Questions on Michael Corleone and Hyman Roth (better late than never...) [SPOILERS]

Just watched I and II for the billionth time. Queries/answers directed at movies, but any stemming from the novel, which I haven’t read, most welcome.

Young Michael, who we’ve just met, is brutally honest to Kay and a basically virtuous, all American military hero and volunteer (although we find that out at then end).

He makes his radical decision to avenge his father and goes off to Sicily “for about a year” where, boom, he decides not only to abandon Kate but live in a shithole Sicilian town (until whenever or whatever).

What the hell? Are we being shown how innately evil/“bad man” Michael is to ditch Kay? That he will ditch Apollonia and it was all expedient for…love? Because that’s the way Coppola shows this idyllic episode and we (I believe its not jut me) feel bad when she gets blown up, unlike every other murder in the movies (including Sonny’s, which is dramatic and part of the fate of the characters).

I ask because the background and progress of all the characters, and of course Michael’s, the backbone of the plot, is so coherent and reflected upon or referenced.

Michael, Roth, and Pantangeli.

Pantangeli’s flipping. What works out as brilliant is that he believes Michael put the hit on him (and we believe that in the beginning.)

Of course, a real hit who cares what he believes, and conceivably after he survived, even with the helpful hint of the garroter, others would have believed it.

  1. His botched assassination, and subsequent flipping, might have been a brilliant and successful plan by Roth. But that can’t be, because the murder was going all the way only halted by the cop.

So so much for that reason. Or else he would be killed, as planned by Roth, and everybody else would fear how Michael is going against his captains, and maybe flip or whatever.

Otherwise everybody would assume anyway that Rosato brothers did it, and that makes sense for Michael and Roth: simply that Michael’s man can be killed with no repercussion.

1a) As a variation on that, this is what I thought. No doubt the whole world knows this or has discussed but I also thought:

We know Michael swears what is false to everyone any time, so at one level both he and Roth–who we know Michael is playing along as a fake ally–benefit from the following: It is Michael who orders the hit on Pantangeli, to show how ruthless he can be and go the extra mile for Roth. I mean, he was prepared to kill Pantangeli’s brother.

Any thoughts?

  1. Not sure if it was the movie or the book, but Michael was hit by the “thunderbolt”. Also, although he only stayed in Sicily for a year or two, I don’t think he knew that when he left. He certainly didn’t know whether Kay would wait an indefinite amount of time for him, so I don’t think it was to show how evil he was for ditching Kay. Maybe more to show he was entering his father’s world, as Appolonia was a more suitable wife for that world that Kay could ever be.

You’re compressing the timeline a bit, though since it isn’t explicitly stated in the film that’s understandable. He is sent to Sicily to escape the repercussions of murdering a police officer. It took time to work up the story, convince the authorities that he really was a dirty cop and let the heat die down. Said time was two years, not one - basically the family under Santino’s de facto control was at war for two years while he was in forced exile.

He broke up with Kay because they had just been dating and you could hardly expect a schoolteacher to flee to Sicily for the sake of a boyfriend she had met a few months earlier and who was under threat of being murdered. They didn’t reconnect until a year after he returned home and had formulated his plan to eventually take the family legitimate.

He wasn’t ever going to ditch Apollonia - they were married and packed up to head back to America together. The real tragedy relationship-wise, was that she was vastly better suited for Michael as a wife. She had been raised in a region steeped in Mafia culture and would have been perfectly content to run the household while she let Michael do what he had to do, as long as he kept business away from the family table. Modern, educated, law-abiding Kay may have been the love of his life, but that relationship was doomed the second he joined the family business.

It cuts out one of the legs from under Michael, while giving Roth a tiny bit of plausibly deniability( “hey, it was just those crazy Rosato brothers - what do you want me to do” ). Kill Pentangeli( whic remember was Clemenza in the original draft )and disrupting the NYC branch of the family and Michael’s empire has just gotten weaker. It’s part of Roth’s systematic revenge.

Flipping Pentangeli to have him turn state’s evidence turns out even better, but that is just serendipity working in Roth’s favor. The original idea is just to eliminate one of the pillars of Michael’s organization

No, the “Michael Corleone says hello”-thing was an adlib by a confused Danny Aiello that Coppola left in the final cut. Michael had no interest in killing Pentangeli who he both likes and at some level relies upon to carry the NY business.And he wasn’t about to weaken his own organization just to curry favor with Roth. In his mind he doesn’t need to curry favor with Roth, just play nice for awhile - after all Roth is dying anyway.

Micheal has to choose between a normal life and the family. In the beginning he has chosen a normal life and tell Kaye that the mob stuff is his family and not him. Him decided to kill the captain and Solazzo is him choosing his family. Kaye is part of that and he turns his back on her. Later he tries to integrate his mafia life with a normal life and is unable to do so.

As said, it wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision to shoot the police lieutenant and the Turk, as shown when they plan how to hide the gun and how to learn the location of the meeting. And also, note that Michael eventually avenges the attempted hit in Sicily that results in Apollonia’s death. In a deleted scene, we see that, years later, the bodyguard who betrayed Michael in Sicily is running a pizzeria in Buffalo. A bomb is placed under his car and he’s dead.

II: Now try and figure out how much assistance Fredo gave to Roth and who killed the assassins.
It helps regarding Michael to understand that he seems to take EVERYTHING personally. Being punched, the assassination attempts, being betrayed or ‘betrayed’ or BETRAYED by his brother.

and yes, i know he tells Sonny it isnt personal

Something I don’t understand - why did Hyman Roth try to have Michael Corleone killed? I thought Michael asked Pentangelli to not resist when the Rosato brothers tried to muscle in on the old Clemenza regime. That was, I thought, because Michael didn’t want anything to mess up the Cuba deal. But wouldn’t assassinating Michael keep the Corleone family from contributing the $2 million?

Also, why was Pentangelli so afraid of his own brother? Was the brother threatening Pentangelli’s wife and family? So then Pentangelli commits suicide so Michael will take care of them?


I don’t think he was afraid of his brother - he was hauled out to remind of omerta and family loyalty. I guess there was also the threat that his family would suffer, but I really think it was more the honor thing.

He wasn’t afraid of his brother. He was afraid FOR his brother. They brought him to show that they could still get to him.

The biggest explicit point that Roth makes that indicates a particular grudge against Michael was the hit on Moe Green.

But I think overall the real issue was standard mob rivalry. Someone else has territories, casinos, whatever and you want those … so there’s one standard way to move in on them.

Note that GF I&II highlights the two sides of Michael. Loyalty to his family and their type of business vs. an attempt at loyalty to Kate, his own family and to start anew with a clean (ish) business model. He started off optimistic about the latter, got dragged into mob stuff, ended up sort of losing both families.

So the way he wanted things to be with Kate and the way things went in Sicily, for example, are just how the two sides tore at him.

My GF question: why did the Turk try to kill the Don when what he needed most was those politicians he carried around in his pocket like so many nickels and dimes? Sonny wouldn’t have been able to access them.

Why not? Those people were being bribed, presumably would like to continue to be bribed, Sonny’s money is as green as Vito’s money. When Michael took over, there was no indication that their “friends” abandoned them.

The whole Turk thread made it clear that his goal was to make a deal with the Corleones. If not with Vito then with Sonny who was hot for the deal (and unfortunately let the Turk know that). The discussion with the kidnapped Tom was clear on this.

Vito was willing to return the favor of allowing access to his judges and such but not for this. Drugs were an infamia. Others weren’t the Mustache Pete’s of the old days. He was seen as “breaking the rules” on such favors rather than upholding morals.

In order to go into drugs the commission had to approve it. Vito was the most influential member of the commission and he could have blocked any changes to the mob’s rules.

Vito directly told the Turk that he wasn’t going to interfere:

Vito’s turndown was for his own business reasons. He saw no reason to prevent others.

It’s made clearer in the book. Vito couldn’t just not participate - his influence with judges and politicians was necessary, or the drug business couldn’t happen. And there was too much money to be made in drugs for Solozzo to just drop the matter, or try to bring it off on his own.

Not doing Solozzo the “favor” was a basis for war. The Godfather realizes that, which is why after he recovers from being shot and Sonny is dead, he goes thru with the deal. Because he wants peace among the Five Families of New York, so he can bring Michael home and start moving the family business into legitimate areas (sort of). He delays his revenge, putting it into Michael’s hands after his own death.

I am still not sure why Hyman Roth tried to kill Michael. Maybe Roth just thought he could take over all the Mafia activities in New York and finance the Cuba deal that way.