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The Godfather (novel)

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United States

The Godfather

Dewey Decimal

Mario Puzo

Crime Fiction


Cover artist
S. Neil Fujita


Publication date
10 March 1969

Originally published
10 March 1969

Followed by
The Godfather Returns

G. P. Putnam's Sons

The Godfather (novel) t1gstaticcomimagesqtbnANd9GcQH4SqMXJGpqQcZn9

Vito Corleone, Michael Corleone, Sonny Corleone

Works by Mario Puzo, Corleone Family saga books, Organized crime books

The Godfather is a crime novel written by Italian American author Mario Puzo. Originally published 1969 by G. P. Putnam's Sons, the novel details the story of a fictional Mafia family based in New York City (and Long Beach, New York), headed by Vito Corleone. The novel covers the years 1945 to 1955, and also provides the back story of Vito Corleone from early childhood to adulthood.


The book introduced Italian criminal terms like consigliere, caporegime, Cosa Nostra, and omertà to an English-speaking audience.

It inspired a 1972 film of the same name. Two film sequels, including new contributions by Puzo himself, were made in 1974 and 1990. The first and second films are widely held in high esteem as examples of the cinematic arts.


The Corleone family and the mob war they fight with the other four mafia families in New York is the central issue. After Don Vito Corleone is shot by men working for drug dealer Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo, Corleone's two sons, Santino and Michael, must run the family business with the help of consigliere Tom Hagen and the two caporegime Peter Clemenza and Salvatore Tessio. When Michael murders Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey, an Irish police officer on the drug lord's payroll, the conflict escalates into a full-scale war which results in Santino's murder and Michael's ascension to the head of the family. Michael initially desires to legitimize the family business, but gradually becomes even more ruthless than his father, orchestrating the murder of all of the family's enemies, including his brother-in-law Carlo Rizzi, who played a part in Santino's murder. Michael then sells all the family's businesses in New York and moves the Corleones to Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

Main characters

The Corleone family patriarch is Vito Corleone (The Don), whose surname (Italian for "Lionheart") recalls the town of Corleone, Sicily. His birth name is Vito Andolini, but after emigrating to America, he refused to tell the immigration official his last name. The person in charge of the lines said the boy was from Corleone, and the official recorded his name as Vito Corleone. Vito fathered four children: Santino "Sonny" Corleone, Frederico "Fredo" Corleone, Michael "Mike" Corleone, and Constanzia "Connie" Corleone. He also has an informally adopted son, Tom Hagen, who became the Corleone Family's' consigliere (counsellor). Vito Corleone is also godfather to the famous singer and movie star Johnny Fontane. The godfather referred to in the title is generally taken to be Vito. However, the story's central character is Michael Corleone. The novel's central theme follows that Michael's destiny is to succeed his father as the head of the family empire, despite his desire to lead an Americanized life with his girlfriend (and eventual wife) Kay Adams.

The Corleone family is a criminal organization with national influence, notably protection, gambling and union racketeering. Serving as the Don's underboss is his oldest son, Santino. The operational side of the organization is headed by two caporegimes, Peter Clemenza and Salvatore Tessio. Other significant members of the organization include enforcers Luca Brasi and Albert Neri and upcoming soldier Rocco Lampone.

Film adaptation

The 1972 film adaptation of the novel was released with Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone and Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Mario Puzo assisted with both writing of the screenplay and other production tasks. The film grossed approximately $269 million worldwide and won various awards, including: three Academy Awards, five Golden Globes and one Grammy. The film is considered to be tremendously significant in cinematic history. The sequel, The Godfather Part II won six Oscars, and became the first sequel to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The film's plot follows the novel except for such details as backstories of some characters that are excluded, although they were filmed. Some of this footage was included in later re-edited versions such as, "The Godfather Saga." The subplot involving Johnny Fontane in Hollywood was not filmed. The most significant deviation between the film from the novel was that the latter had a more upbeat ending than the film in which Kay Corleone accepts Michael's decision to take over his father's business. The film ends with Kay's realization of Michael's ruthlessness, a theme that would develop in the second and third films, which are largely not based on the original novel. Vito Corleone's backstory appeared in the second film, with his character performed by Robert De Niro.

Video game adaptation of the film

The video game company Electronic Arts released a video game adaptation of The Godfather film on March 21, 2006. The player assumes the role of a "soldier" in the family. Prior to his death, Marlon Brando provided some voice work for Vito, which was eventually deemed unusable and was dubbed over by a Brando impersonator. Francis Ford Coppola said in April 2005 that he was not informed of Paramount's decision to allow the game to be made and he did not approve of it. Al Pacino also did not participate, and his likeness was replaced with a different depiction of Michael Corleone.


In 1984, Puzo's literary sequel to The Godfather was published. Entitled The Sicilian, it chronicles the life of "Giuliano" (Salvatore Giuliano) but the Corleone family is featured heavily throughout, Michael Corleone in particular. Chronologically this story sits between Michael's exile to Sicily in 1950 to his return to the USA. For copyright reasons, the Corleone family involvement was cut from the Michael Cimino film adaptation, which is not considered part of the Godfather film series.

In 2004, Random House published a sequel to Puzo's The Godfather, The Godfather Returns, by Mark Winegardner. A further sequel by Winegardner, The Godfather's Revenge, was released in 2006. The sequel novels continue the story from Puzo's novel.

The Godfather Returns picks up the story immediately after the end of Puzo's The Godfather. It covers the years 1955 to 1962, as well as providing significant backstory for Michael Corleone's character prior to the events of the first novel. The events of the film The Godfather Part II all take place within the time frame of this novel, but are only mentioned in the background. The novel contains an appendix that attempts to correlate the events of the novels with the events of the films.

The Godfather's Revenge covers the years 1963 to 1964.

Continuing Puzo's habit, as seen in The Godfather, of featuring characters who are close analogues of real life events and public figures (as Johnny Fontane is an analogue of Frank Sinatra), Winegardner features in his two Godfather novels analogues of Joseph, John, and Robert F. Kennedy, as well as an analogue for alleged organized crime figure Carlos Marcello (Carlo Tramonti). In The Godfather Returns, Winegardner also dramatizes the sweep of organized crime arrests that took place in Apalachin, New York, in 1957.

Winegardner uses all of the characters from the Puzo novels, and created a few of his own, most notably Nick Geraci, a Corleone soldier who plays a pivotal role in the sequel novels. Winegardner further develops characters from the original novel, such as Fredo Corleone, Tom Hagen, and Johnny Fontane.

In 2012, a prequel, based on an unproduced screenplay by Mario Puzo, titled The Family Corleone was written by Ed Falco. It tells the story of how Vito Corleone rises to Don and how Sonny Corleone and Tom Hagen enter the family business.

Real-life influences

Large parts of the novel are based upon reality, notably the history of the so-called "Five Families", the Mafia-organization in New York and the surrounding area. The novel also includes many allusions to real-life mobsters and their associates. For example, Johnny Fontane is based on Frank Sinatra, and Moe Greene on Bugsy Siegel. In addition, the character of Vito Corleone was a composite of real-life organized crime bosses Frank Costello and Carlo Gambino.


The Godfather (novel) Wikipedia