Godfather Question number 3,000: "Santino, what's the matter with you?"

The scene when The Godfather meets with the Turk- about 3:40 in this clip.

The Godfather is telling the Turk no and giving him his reasons. The Turk tells him if he’s worried about his money the Tattaglia family will guarantee his investment.
Sonny interrupts with

Vito cuts him off instantly, apologizes to the Turk for Sonny being out of line, and later reads him the riot act:

Perhaps it’s the way that James Caan played the scene, but other than the fact he interrupted his dad I never understood what the Don was so upset about. The way Caan plays it there’s sort of an “Eff you, who do you think you are to say the Tattaglias are gonna guarantee our interest?” feel, but apparently the Turk hears something that lets him know that if the old man was out of the way the new don would be willing to allow heroin.

Another reason this didn’t make sense to me is that it’s known that Vito’s relationships with politicians are largely personal: he’s spent decades forming and cultivating these relationships based on mutual interest and trust and discretion, and they’re not necessarily going to pass down to his successor, especially Sonny who’s about as discreet as a rampaging bull. The whole reason the Turk is going to Corleone is political protection- the money is secondary- so it doesn’t make sense he’d want to remove the Don when

1- Sonny won’t have the old man’s political influence
2- Sonny is a known hot head who’s going to avenge his father (especially if he feels partly responsible for getting the old man shot)
3- The Don has already told him, honestly, why he won’t help him

Any insight into what about that interruption tipped Sonny’s hand?

By Sonny questioning the guarantee let the Turk know that Sonny was “hot for the deal.”

I took it as opening the door to maybe go behind the Don’s back. “Don says no, but Sonny was interested. Let’s work that angle.”

It’s the old fashion mafia hiarachy. One person, the undisputed leader, speaks for each side. Am I talking to you or to him? Who’s in charge? If you’re not in charge, maybe I should be talking to that guy (either here or in a secret meeting later)?

Sonny’s outburst at this particular meeting suggests that he is emotional (which was used later ending at the toll booth) and that he doesn’t always recognise his father as the undisputed leader. Another mafia family could support Sonny over his dad, which would lead to internal civil war, which would only server to weaken the Corleon(sp?) family.

The Turk is only trying to make his own little deal. The Tattaglia family, which would hear of Sonny’s outburst, is playing a much longer game.

It was Barzini all along…

Tattaglia’s a pimp. There’s no way that he could have out-fought Santino…

  1. The politicians he held in is pocket ‘like so many nickels and dimes’ were bought and paid for. The Don owned them, the new Don would still own them.

  2. This always puzzled me too. He had to Sonny would never do business with the man who killed his father.

  3. Sonny WAS interested. But again, once he tried to kill his father, Sonny would go all out to see the Turk dead. The only way it makes sense is if the Turk was ordered to do the hit. Barzini was behind the deal. He would have known that he would have had to take out Vito AND Sonny. Maybe he thought Fredo would be next in line?

No way. Sonny wasn’t showing interest. He was pissed that Sollozzo suggested the family needed the financial backing of another family.

Vito was pissed because he plays everything close to the vest. He may say no. He may say yes. No one outside of the family will ever know why.

Sollozzo knows that Vito will never change his mind. Sonny is a hothead and can be maneuvered to make a mistake. With Vito and Sonny gone who does that leave? Fredo? Michael is known to be a civilian. Sollozzo never thinks he can make a deal with Sonny. Sonny would never make a deal with whoever tried to kill his father.

Barzini wanted to deal narcotics in NY but believed that Don Corleone both wouldn’t allow it and wouldn’t use his political pull to benefit the new drug trade. Through Tattaglia (whom Barzini knew didn’t have Corleone’s respect and therefore would be taken lightly), Sollozzo was introduced to the Don to find out his reaction to the drug trade.

Sollozzo reports back to Barzini who realizes that this may be an opportunity to take down the Corleone family with the backing of the other Families - after all, if he wasn’t going to use his political connections, what good was the life of Don Corleone, right?

Barzini orders/allows the hit on Don Corleone, making it appear that Sollozzo was responsible for it. Sollozzo agrees to this plan (stooge that he is), performs the hit using his guys, and kidnaps Tom, telling him that his job is to negotiate with Sonny, expecting Sonny to fold (don’t forget they killed Luca Brasi @ the same time.) When Sollozzo finds out that the Don is still alive, that’s when he realizes he made a deal with the devil - he now has a war to fight with the Corleones, backed by the weaker Tattaglia family, and there is no way Barzini is going to come out and join the fighting.

Sonny, being an idiot, wages war on Sollozzo and Tattaglia, leaving Barzini laughing at the three of them, waiting to pick up the pieces when all is said and done. The Don realized what was happening, called the peace conference, and set Michael up to take his revenge.

Note that with Vito gone, the politicians and judges would be up for grabs. Maybe the Corleones could hold to some, but Barzini might pick up quite a few. The Turk was a front man for an effort, one way or another, to get into Vito’s hold on those people.

That Tom was “hot for the deal” is made clear when the Turk talks to Tom after he kidnaps him. A lot of the Turk’s basic plan (sans Barzini) is laid out in that conversation. Tom warns him that Sonny will come after him with everything he’s got. The Turk urges Tom to calm Sonny down and make the deal.

Note that later, Tom does advise Santino to make the deal despite the attack on Vito. That Tom was widely seen as a peace-time consigliere played an important role in planning it all out.

The importance of keeping a lot of other people on the Corleone’s side is discussed in the meeting where Michael proposes to kill the Turk and McCluskey. They knew that killing McCluskey could cause them to lose a lot of allies. Not just government officials, but also newspapers.

Santino’s excessive interest in the deal was a big mistake and was the major plot driver for this part of the story.

Sonny’s outburst indicated to Solozzo that although Vito’s “no” was final, Santino, Vito’s nominal successor, might be interested in the deal. And that Sonny wasn’t the strategic thinker Vito was.

A better question might be did Barzini deal directly with Solozzo, or did he merely manipulate Tattaglia into dealing with Solozzo?

The mere fact that he asked a perfectly reasonable follow-up question, instead of keeping his mouth shut and letting his father do all the talking. If Sonny was following the conversation intently enough to gather some additional information, perhaps his line of thought was different from his father’s. Ergo: an opening for Solozzo.

I saw that scene again last night (HBO was rerunning the Godfather Saga) and I had a different question.

We all know that Vito rose to power alongside Clemenza and Tessio. While they may have been equals at the beginning, with Vito eventually becoming the Godfather, all three were part of the Corleone family.

In that meeting with the Turk, along with the big three (Vito, Tessio & Clemenza) Tom was there because he was the consigliere and two of Vito’s sons (no Michael because Vito didn’t want him involved) but I’ve always wondered, why none of Tessio & Clemenza son’s were involved? Why were Vito’s sons , which included ineffective Fredo, there for the important meetings but none of the other sons?

We know Clemenza had kids because he told Pauly not to back over them, but they were young enough to be playing in the street. I assume the little girl Tessio is dancing with at the beginning is a daughter or granddaughter, but otherwise we don’t know anything about their families. They may not have grown sons or their grown kids might be civilians.

Plus, by this time Vito is the king. Also while I think he has some warmth for Tom Hagan, I don’t think he sees him as a son so much as Hagan sees Vito as a surrogate father. Tom’s there because Vito respects him as a legal and business advisor, plus as a German-Irish orphan he can’t ever be a Family member. (IRL Henry Hill was half Sicilian but was ineligible to be a made man.)

Since all three men are about the same age I’d be surprised if Clemenza & Tessio wouldn’t have older children as well, like Vito. And knowing the Italian men of this era having sons are a major priority (note Kate making sure that Michael knew the child she aborted was a male)
I’ve never read Puzos book, so I can’t say that may have mentioned more about their families. My guess is the least amount of characters they had to include in scenes, the better.

This is the reason, 100%. With that one careless outburst Sonny nearly got his father killed. Like Tom Hagen kept saying, shooting the Don was business, to put Sonny in charge so the deal could go thru.

Oops. Make that Sonny who was hot for the deal.

Though Tom was too, rightly seeing it was the future of organized crime.

Was Tom “hot” for the deal, or as a good consiglieri should, was he pointing out alternatives and potential pluses and minuses to the Don?

It’s not clear that Tom was ever really “hot” for anything, but he felt that if the Corleone family didn’t get in on the drugs that they would lose power to the other Mafia families over the long term. He felt that Vito was basing his refusal on his dislike of drugs and the Tattaglia Family’s involvement as opposed to business concerns, so Tom tried to convince him that it was in their interest to take the deal. I don’t think he necessarily disagreed with Vito’s position that being involved in drugs might also harm the family in the long run, but he thought that losing out on the revenue would be the greater danger.