged that this character, who was played in the first film by Gianni Russo, was the result of some conspicuous casting. It seems the Colombo crime family (led by boss Joseph Colombo) had shut down early production of The Godfather in Little Italy. The Family met with Paramount Studios, with Russo acting as intermediary. Suddenly, Russo had a significant role. It pays to have well-placed friends. It also seems art can sometimes imitate life. Anyhow, this character was a prick and Russo’s stage-fighting skills were lousy. Answer.
- There was a time when I thought Alex Rocco was going to be the biggest star of the 90’s. I was young and naïve, and believed his performance on the short-lived sitcom The Famous Teddy Z was going to net him a lot of work. He also had a key role in The Godfather, as the guy who took Fredo under his wing in Las Vegas. He ran the casino and hotel that the Corleones paid for, and if it wasn’t for his yelling “I made my bones when you were going out with cheerleaders!” at Michael, he might have survived to see the sequel. Answer.
- Al Lettieri, who played this character, passed away at the young age of 47 only three years after the film was released. This is the guy who starts most of the mayhem in the first film. He stabs the answer to #1 in the hand, arranges for the murder of #6, and spends most of his time looking surly and dangerous. He kind of reminds me of this guy from the most recent season of Boardwalk Empire: Answer.
- This character was portrayed by Francis Ford Coppola’s son Roman in Godfather II – I won’t say who played him in the first film or it’d be too easy. Robert De Niro and Anthony Perkins both tried out for the role, though. The guy is unflinchingly violent, but a softie at heart – he did, after all, bring in a homeless kid to be adopted by the family when he was only eleven. Answer.
- This character wound up taking over the Corleone empire in Mark Winegardner’s sequel to Mario Puzo’s novel. But in the film world, he died somewhere between the first two movies from a heart attack. This was actually because of a disagreement between actor Richard Castellano and Paramount Studios. Bruno Kirby was hired to play this character in the flashbacks of Part II, and we get to see just how essential he is to the history of the family. He has two of the greatest lines in the first film: “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli,” and he was also the first to call Michael “Don Corleone.” Answer.
- She loves Michael, then she hates Michael, then she loves him again. While not exactly the choosiest when it comes to picking out prospective husbands, she still remains crucial to the plot. Throughout the third film, she’s the closest thing Michael has to a consigliere. In other films, this actress gets repeatedly hugged by a beaten and battered sweaty Sylvester Stallone. Answer.
- Never freakin’ plot against the family, dammit. It just doesn’t work out. This guy started out with Vito and the answer to #7 as low-level hoods in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood back in the day, and ultimately he stabs the family in the back in the first film. Should I have warned of spoilers? Hell, it’s a 40-year-old movie, and if you haven’t seen it by now you probably haven’t come this far through the quiz. Anyway, the actor who played this role is still alive, despite looking like an old man when the movie was shot. He also had his own TV show in which he played a character with this name: Answer.
- Another great character that didn’t make it into a sequel because of some off-screen disagreement. This one came down to money. The plot of Godfather III was supposed to involve a split between Michael and this guy, but instead they just wrote him out of the script and explained that he died sometime between II and III. The character wasn’t Italian by birth and thus couldn’t have been inducted into the mafia, so chances are his death was less than exciting. Answer.
- Only once in the history of the Academy Awards has a single character earned two separate acting Oscars for two different actors in two different films. Premiere Magazine called him the greatest movie character in history. Come on – this one is easy. Answer.
That is all. Have a wonderful holiday, and spend as much time with your loved ones as possible. Remember, “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” – Vito Corleone.